Issue 202 | November 2021

In this issue:

Message from Justin


  • Applications are open for Harvardwood 101 for January 2022!
  • Applications for the new Harvardwood Writers Competition are also open!
  • Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship
  • Call for Submissions – Harvardwood Heroes 2021!
  • Harvardwood on Campus (HOC)
  • Comedy Development Internship, Spring 2022 (Hulu)


  • Exclusive Q&A with Anne Sawyier AB '12 (TV Literary Coordinator, Verve) 
  • Industry Successes
  • New Members' Welcome
  • Alumni Profile: Kelly Yang HLS '05 (Award-winning author) 


  • Calendar
  • Become a Harvardwood member as we further engage in socially active programming, discourse, and action to help change the entertainment industry
  • Want to submit your success(es) to Harvardwood HIGHLIGHTS? Do so by posting here

Message from Harvardwood

Harvardwood Community,

We hope you're having a productive fall thus far. 

Our applications for Harvardwood 101 and the next Harvardwood Writers Competition are now both open until November 15th (HWC deadline extended)!

For more updates, make sure you are subscribed to our Weekly newsletter, which is followed by a Mid-Week Update on Thursdays (keeping your inbox light!).

As always, we want to hear from you - if you have an event or programming idea you'd like implemented, please tell us about it here. If you have an announcement about your work or that of others, please detail it here (members) and it will appear in our Weekly, and/or next HIGHLIGHTS issue. 

As we continue with our expansion plan and updates to every aspect of Harvardwood, we ask that you please consider making a donation of any amount. Thank you so much for the consideration! 

Last but not least, we are grateful for the work we are able to do, expanding creative and professional opportunities for our Harvardwood family. We could not do it without the support of our donors, volunteers, staff and membership.

Justin & The Harvardwood Team 

Applications are open for Harvardwood 101 for January 2022!

Historically, the Harvardwood 101 career exploration program brought two dozen current undergraduates to Los Angeles during the January term and provided a series of career-related activities in order to demystify Hollywood and educate them about careers in the entertainment industry.  The program began in 2003 and is cosponsored by Harvard University's Office of Career Services.

Due to COVID, we pivoted to a Digital Offering in 2021 and will be offering an online program again in 2022, which consists of:

Boot Camp Week - January 10-14th, 2022

An intensive, informational week led on Zoom, featuring 50+ hours of speakers throughout the industry, with interactive sessions, student Q&As, and panelist-led sessions

  • Participating companies last year included Netflix, Amazon Video, Spotify, BMG Music Group, Activision, United Masters, Upland Workshop, CAA, Anonymous Content, Westbrook Inc., and more
    • 55+ students hosted
    • Covering Writing, Producing, Agent/Manager Path, Sports, Music, & More
    • 6 hours of completely optional acting training
    • Various networking sessions

J-Termships - January 3-21st, 2022 (approx.) 

  • Two or three weeks in January in which students hold informal positions at Production Companies, Agencies, and with Individually Accomplished Writers and Producers


Applications for the new Harvardwood Writers Competition are also open!

The Harvardwood Writers Competition is back and applications are open. We apologize for the delay. Visit our HWC page for all relevant information! 

Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship

Harvardwood is pleased to announce the Mia and David Alpert Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship for graduating seniors or recent Harvard alumni working or seeking to work in the arts, media, and entertainment fields. The multiyear gift, generously donated by Harvardwood Co-Founder Mia Riverton Alpert ’99 and her husband, producer and media entrepreneur David Alpert ‘97, includes a $24,000 grant, awarded annually, to support one recent graduate from the College for one year as they pursue their artistic projects.

Call for Submissions – Harvardwood Heroes 2021!

The Harvardwood Heroes grant program aims to spotlight and support Harvard students, alumni, faculty, and staff who have made an exceptional contribution to the community. The Heroes program awards grants of at least $500 to applicants who have demonstrated a distinguished level of service to their organizations of choice.

We are now accepting applications to receive a 2021 Harvardwood Heroes grant, and the deadline to submit your grant proposal is today, November 1st, 2021.

Every year, grant winners will be determined by the strength of their proposal. They will receive the first half of the grant upon announcement of the winners and the balance of the grant upon submission of a final essay six months later. 

