In this issue:
MESSAGE FROM HARVARDWOOD
- Seeking Director / DP for Alumni Testimonials - Cambridge, MA (June 3-5)
Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship recipients featured during graduation festivities
Harvardwood seeks volunteer social event coordinators
- Featured Job: Comedy Assistant (WME) - NY
- Alumni Profile: Jeff Sagansky AB ’74, MBA ‘76 (producer, executive, investor)
- Industry News
- New Members' Welcome
- Exclusive Q&A with Julie Pottinger AB ’92 (aka Julia Quinn, Author)
CALENDAR & NOTES
- June 4 - Harvardwood Reunion Mixer (Cambridge, MA)
- June 12 - Tribute to John F. Bowman
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!
Congratulations, Class of '22! You did it! Kudos on your graduation and your well-deserved success.
We hope that everyone has been enjoying the in-person commencement festivities. We are also excited about the upcoming reunion events -- and Harvardwood is hosting our own reunion mixer on June 4 in Cambridge, which you can find out about by clicking here.
Please consider donating to Harvardwood. Your donations are tax deductible!
Seeking Director / DP for Alumni Testimonials - Cambridge, MA (June 3-5)
In May, the Supreme Court received the opening brief from SFFA in their lawsuit against Harvard’s race conscious admissions policies, challenging forty years of legal precedent giving higher education institutions the ability to create diverse communities that enrich those institutions and society. As alumni, we all contributed to the broad diversity that is Harvard and were able to learn so much more during our time at Harvard because of the rich, vibrant communities Harvard's admissions policies helped facilitate. Now, we want to help Harvard by creating a viral social media campaign about the importance of diversity.
Volunteer leaders from Harvardwood and the HAA are seeking a director, cinematographer or other film/video-savvy alum who will be in Cambridge between June 3-5 during reunions to record a series of 10-minute alumni testimonials supporting diversity in college admissions. The estimated time commitment for filming is 3 hours on one of those days, and an interior space on campus will be provided along with administrative support. Minimal tech requirements (an iPhone 11+ or similar should suffice). This is a pro bono project.
If interested, please contact: [email protected]
Congratulations to our inaugural Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship recipients!
Our inaugural Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship recipients Youmna Chamieh ’22 and Julia Riew ’22 were both featured in last week’s Harvard graduation festivities!
Youmna delivered the comedic Ivy Oration at Class Day. Click here to watch the video.
Julia performed her original song “Dive” at Commencement. Click here to watch the video.
Harvardwood congratulates Youmna, Julia, and the entire class of 2022!
Click here for more information about the Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship program.
Get involved with Harvardwood!
Want to work with us? We are currently looking for Social event coordinators.
Now that we're resuming more in-person events, we are looking for volunteers to help pitch, plan and coordinate monthly or quarterly social events that can help bring the Harvardwood community together. We are primarily looking for someone in Los Angeles, but if you live elsewhere and want to help coordinate social events with your local chapter, let us know, and we can get you in touch with them. Interested? Email [email protected] with "Social event coordinator" in the subject line.
Job Description: WME is a leading entertainment agency representing the world’s greatest artists, content creators and talent across books, digital media, film, food, music, sports, television and theater. Named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, WME is a subsidiary of Endeavor, a global entertainment, sports and content company. This position provides general administrative and editorial support to the agent by managing the agent’s calendar, email, phones, sending submissions, evaluative queries and manuscripts, and handling a variety of client oriented business. Click here for more info!
Alumni Profile: Jeff Sagansky AB ’74, MBA ‘76 (producer, executive, investor)
by Dayna Wilkinson
Jeff Sagansky was destined for Hollywood. “I was already reading Variety when I was in high school. By the time I got to Harvard, I knew I wanted to make TV shows and movies.
“There wasn’t much I could do as an undergraduate to get involved in the business. If Harvardwood had existed then, I definitely would have joined the campus chapter.” After graduating and trying without success to get a job in Hollywood, “I went to Harvard Business School hoping to make myself a more attractive hire.”
“I wanted to work at CBS because at the time it was the foremost network,” Jeff recalls. “But I couldn’t get a job in programming, so I joined CBS in New York as a financial analyst.
