Issue 206 | March 2022

In this issue:

Message from Justin


  • DreamWorks Feature Production Assistant (DreamWorks Animation) - CA


  • 50 Years After the Kerner Commission: Can Entertainment Inspire a New Will?
  • Industry Successes
  • New Members' Welcome
  • Alumni Profile: Debra Martin Chase HLS '81 (Producer)


  • 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,

This spring, you will see a slew of new programming, increased writing modules, our new and expanding staff and board, and so much more. To that end, we ask that you please consider making a donation of any amount. Thank you so much!

Please see below about our highly successful Kerner Commission panel

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. 

Justin & The Harvardwood Team 

DreamWorks Feature Production Assistant (DreamWorks Animation) - CA

Job Description: DreamWorks Animation is looking for more adventurous dreamers who shoot for the moon. We tell stories about the journeys our unconventional heroes take to make dreams come true. As a growth-minded studio, we pride ourselves on being one of the world’s leading producers of high-quality, award-winning, animated films and series, reaching consumers around the globe. We push to feel more, laugh more, and build immersive new worlds. DreamWorks creates a diverse array of original content in a variety of formats, delivering compelling stories with unique characters. We place tremendous value on the experiences our talent brings to the table from their own non-traditional paths to success. We believe in frequent communication and that transparency and trust yield the best work. We are a community of artists, technologists, innovators, and creators, who are passionate about animation and also happen to love eating lunch together.


50 Years After the Kerner Commission: Can Entertainment Inspire a New Will?

Over 50 years ago, the Kerner Commission was created by President Lyndon Johnson following protests in more than 150 American cities against racism and inequality. The panel members concluded that it's "time to make good the promises of American democracy to all citizens," yet the policy work remains unfinished because we have not fully achieved what the commission called "new will" from the public. 

On February 23rd, Harvardwood joined The Norman Lear Center's Hollywood, Health & Society, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,  the Trustees of the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation, and the Writers Guild of America for an online discussion on these challenges. The lively conversation featured distinguished panelists Kenya BarrisTara DuncanFranklin Leonard (AB '00) and Elle Johnson (AB '86), and was moderated by Jelani Cobb. The event also featured welcome remarks from Marty Kaplan (AB '71), Director of The Normal Lear Center, special remarks from Alan Curtis (AB '65) of the Eisenhower Foundation, and producer Norman Lear.

Harvardwood extends our deepest appreciation to the panel and to our partners in the presentation of heartfelt discussion of how the humanities and the arts can better amplify, visualize and reinforce the policy priorities of the 1968 Kerner Commission

You can view the recording of the event HERE.

JELANI COBB {moderator) Writes about race, politics, history and culture for The New Yorker; edited The Essential Kerner Commission Report; professor of journalism at Columbia University; winner of 2021 Walter Cronkite Award from USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center for report on policing in Newark, N.J. (PBS Frontline)



KENYA BARRIS Creator and former showrunner of the ABC hit Black-ish; executive producer for #8/ackAF, Grown-ish and Mixed-ish; co-producing partner of BET Studios; co-writer and director of untitled film starring Jonah Hill and Eddie Murphy, currently in production 


TARA DUNCAN President of Freeform and the Onyx Collective, a content brand under Disney General Entertainment for inclusive storytelling; headed series debut of the hit Cruel Summer, a new season of grown-ish, and the debut of Single Drunk Female; previously, Duncan worked at Hulu and Netflix, where she was a senior creative executive



FRANKLIN LEONARD (AB '00) Film and TV producer, cultural commentator and entrepreneur; founder and CEO of the Black List; contributing  editor at Vanity Fair; member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences


ELLE JOHNSON (AB '86) TV writer/producer and author; credits include Bosch, CS/: Miami, Any Day Now, and The Fosters; executive producer of Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, which won an NAACP Image Award; her first book, The Officer's Daughter: A Memoir of Family and Forgiveness, was published in 2021




Industry Successes

Check out this interview with NBC News president Noah Oppenheim (AB '00). (Poynter)

How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question by Mike Schur (AB '97) has been featured in Vulture's list of recommended audiobooks. (Vulture)

Will Smith will host a docuseries with Disney+, and Harvard College alum Terence Carter (AB '09) will executive produce. (Codelist)

Check out this great review of 'Grand Horizons' — the production from Bess Wohl (AB '96). (Yahoo News)

Here's everything we know so far on the Netflix Limited Series, The Watcher. Among the directors of the project announced so far include Paris Barclay (AB '79). (What’s on Netflix)

Check out Hollywood Life's exclusive interview with Tatyana Ali (AB '02). (Hollywood Life

The trailer for Ben Stiller's Apple TV+ workplace thriller Severance is out now, and Andrew Colville (AB '94) will be executive producing for the project. (Deadline)

Here’s your first teaser trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion musical update of the classic Pinocchio tale — with Lisa Henson (AB '83) producing. (Deadline)