Harvardwood On Campus (HOC)

Calling all current Harvard College students interested in arts, media and entertainment careers! We invite you to join HOC (Harvardwood On Campus), a newly formed on-campus chapter of Harvardwood that serves as a community for current students looking to break into the industry — a place to meet like-minded peers, share challenges/success stories, and make friends with folks interested in entertainment. Over the course of the school year, we will be hosting panels, guest speakers, and workshops, as well as to connecting current students with mentors and industry professionals. Fill out our interest form here!

Comedy Development Internship, Spring 2022 (Hulu)

Location: Santa Monica, California
Start Date: Spring 2022
Type of Position: Internship
Minimum Education Level: Currently enrolled in an accredited college or university and taking at least one class, or be a recent graduate of an accredited college or university within the last six (6) months at time of application, or be currently participating in the Disney College Program, Disney Culinary Program or Disney Professional Internship Program.
Minimum Years of Experience: N/A

Job Description: As a Hulu Comedy Development intern, you will be involved in the day-to-day work of both current and development projects.

Responsibilities Include:

  • Reading and watching material for Hulu currents and projects in development
  • Joining internal notes meetings for current and development projects
  • Joining Comedy and Originals department meetings
  • Shadowing executives in pitches and external meetings
  • Taking notes on series pitch outs or other meetings as needed
  • Assisting with projects for executives as needed

Exclusive Q&A with Anne Sawyier AB '12 (TV Literary Coordinator, Verve) 

Anne Sawyier is a coordinator on the TV Team at Verve Talent & Literary Agency. Born in Chicago, she earned her AB in art history and Arabic at Harvard, an MSt from Oxford in art history, and an MFA in film producing from the American Film Institute. She focuses on literary and international talent. To learn more about Anne’s role at Verve, you can watch our recording of the Q&A session we held with her and partner Amy Retzinger HERE.

Q. How was your undergraduate experience at Harvard? 

A. I loved it! I came in thinking I wanted to be a doctor on the Model UN team, and ended up a theatre kid with a degree in art history and Arabic so…filled with self-discovery.

Q. How did you feel Harvard prepared you for graduate school? 

A. Academically, great; for dealing with boots-on-the-ground producing elements of an AFI degree, less so, but I also wasn’t expecting that from Harvard.

Q. How did you decide to pursue a career in entertainment?

A. Realizing that people worked on the TV shows and movies I watched all the time, then doing Harvardwood and learning the different ways I could fit into the business. 

Q. What led you to Verve?

A. I studied art history at Oxford after Harvard, then moved out here to go to AFI. I realized I wanted a more office job than on-set job, and worked at Anonymous Content, Skydance, and Annapurna. I then realized that I wanted to move on from producing and that my favorite part of the process was matchmaking between a creator and piece of IP, and I was fortunate enough to have mentors that recommended I look into becoming an agent. I had worked with Verve at previous jobs and knew a few of the agents here and always liked their way of business, so I was excited when there was an opportunity not just to learn about representation, but to train to be an agent here.


Industry Successes

Gabriel Byrne and Mira Sorvino (AB ‘89) on board for Lamborghini biopic. (Cinema Express)

Tom Morello (AB ‘86) releases a new single from upcoming album ‘Let’s Get The Party Started.’ (MB)

Universal Rom-Com Bros Sets All-LGBTQ+ Cast Featuring Billy Eichner; Nicholas Stoller (AB ‘98) To Direct, With Judd Apatow Producing. (Deadline)

“Sleep No More” Announces Return to the McKittrick Hotel in February 2022, produced by Randy Weiner (AB ‘87). (BroadwayWorld)

Faith Salie (AB ‘93)'s Approval Junkie Sets New York Debut. (TheaterMania)

Julie Hagerty, Haley Joel Osment, More Round Out Cast Of Dave Franco’s Somebody I Used To Know At Amazon, produced by Marty Bowen (AB '81). (Deadline)

Disney's Aladdin Reopens on Broadway with Danny Troob (AB ‘70) orchestrating. (Playbill)

Listen as Michel Martin (AB ‘80) interviews Dawn Turner and Walter Mosley discuss how their novels illustrate systems that treat Black Americans unfairly, and what that says about justice in the U.S. (NPR)

Critics’ Choice Association to Honor Acclaimed Documentarian R.J. Cutler (AB ‘83) At Sixth Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards. (Hollywood Outbreak).