“Each morning I waited outside Alan Wagner’s office at CBS, hoping to meet him. Alan Wagner was the New York-based CBS programming executive who had overseen shows like All in the Family and Kojak. Finally, Alan agreed to give me scripts to read outside of work hours. I’d give him my synopses and comments, and he helped me understand the dynamics of why some scripts worked and others didn’t. That was my introduction to programming.”
After applying to NBC’s West Coast associates program, Jeff got his first programming job in Burbank. “I was a liaison between NBC programming and specific shows in production. I had to make sure each episode was delivered on schedule, that the right promotional material was available and most importantly that the show was produced creatively in the way NBC had ordered it. One of my shows was The Rockford Files, which was in its fourth year and was an established hit.
“I remember going in to see Meta Rosenberg for the first time to give her my voluminous notes. She was Jim Garner’s agent and The Rockford Files executive producer. The next week I came back and again, I had voluminous notes. She listened politely then took me aside and asked ‘How do you like your job?’ I said ‘I love it, it’s sort of a dream for me.’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘if you want to keep it, you should do a lot more listening and a lot less talking. You don’t have to fix this show. Why don’t you just watch how it’s done and learn what makes a show successful?’ That was fantastic advice for the twenty-five-year-old me.”
Alan Wagner and Meta Rosenberg were but two of the people who imparted valuable advice to Jeff during his Hollywood career.
“I’ve had three great mentors, the producers David Gerber, Ray Stark and Grant Tinker. Not only did they teach me about the business, they taught me about being an effective executive and about life in general. I consider mentoring the next generation of executives to be one of the most important things that I do now.”
Jeff left NBC in 1979 to work at David Gerber’s production company, then went back to NBC three years later as senior vice president in charge of series programming. “We created Must See TV with shows like Cheers, Family Ties, The Cosby Show, The A Team, St. Elsewhere and Remington Steele, shows that people still watch in digital form. Two years after I returned, NBC became the number one network for the first time in a decade.
“I made it known I wanted to spread my wings a bit and in 1985 was offered the job of starting a new studio, Tri-Star Pictures. We made movies like Peggy Sue Got Married, Steel Magnolias and Glory.
“Glory was about Robert Gould Shaw and the men of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Robert Gould Shaw was a young officer who had studied at Harvard; the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was the first African-American regiment in the Civil War. I’d been fascinated by their story since I was sixteen or seventeen after seeing a Saint-Gaudens monument in Boston depicting their valor. It was kismet that I was in a position to greenlight Glory some twenty years later, and that it was directed by my college classmate Ed Zwick.”
“Working in the industry has been even better than I thought it would be back in my Harvard days. You’re helping very creative writers, producers and directors make great TV shows and movies by bringing whatever gifts you have. I don’t think there’s a more exciting thing to do in life.”
Hired as the president of CBS Entertainment in 1989, Jeff took the third-place network to first-place with such series as The Nanny, Chicago Hope, Picket Fences and Northern Exposure.
In a shift from his CBS programming role, Jeff then spent four years as co-president of Sony Pictures Entertainment, responsible for worldwide television operations and launching new television channels in Asia, Latin America and Central Europe. His final corporate role was at Paxson Communications where he launched the family-oriented PAX TV.
“In 2002 I decided to go out on my own. I partnered with Harry Sloan, the former Chair & CEO of MGM and Europe’s SBS Broadcasting. We both had been CEOs of public companies and knew the capital markets well, so we started creating special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs. A SPAC is an alternative way to take a private company public. At first we thought we’d concentrate on media, but to date we’ve launched nine public companies ranging from media to industrials to biotech.
“Though I have less time to do it now, I’m still working with talented writers and creators. A lot of today’s great shows aren’t made in the U.S. or in English -- shows like Netflix’s Narcos, Fauda and a show I produced in India, Delhi Crime.
“Currently I’m developing shows in Hindi and Hebrew. For me, the business is as exciting now as when I first started.”
On June 2, NATPE will honor Jeff Sagansky with a Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award for his “extraordinary passion, leadership, independence and vision in content programming.”