Prime Video has given a series greenlight to Phat Tuesdays, a docuseries from Guy Torry, creator and host of the famed Phat Tuesday comedy shows at LA’s The Comedy Store and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Reginald Hudlin (AB '83). (Deadline)

Check out this Forbes article on Albert Cheng (MBA '97), the COO of Amazon Studios. (Forbes)

Check out the Art Directors Guild 2022 Nominations! The list includes Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, where Sue Chan (AB '92) served as a production designer. (Deadline)

WarnerMedia OneFifty acquired Oscar-shortlisted Namoo, which released on HBO Max just last week! The film was produced by HBS alum Maureen Fan (MBA '09). (Hollywood Reporter)

The documentary 2nd Chance has been acquired by Showtime out of Sundance. The film is executive produced by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer (AB '97). (Deadline)

Check out this Roundtable Panel with 7 film documentary filmmakers — including RJ Cutler (AB '83) — on 2022 Oscars shortlist reveal secrets. (YouTube)

Congratulations to Dionne Harmon (AB ’01) for live producing another outstanding Super Bowl Halftime Show. 

Love, Victor is set to end with Season 3 at Hulu. Marty Bowen (AB '91) is an executive producer. (TV Insider)

The Oscars 2022 Music (Original Score) nominations have been announced, and Nicholas Britell's (AB '03) work on 'Don't Look Up' has been nominated. (ABC)

Apple has given a straight-to-series order for Presumed Innocent, the thriller series created by David E. Kelley, J.J. Abrams, and Dustin Thomason (AB '98). (Variety)

Pitch Perfect's TV show spinoff taps Todd Strauss-Schulson to direct the pilot, and Megan Amram (AB '10) will executive produce under Golden Circle Films. (Collider)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine, created by Dan Goor (AB ’97) and executive produced by Goor and Mike Schur (AB '97), is coming to Comedy Central, which has acquired the full library of the Fox-turned-NBC cop comedy. (Deadline)

ICYMI — JJ Abrams, Stephen King, Ed Zwick (AB '74) and Marshall Herskovitz are teaming on for a limited-series adaptation of King's bestseller Billy Summers. (Deadline)

The Grease prequel series Rise of the Pink Ladies reveals its cast, and Marty Bowen (AB '91) of Temple Hill executive produces. (Today)

Check out the new trailer for upcoming original series Joe vs Carole, and Marshall Lewy (AB '99) of Wondery executive produces. (The Hollywood News)

BMI congratulates 2022 BAFTA nominee Nicholas Britell (AB '03). (BMI)

Clifton Collins Jr. and Michael Gandolfini Join Landscape With Invisible Hand, and Plan B's Jeremy Kleiner (AB '98) is producing. (Deadline)

Check out the Shining Girls trailer — the Apple TV+ series stars Amy Brenneman (AB '87). (IndieWire

Check out this Forbes profile on Lisa Henson (AB '83) and honoring Jim Henson's legacy. (Forbes)

As part of VaccinateLA, USC Professor Jeremy Kagan (AB '67) has been working with filmmakers trained at USC School of Cinematic Arts to create three narrative short stories that debunk common myths that underlie vaccine hesitancy in specific populations; the third is about vaccinating children. They are: Team Player, Of Reasons and Rumors, and Happy Birthday, Granny. More can be learned here.

New Members' Welcome

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

  • Kiara Gomez, College, BOS/Campus
  • Brian Magdaleno, College, BOS/Campus
  • Bryant Valenzuela, College, BOS/Campus
  • Alexandra Fogel, College, BOS/Campus
  • Samantha Galvin, College, BOS/Campus
  • Samantha Simpson, College, BOS/Campus
  • Alex Evans, GSBA, NY
  • Amber Wade, College, LA
  • Laila Nasher, College, BOS/Campus
  • Betsy Campbell, GSE, Other U.S.
  • Annora Lee, College, BOS/Campus
  • Chase Souder, College, BOS/Campus
  • David Vega, College, BOS/Campus
  • Ellie Gao, College, BOS/Campus
  • Jenny Gu, College, BOS/Campus
  • Matt Chang, College, BOS/Campus
  • Motunrayo (Rayo) Daniel, College, BOS/Campus
  • Liz Katz, GSBA, LA
  • Lindsay Sanwald, Div., BOS/Campus
  • Zach Bartel, College, BOS/Campus
  • Xavier Isiah Sayeed, Div., BOS/Campus
  • Lauren Zabierek, KSG, BOS/Campus
  • Margaret Thielens, Div., BOS/Campus
  • Alexis Lauricella, College, BOS/Campus
  • Richard Handley, HMS, LA
  • Simran Rattan, HMS, Toronto, Canada
  • Laura Tasic, Ext., NY
  • Grace Shi, College, NY
  • Matthew Jager, Special Programs (FAS), LA
  • Leslie King Ext., SF/Bay Area, CA
  • Dima Abdelmannan, GSE, BOS/Campus

*FOH = Friend of Harvardwood

Alumni Profile: Debra Martin Chase HLS '81 (Producer)

by Aissata Bah

Debra Martin Chase has always been an avid lover of movies and television. Though Chase didn’t initially know how to enter the elusive world of entertainment, doing so was always the dream for her.