CBLDF Welcomes Amy Chu (MBA ‘99), Joseph Illidge, and Pam Noles to Board of Directors. (CBLDF)

Baratunde Thurston (AB ‘99)’s Animated How to Be Black Project in Development at ABC. (Variety)

Jesse Williams, Zoë Chao, Steve Zahn, Tig Notaro and Wesley Kimmel Join Netflix Rom-Com Your Place or Mine with writer-director Aline Brosh McKenna (AB ’89). (Variety

Ed Harris & Amy Madigan To Star In School For The Blind At Picturehouse with director Lou Howe (AB ‘05). (Deadline)

Joshua Oppenheimer (AB ‘96) to Direct Tilda Swinton in a “Golden-Age Musical” About the End of the World. (The Film Stage)

Hip-Hop Improv Show Freestyle Love Supreme has returned to Broadway with sound design by Nevin Steinberg (AB ‘89). (Playbill)

Geraldine Viswanathan Joins Studiocanal and New Yorker Studios’ Cat Person produced by Helen Estabrook (AB ‘03). (Deadline

Cast Set for Return of Beautiful—The Carole King Musical National Tour with set design by Derek McLane (AB ‘80). (Playbill)

That 70s Show is getting a Netflix spinoff, executive produced by Tom Werner (AB ‘71). (Comic Years)

White Lotus Season 2: Everything to Know About the HBO Series with Steve Zahn (MFA ‘90). (US)

Lifetime Greenlights 3 Original Thrillers, Casts Amber Riley, LeToya Luckett, Tatyana Ali (AB ‘02) & Raven Goodwin. (Deadline)

Curb Your Enthusiasm showrunner and EP Jeff Schaffer (AB ‘91) offers 11 hints for season 11. (EW)

Longtime Disney Studios Exec Alan Horn (MBA ‘71) to Retire at Year’s End. (The Wrap)

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom & Aline Brosh McKenna (AB ’89) Reunite For Spy Comedy In Works At Hulu. (Deadline)

Ava DuVernay Sits Down With Filmmaker Mira Nair (AB ‘79) During Double Feature Event. (Hollywood Reporter)

Lotus Entertainment and ROAR have boarded “French Touch,” a music-filled coming-of-age movie set in New York, starring French singer-songwriter David Hallyday and his real-life daughter Emma Smet, written and produced by Otto Eckstein (AB '16). (Variety)

Justin Gordon (GSE ‘22) just released his debut book, 6 Mile Negus on the Honor Roll at Michigan. It is available in hardcopy form and will soon be released as an audio book! 

Ali Moss (AB ‘05) and her husband Jon Bardin (AB '06) produced the documentary FAUCI, which premiered at Telluride and will start streaming on Disney+ on 10/6. 

Ian Maisel (Certificate of Publishing and Communications ’06) started a new role as a Videographer for the University of San Francisco, filming classes, performances and events for the Media Services department.

Uzo Ngwu (AB ‘23) was one of 20 selected to be part of the Peter Roth Internship's inaugural class.

Bennett Nestok (EDM ‘17) recently published Bobert's Tale.

Victor A. Kwansa, Esq. (JD '11) 's sci-fi social justice pilot, Sight, placed in the Top 50 of Roadmap Writers' 2021 JumpStart Writing Competition (Pilots). (Roadmap)

Beverley Gordon (AB '88) was recently selected for the Sundance Producers Intensive Lab and the PGA Create Lab with drama feature Experience written by Taj Musco and to be directed by Katrelle N. Kindred. (Deadline, Deadline)

New Members' Welcome

Harvardwood warmly welcomes all members who joined the organization last month:

  • Frank Foster, LA
  • William Murray, College, LA
  • Isabel Mehta, College, BOS/Campus
  • Kimberly Lovie, College, NY
  • Heather Huntington Ext., LA
  • Lily Grob, College, BOS/Campus
  • Ming-Jung Ho, College, D.C.
  • Mariella Chilmaza, College, NY
  • Donovan Keene, College, BOS/Campus
  • Olivia Carter, College, BOS/Campus
  • Ted Doolittle, College, NY
  • Naz Haider, GSBA, LA
  • Marleigh Belsley, College, BOS/Campus
  • Jamila O'Hara, College, BOS/Campus
  • Ignacio Azcueta, GSAS, BOS/Campus
  • Susan Kendall, College, BOS/Campus
  • Allison Charney Epstein, College, NY
  • Max Keck, College, BOS/Campus
  • Susanna Freudenheim, College, BOS/Campus
  • James Mathew, College, Other U.S.
  • Tiffa Foster, Ext., Other U.S.
  • Jonathan Yuan, College, BOS/Campus
  • Vijai Bhola, HMS, BOS/Campus
  • Wendi Grantham, College, NY
  • Aliénor Manteau, College, BOS/Campus
  • Hans Tobeason, College, LA
  • Sogomon Tarontsi, GSAS, BOS/Campus
  • Veronica Chilmaza, NY
  • Sarah Carson, GSBA, LA
  • Kieran Farrell, College, BOS/Campus
  • Jojo Adlrt, College, NY
  • Carol Nicholson, LA
  • Mike Lenczewski, LA
  • Katy Chu, HLS, LA