Dayna Wilkinson is a proud New Yorker currently living, working and writing in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Robert Kraft's (AB '76) ongoing lecture/performance series 'Cue & A' with current film composers continues at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, CA. Tickets can be purchased here. Robert was recently featured on Spectrum News 1, and you can watch the video here.
Love, Victor will now be available on Disney+! Marty Bowen (AB '91) served as an executive producer for the coming-of-age series, based on the queer teen romantic drama Love, Simon. (Yahoo)
Succession composer Nicholas Britell (AB '03) discusses Season 3's soundtrack with Variety. (Variety)
The Caroga Arts Collective has announced its 2022 Caroga Lake Music Festival summer lineup. Later in the season, American Modern Opera Company's co-artistic director and composer Matthew Aucoin (AB '12) will lead the Caroga Arts Ensemble in a performance! (BroadwayWorld)
Babylon, directed by Damien Chazelle (AB '07) and featuring Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, shows off old Hollywood glamour and mayhem at CinemaCon. (The Wrap)
In his course Soda Politics at Yale University, physician, television producer, and writer Neal Baer (MD '96) shows students how stories affect public health. (Yale News)
Boots Riley's upcoming absurdist series I'm a Virgo wraps filming in New Orleans. See what Albert Cheng (MBA '97), co-head of TV at Amazon Studios, had to say about the partnership between Amazon and Riley. (Collider)
May 10 was the release date of Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron, a new graphic novel from Bridgerton author Julia Quinn (aka Julie Pottinger, AB ’92), illustrated by her late sister Violet Charles. (HarperCollins)
Jeff Sagansky (AB ’74, MBA ’76) will receive a Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Award from NATPE on June 2, alongside several other accomplished folks. (NATPE)
Peacock is building a new Field of Dreams in Iowa. The NBCUniversal-backed streamer will film its limited series created by Mike Schur (AB '97) and based on the beloved Kevin Costner baseball movie in Iowa. (Hollywood Reporter)
Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick (MBA '82, JD '93) has received a new contract extension that will keep him in charge of the publisher of NBA 2K and Grand Theft Auto into 2029. (Dote Sports)
Barry co-creator Alec Berg (AB '91) opens up about that killer second episode — and stuffing Henry Winkler in a trunk — to Entertainment Weekly. (EW)
Sam Claflin will star in Bagman, a supernatural thriller from Lionsgate. Temple Hill’s Marty Bowen (AB '91) and Wyck Godfrey are producing. (Hollywood Reporter)
ABC will invest in yet another season of Home Economics, renewing the comedy from Michael Colton (AB ’97) and John Aboud (AB '95) for season 3. (Deadline)
Amazon’s Freevee has assembled the cast for its upcoming Shea Serrano Project, formerly titled Primo. The project hails from Serrano and The Good Place creator Mike Schur (AB '97). (Deadline)
Wondery has revealed that it will release podcast series in Dolby Atmos, making it the first podcast streaming service in the US to deliver podcasts in the immersive sound format. See what Marshall Lewy (AB '99), Wondery's Chief Content Officer had to say. (Hollywood Reporter)
New Members' Welcome
Harvardwood warmly welcomes all members who joined the organization last month:
- Anjali Tripathi, GSAS, LA
- Isabel Levin, College, BOS/Campus
- Tyler Heaton, College, BOS/Campus
- Hannah Barbash-Taylor, College, NY
- Rave Andrews, College, BOS/Campus
- Demo Adamolekun, Ext., LA
- Jonathan Reiman, College, LA
- Candace Gardner, College, BOS/Campus
- Terrence Yang, HLS, LA
- Julie Huang, HLS, NY
- Shane Campayne, College, LA
- Elliot Schiff, College, Chicago
- Alice Hill, Radcliffe, Other International
- Hania Chima, College, NY
- Jamie Mellinger, GSAS, Atlanta
- Chet Ellis, College, NY
Exclusive Q&A with Julie Pottinger AB ’92 (aka Julia Quinn, Author)
Julie Pottinger AB ’92 (pen name Julia Quinn) is a Seattle-based romance author of over three dozen books. She has written numerous bestsellers including the hit Bridgerton series that was adapted for television by Shondaland and has become a global phenomenon on Netflix. She has been inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Her latest book, the graphic novel Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron, was released on May 10 and is a collaboration with her late sister, artist and illustrator Violet Charles (aka Ariana Cotler). More information can be found on her website: https://juliaquinn.com
Q: This spring saw the season 2 launch of Bridgerton, the hit Netflix show based on your wildly popular book series. What degree of involvement have you had with the Netflix series, what have been some high points and challenges, and is there anything you wish you had known prior to embarking on this journey?