Chase studied political science at Mount Holyoke College and later attended Harvard Law School. While she was at HLS, Chase would visit revival theaters in Harvard Square in between study sessions at the library. Through watching old French movies and Hollywood classics at the theaters, Chase continued to nurture her creative interests and passions as a student. After graduating from HLS in 1981, Chase went on to practice corporate law until she had an epiphany. 

“I realized,” Chase said, “this is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. And I wanted to see if I could make the dream come true.”

Chase decided to change careers and spent a year researching the film and television industry as well as the various roles within it to identify the specific aspect of the business she wanted to be a part of. Chase gained admittance into a prestigious two-year executive development program at Columbia Pictures, which presented her the opportunity to learn more about the industry from within. While in the program, Chase met the chairman of Columbia Pictures and became his executive assistant. 

As an executive assistant, Chase polished her skills on how to develop scripts, find property, and produce. While her first few years in the industry were difficult at times, Chase says, “I was guided by my love for storytelling, and I just worked really hard to learn the job.” Her experience as an executive assistant was particularly invaluable as she was able to follow her boss into meetings, read scripts for him, and ask questions.

Chase soon joined the creative staff at Columbia. While walking across the Columbia lot one day, she saw Denzel Washington and took the chance to introduce herself to him. At the time, Washington was looking for someone to run his production company, Mundy Lane Entertainment, and soon offered her the role about a week later. Chase’s decision to join Washington’s company reflected her motivation for entering the entertainment industry in the first place. 

“I got into this business to tell different stories about people of color and women that had not been told prior to that,” Chase shares. “For me, it’s just really about finding stories that I’m passionate about, that inspire people, and that deserve to be told.” Chase specifically gravitates towards stories with positive messages about taking control of one’s destiny and empowering women. While at Mundy Lane, Chase worked on films such as The Pelican Brief and Crimson Tide as well as the Academy Award-nominated and Peabody Award-winning documentary Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream

Chase then partnered with Whitney Houston’s Brown House Productions where they produced Cinderella in addition to the first Cheetah Girls and Princess Diaries films. Following the large-scale success of these films, Disney offered Chase the opportunity to create her own production company, which became Martin Chase Productions, and Chase became the first Black woman to have a production deal at a major studio. In the fifteen years that she partnered with Disney, Chase continued producing the Cheetah Girls and Princess Diaries franchises and also produced The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Lemonade Mouth among other films.

At the beginning of Chase’s career, there were no figures in the industry that she looked up to or sought to emulate because there wasn’t anyone who was doing the work that she wanted to do. Finding fresh voices and surrounding herself with a strong team of talent has always been a priority to Chase. She has subsequently launched the career of several actors, writers, and producers, including Shonda Rhimes, who was a former intern of hers and to whom Chase offered her first paid writing job.

With the emergence of film and television shows like Scandal, Black Panther, and Chase’s Harriet in the last decade that centered Black narratives and proved that racially diverse stories can be enormously successful, Chase believes that the entertainment industry is moving in the right direction. However, Chase also believes that there needs to be increased representation of people behind the screen. “There need to be even more people of color in decision-making positions at studios and networks,” and, she adds, especially on the feature side.

To aspiring creatives, Chase stresses the importance of honing one’s skills and researching how the film and television businesses work. But, at the end of the day, she emphasizes, “you’ve got to bet on yourself and take a chance. Hopefully, it works out, and if it doesn’t, you learn from your mistakes as much as or sometimes even more than your successes.”

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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.



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Harvardwood Presents: What is Virtual Production or In-camera VFX? [click here(March 1st, 6pm PT)

Presented by Harvardwood in Partnership with The Entertainment Technology Center at the University of Southern California

The Entertainment Technology Center, part of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts ([email protected]), explores the technology that is on the edge of changing an industry.  Pioneered on The Mandalorian, the technique known as ICVFX utilized the Unreal game engine (à la Fortnite) to build photo-realistic backgrounds that played back on LED Volumes or giant immersive TVs.  This talk will focus on the winner of [email protected]’s 2021/2022 Innovation Grant, Fathead, and how it is achieving next-level filmmaking using this technique among others.  

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Harvardwood Presents: A Conversation with Chris Salvaterra AB '90 [click here] (March 17th, 6pm PT)

Join Harvardwood for a conversation with HBO Program Executive Chris Salvaterra! 

Chris Salvaterra has been an executive and a producer for more than fifteen years and is continually driven by the ambition to be involved with compelling stories - whether feature films (such as "American Pie"​, "Syriana"​, "Good Night and Good Luck"​, "The Visitor"​), and television ("Chernobyl", "The Gilded Age", "Winning Time"). He's also a proponent of education and enjoys sharing his knowledge of, and experience in, the entertainment industry with others who might benefit.


List of All Upcoming Harvardwood Events Here

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

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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.

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