*FOH = Friend of Harvardwood

Alumni Profile: Kelly Yang HLS '05 (Award-winning author) 

by Aissata Bah

When Kelly Yang immigrated to the United States at the age of 6, she didn’t speak any English. She sat through classes and nodded along, desperately trying to understand. At the end of her first year in the U.S., Kelly decided that she was going to work hard and try to find her voice. It was then that she said her first sentence. By the end of her second year, she wrote a piece about her feelings on the plane from China to the States. She ended up winning a writing contest with this piece.

While there may have been grammatical and spelling errors in the piece, winning the contest taught her that she could be a storyteller without having all the perfected skills. “I had the authenticity of emotion, which is the most important thing,” Kelly explains. 

Self-reflection and authenticity persist as key themes in Kelly’s storytelling. Her first book, the award-winning and best-selling FRONT DESK, which follows a ten-year-old immigrant girl who manages a motel, is inspired by her real-life experiences. At one point in her childhood, Kelly worked the front desk at the motel that her parents cleaned. She became more confident using her voice, partly out of necessity since she “had to pretend like [she] ran the place.” Through this experience, she encountered people from different walks of life and further developed as a storyteller.

Kelly graduated from U.C. Berkeley at 17 and enrolled at Harvard Law School with the intention of becoming a lawyer. After being sexually assaulted at HLS and the administration’s mishandling of her case, Kelly became disillusioned with law. Kelly moved to Hong Kong and sought to realign herself with what brought her joy. “The thing that gave me the most joy always, was writing,” Kelly states. “But, I wasn’t sure that I could do it.” So, she decided to follow her second love: teaching writing to whoever wanted to learn it. What started as a passion project blossomed into a business, The Kelly Yang Project, a leading writing and debate program for students in Asia.

While working as an educator to young children, Kelly served as a columnist for numerous publications including The New York Times and The Washington Post. Most of her pieces were about parenting, education, and immigration. Through these columns, she was able to find her baring as a writer and master the art of writing succinctly, a skill she views as invaluable to her current career as a novelist. Kelly’s path to becoming a novelist arose from two seemingly disparate events: 1) the newspaper she was working for changed hands, subsequently laying off all of its columnists and 2) her oldest son got a really bad report card. 

After getting fired from her job as a columnist, a role that Kelly took very seriously, Kelly felt that her only platform had been taken away. “Let me just stop, take the summer off, and see what happens,” Kelly decided. That same summer, her oldest child—who was 8—didn't receive a great report card and his father wanted him to stay back in Hong Kong and reflect on it. Thus, he wasn’t able to go to the States with his two younger siblings as he usually did during summer vacation. Kelly wanted to take the chance to tell her oldest about her childhood and all of the remarkable experiences that she had. She decided to write a chapter a day and began assembling the drafts to what later became FRONT DESK, which she released in 2018.

Kelly compares her writing process to dating. “It took many dates to get to know the story—to feel comfortable bearing my soul.” Writing about such personal experiences was difficult, but Kelly began to understand that writing was just a constant process of revision, and she gave herself permission to keep going. 

As an Asian woman writing about nuanced topics such as poverty and race, Kelly faced a multitude of challenges to get FRONT DESK published. In fact, her first book was rejected by every single publisher except one. To the young writers who hope to tell stories grappling with topics of identity and find a place within the industry, Kelly offers these words of encouragement: “There are many examples of people who have broken through the gates and have shown that the world cares.” She adds, “We all have an obligation to portray our truth to the world as we see it. People are ready for these stories.”

Following the success of FRONT DESK, Kelly released its sequel, THREE KEYS in 2020, and the third installment of the series, ROOM TO DREAM, this past September. She also has a young adult novel entitled Parachutes that she released in May 2020, which has also received widespread critical acclaim.


- - -

Aissata Bah is a sophomore at Harvard College originally from Atlanta, GA. She is an aspiring television writer majoring in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with a minor in Statistics. She hopes to create stories that specifically center and affirm women of color.