A: I am only minimally involved in the production. One of the first questions to come up in any negotiation involving the option of a novelist's work is, "Are you willing to give up creative control?" My answer was an enthusiastic, "YES!" This was in large part because Hollywood has not traditionally looked to romance novels for source material, and I was very aware that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I did not want to do anything to jeopardize the deal.
But it's also very easy to come to this decision when you have such unwavering trust in the people you're working with. I'm not going to tell Shonda Rhimes how to make television.
Q: You write primarily Regency-era fiction — what drew you to focus on this specific genre vs. modern romance or other historical periods?
A: Regency England has always been a very popular setting in the historical romance genre. It's far enough in the past that it's imbued with a fairytale-like quality in ways that something set in the 20th or 21st centuries can't be. But it's modern enough that I can make my characters think and act in ways that resonate with contemporary readers.
Q: Much has been made of the nontraditional, multiracial casting choices for the show, and you have spoken enthusiastically about this element of the adaptation — how much do you think this contributed to the success of the show in finding a wider audience?
A: I think it played a huge role. Bridgerton was revolutionary in the way it allowed so many people to see themselves in this type of story. I've heard from so many people who have said it was transformative, seeing "someone like them" in the fancy gown. Romance novels are all about happy endings, and I am so incredibly proud to be a part of a project that states quite clearly: "We all deserve happy endings."
Q: In the several decades since you began your career, have you seen a trend toward more inclusivity in the romance genre — both in terms of the authors (and editors/publishers) themselves and the kinds of characters and stories being elevated?
A: Yes. But while we are moving in the right direction, we still have a long way to go. I myself am guilty of not checking my own privilege for many years. It's really easy to be unaware of the struggles of others, especially if you yourself are working hard.
I get asked a lot if I plan to write novels with main characters from traditionally marginalized groups, and I'm just not sure. The most important thing to me is that if I do write about a culture very different from my own that I do it well, and in a way that is not inadvertently harmful. There is a big danger of perpetuating a stereotype I don't even know exists.
In the meantime, I've been trying to use my platform to shine a light on diverse authors. There are so many great romances being written by authors of color, or queer authors, or neurodiverse authors, or any of a host of groups who have not traditionally been given a seat at the publishing table. I feel honored to be able to introduce readers to any talented author.
Q: Your newest release is Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron, a graphic novel that is a companion piece to the Bridgerton series. You wrote this book in collaboration with your late sister, the artist Violet Charles (aka Ariana Cotler), who created all of the illustrations and contributed significantly to the story itself. Can you tell us more about the genesis of the project, what it was like to work so closely with your sister, and what you hope audiences will take away from the book?
A: Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron is a "book-within-the-book" that has existed within my fictional universe since I wrote It's in His Kiss in 2005. Lady Danbury is a bit older in the books than she is in the show, and her eyes are not what they used to be, so Hyacinth Bridgerton visits her every Tuesday to read to her from Butterworth. It's a poorly written, over-the-top Gothic novel, the sort that has a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter, usually with the heroine almost dying. I had so much fun with it that I brought it back for another book, and then another, and then eventually wrote one in which the hero is the secret author.
After several years, readers started asking me to write Butterworth in its entirety, which I was never going to do. It's incredibly fun to write snippets of bad writing, but an entire novel would be agony. My sister, however, was a cartoonist and illustrator, and at some point we realized it could make a spectacular graphic novel.
Writing with Aria was a gift. She was my half-sister and quite a bit younger than me. We didn't grow up together, so this was a truly unique and special bonding experience. She was someone who really struggled to find her place in life. Butterworth — and the entire experience of getting a book deal with a big New York publisher — was a big turning point for her. I can't believe that she's not here to see the book land in the hands of readers, but I take comfort in knowing that the whole world will get to see how brilliant and clever and funny she was.