Harvardwood SIG Showcase (click for more) - Nov. 3

Come learn about Harvardwood’s events, programs, resources, and fellowships for those interested in the arts, media and entertainment!

- - -

Harvardwood Presents: A Conversation with Jeff Schaffer, Executive Producer of Curb Your Enthusiasm (click for more) - Tuesday, Nov. 9

Join Harvardwood for a conversation with Jeff Schaffer, Executive Producer, Curb Your Enthusiasm

Jeff Schaffer doesn’t want to talk about all the work he’s done. Don’t get him wrong, he wants you to know about it, and he really wants the adulation, but he doesn’t want to have to tell you himself and seem like a braggart.

He would love you to know that he’s spent a large portion of his adult life working with Larry David - writing and then producing four seasons of Seinfeld with his partner Alec Berg, eventually helping to run the show until it was cruelly cancelled. And he wants you to hear all about how he has worked on Curb Your Enthusiasm since Season 5 as a writer, director and executive producer. But he can’t tell you any of this. How cheesy do you think he is?

He’s also worked on movies that he would love to be commended for, including Eurotrip, Clear History, and traveling around the world with Sacha Baron Cohen writing and producing Bruno and The Dictator. These are the highlights. Lowlights are available upon request.

And of course he wants you to know that he and his wife, Jackie, also created and ran the show The League for seven seasons. And he co-created and EPs the show Dave on FX/Hulu. But he can’t just come right out and say it. That would smack of desperation.

- - -

Harvardwood Presents: A Conversation with Golden Globe and Emmy-Award Winning Producer Janet Yang (click for more) - Tuesday, Nov. 16

Join Harvardwood for a conversation with Golden Globe and Emmy-Award winning producer Janet Yang, moderated by Harvardwood Co-Founder Mia Alpert.

A Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning Hollywood producer with deep roots in China, Yang is a member of the Board of Governors of the Motion Picture Academy, as well as a Board Officer Chairing its Membership Committee.

Yang has worked with some of the most formidable directors and actors in the world. She came to prominence through her collaboration with Steven Spielberg on Empire of the Sun (Warner Bros). That was followed by a long partnership with multiple Academy Award-winner Oliver Stone—where she served as Executive Producer on the iconic The Joy Luck Club (Disney), and as a Producer on the Golden Globewinning The People vs. Larry Flynt (Columbia Pictures).

Her most recent credit is as an Executive Producer on the Oscar-nominated animated feature, Over the Moon. Based on her original story, the Film is directed by iconic
animator Glen Keane for NetFlix’s fall 2020 release.

- - -

Harvardwood Co-Presents: Celebrate Black Heroes with Ògo Tàwa Inc (A fundraiser to support the Black Statue Garden) (click for more) - Thursday, Nov. 18

Despite having lived in Canada for more than 400 years, today there remains little to no public art statue representation of Black people in the city of Toronto. Please join Ògo Tàwa for a concert celebration fundraiser that hopes to raise funds so that Toronto can be home to a Black Heroes Statue Garden commemorating Black Achievement.  

Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world, with the most populous Black community in Canada, yet this Black community has seemingly been omitted from visibility in the stone and bronze sculptures of honored people in the city. 

Join us on Thursday, November 18th for a virtual celebratory concert where more information about the project will be shared along with live and pre-recorded performances from Kunle AyoTémi, and the Global BLM Dance Challenge HARVARD Debut live

Get ready to get your dance on and do some good!

- - -

List of All Upcoming Harvardwood Events Here

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Want to submit your success(es) to Harvardwood HIGHLIGHTS? Do so by posting here

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Become a Harvardwood member as we further engage in socially active programming, discourse, and action to help change the entertainment industry

In these unprecedented times, we are doubling down on providing impactful programming that not only helps our membership build and further entertainment careers, but create socially active habits and spheres of influence and knowledge. The entertainment industry is changing before our eyes, and our recent programming is just the tip of the iceberg. We'd love your help in furthering this mission. In various capacities, we work hard to create programming that you, the membership, would like to be engaged with. Please consider joining Harvardwood and becoming an active member of our arts, media, and entertainment community



Harvardwood does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any of the information, content or advertisements (collectively "Materials") contained on, distributed through, or linked, downloaded or accessed from any of the services contained in this e-mail. You hereby acknowledge that any reliance upon any Materials shall be at your sole risk. The materials are provided by Harvardwood on an "AS IS" basis, and Harvardwood expressly disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied.

Calendar Programs Jobs & Career Development