Q: Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron is dedicated to your father, children’s author and screenwriter Stephen Cotler (AB ’65, MBA ’68), who perished in the tragic accident that also took your sister’s life. You’ve said that your dad’s skepticism about your middle school reading choices (including the Sweet Valley High series) inspired your first effort as a teenage novelist. In what other ways did your dad influence your path as a writer?
A: First of all, I feel I need to point out that my father and sister were not killed in an accident. They were killed in an automobile crash caused by a drunk driver. A man made a decision to drink for two days straight on a drive from Idaho to Utah. His blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit. There is nothing accidental about that.
But I'd rather focus on my father, and not on the man who killed him. My dad was a force of nature, and he inspired me every day to take chances and be creative. He was also always thrilled to be involved in my career, even in the tiniest of ways. Many years ago I needed to research the earliest known mention of the nursery rhyme character Little Bo Peep to make sure it was okay to mention the character in a book set in the 1820s. (Turns out it's Shakespeare, so I'm good.) But it was my dad who did the research for me. I was writing in Starbucks, back before they had free wifi, so I called him on my cell, and he did a web search for me. I told him I should put him on retainer, and he said, "Honey, I've been working for you since 1970."
If you'll indulge me, I'd like to share a paragraph that was edited out of the obituary that was sent to Harvard Magazine:
(Steve) took particular delight in being “the most embarrassing dad ever” and may have clinched this award in the late 70s with an appearance on the Gong Show. (He was gonged.) His daughter Julie ‘92, however, tells the story of when she finally stopped being embarrassed by her father: “It was his 25th reunion. I was a sophomore, so I stayed in Cambridge to attend the festivities with him. The entire class of ’65 had gone to a club in Boston for dancing, and Janet Jackson came on the speakers. My father started dancing very badly (typical) but with great enthusiasm (also typical). I saw a few teenagers pointing and snickering, and I thought, ‘Yeah, you WISH your dad danced like that.’ After that, I felt nothing but pride in his geekiness. He was willing to try almost anything, and he never let the fear of embarrassment rule his actions. As a friend said after his sudden death, ‘We should all be a little more Steve.’ ”
If anyone would like to read a little more about how my father has inspired me, I wrote an essay for the back matter of The Duke and I that tells a bit more of our tale.
Q: What are your favorite films, TV shows, and books (both recent and not-so-recent)?
A: I wouldn't know where to begin with such a question, so I'll just say that for Mother's Day, my son said, "Let's have an at-home double feature." I chose Hope and Glory (1987) and The Triplets of Belleville (2003).
Q: How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working?
A: With my family. It doesn't even matter what we're doing, as long as we're together.
Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron is available now as an eBook or paperback. Click here for more info.
Now that in-person reunion events have resumed, Harvardwood will be hosting a mixer during Harvard's Commencement/Reunion Weekend.
On Saturday, June 4th from 3-5 pm, Harvardwood members and alumni returning to Cambridge for Reunions will gather on the front patio of Charlie’s Kitchen in the Square to meet and mingle.
Cash bar. This event is free to attend, and guests/family members are welcome.
Writers Guild Theater
135 South Doheny Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
To attend, you must RSVP by Wed, June 8 at 12pm. Prior to the event, all attendees will be required to show proof of COVID vaccination. Space is limited. Click here to RSVP.
John F. Bowman (AB ’80, MBA ’85) was a valued leader in his role as Vice-Chair of the Harvardwood Board; always an active participant when it came to his alma mater, he also served In addition to his many impressive personal and professional accomplishments, John was an incredibly kind, compassionate and generous gentleman with a heart for service, teaching and building community," said Harvardwood co-Founder Mia Riverton Alpert (AB ’99). "His steadfast support for Harvardwood and the Harvard community at large was emblematic of the way he lived his life, devoted to the many people and causes that he cared about. Simply put — he was the best. We miss him terribly.”
Photo above: John F. Bowman speaking at Harvardwood's “Harvard in Hollywood” symposium in 2006.
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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.