In this issue:
MESSAGE FROM HARVARDWOOD
- Harvardwood Writers Competition - Late Deadline Applications Due November 14!
- Harvardwood 101 - Applications Available Now, Due November 15
- Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship - Applications Available Now, Due January 9
- Seeking "J-Termship" Opportunities for Harvard 101 Students
- Seeking Homestay Hosts for Harvardwood 101 Students
- Featured Job: Residency Position at MakeMake Residencies - hybrid
- Alumni Profile: Susan Walter AB ’91 (author, filmmaker)
- Industry News
- New Members' Welcome
- Exclusive Q&A with Andrew Bujalski AB ’98 (filmmaker)
CALENDAR & NOTES
- November 10 - A Conversation with Filmmakers Sumalee Montano '93 and Sean Presant '93
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!
As we approach the holiday season, we have application deadlines for two of our most popular
programs -- the Harvardwood Writers Competition (scripts due by November 14) and Harvardwood
101 (applications due by November 15). Plus, applications available now for the Harvardwood Artist
Launch Fellowship (now in its 2nd year) with an information session on November 30. Scroll down for
This month, we're also presenting a conversation with filmmakers Sumalee Montano '93 and Sean
Presant '93 who will discuss their latest movie, The Deal, in which a mother fights to save the life of her
ailing daughter after an unprecedented pandemic has ravaged the planet.
As always, we want to hear from you, our members -- if you have an idea for an event or programming, please tell us about it here. If you have an announcement about your work or someone else's, please share it here (members) and it will appear in our Weekly and/or next HIGHLIGHTS issue.
Please consider donating to Harvardwood. Your donations are tax deductible!
Operations and Communications Associate
The Harvardwood Writers Competition (HWC) was founded in 2006 with the aim of recognizing superior work by Harvard writers and giving these talented individuals the opportunity to gain industry exposure.
The HWC features three categories:
Feature screenplays (90-120 pages, all genres)
Television pilots (half-hour and one-hour, all genres)
One-Act play* (40 pages maximum)
*Plays must be in stage play format. The competition no longer accepts short films.
Click here for the application form. Applications are open through November 14th!
Click here for more information about the Harvard Writers Competition program.
Harvardwood 101 presents a series of activities to current undergraduates in January to help demystify Hollywood and educate students about careers in the entertainment industry. This program began in 2003 and is cosponsored by Harvard University's Office of Career Services. To participate in Harvardwood 101, you must be a current student of Harvard College, a dues-current Full Member of Harvardwood, and in good standing with your Proctor or House Resident Tutor.
Due to COVID, Harvardwood 101 will be primarily online in 2023. This program consists of:
• Boot Camp Week - January 2-6, 2023
An intensive, informational week led on Zoom, featuring industry speakers, with interactive sessions, student Q&As, and panelist-led sessions.
• J-Termships - between January 3 and 20, 2023
1-3 weeks in January in which students hold informal positions at entertainment companies or with individual industry professionals.
Click here for more information about eligibility and the application form. Applications are now OPEN!
Click here for more information about the Harvardwood 101 program.
Applications are available now for 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 per-artist grant, awarded annually, to support one or more recent graduates from the College for one year as they pursue their artistic projects. Each Alpert Harvardwood Fellow will also be paired with a mentor in their field of interest to help guide their creative endeavors and will receive additional assistance through Harvardwood.
To apply, individuals must be current Harvard College seniors or have graduated from Harvard College within the past two years (i.e. class of 2021, 2022 or 2023), complete the application form, provide a resume, a work sample or portfolio, an introductory video, an artist statement, and more. Applications will be due January 9, 2023.
Click here for more information about the Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship.
The annual Harvardwood 101 career exploration program for undergraduates is coming up in January 2023! If you or your company are interested in hosting one or more current Harvard College students, either virtually or in-person, we offer our Harvardwood 101 “J-Termship” program, which matches students with companies for 1-3 week educational experiences—you can think of them as short-term unpaid internships or “shadowing” opportunities. Official program dates are January 3-20, 2023, and J-termships can last between 1-3 weeks during that time or be open-ended, if you find that your needs extend past the dates of the program.
Examples of support that our students can provide include short-term research, general organizing, exploring emergent digital technologies, social media support, etc. We just ask that you chat with students 30-60 minutes per week, and they’d be eager to learn from you in any capacity! J-termship opportunities may be offered in any geographical location and may take place in-person or virtually.
If you’re interested in a J-Termship match, please contact our Programs Associate Laura Yumi Snell at [email protected].
Every year, our Harvardward 101 career exploration program offers a few dozen Harvard College students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend discussions with Hollywood executives, agents, writers, and artists. Though we pivoted to digital programming for the past two years, we’re thrilled to offer some in-person activities again this year.
Our Harvardwood 101 “J-Termship” program (short-term professional experiences) spans the first 1-3 weeks of January, and we are currently looking for homestay hosts during that time in LA and NYC.
If you’re able to provide a spare room/couch/air mattress to host a college student (or three!), we’d be eternally grateful.
Please contact Programs Associate Laura Yumi Snell at [email protected] with your name, address/neighborhood, and the number of students you’re able to host. Thank you!
Job Description: Residency Position through MakeMake Residencies, a paid residency program for early to mid-career diverse professionals in Editorial, Design and Visual Effects, Animation, Color, Sound and Producing at MakeMake Entertainment.
The program offers residencies at MakeMake’s companies, including Rock Paper Scissors, Elastic, a52, Primary, Jax, Indestructible and MakeMake Entertainment. Residents will have the opportunity to work on scripted and unscripted content, entertainment marketing, and global advertising.
Alumni Profile: Susan Walter AB ’91 (author, filmmaker)
by Laura Frustaci
“You have to walk toward the industry that’s opening its arms,” author and creative Susan Walter AB ‘91 says. That’s how she ended up as a bestselling author with a new book just out and two more in the works to come. Over Her Dead Body is available for purchase as of today (!), and the story about how this book came to life is a bit… surprising.
Just before the pandemic, Susan wrote a book on spec called Good as Dead. She tells us, “I wrote it because I was frustrated with the movie business after a good solid decade and a half of doing rewrites and selling specs that never got made. I hit a brick wall and just needed a break. So, I wrote this book for me.” Throughout the writing process, she secured a literary agent who shopped the book around until they got an offer. However, the publishing company’s offer was contingent on also getting a second book from Susan. “They said, ‘So, what’s your next book? We need a proposal by tomorrow,’” Susan recalls. “It took me nine months to write the first book, and I had to plot book two in 24 hours.” She had roughly one day to come up with the concept, plot, and characters of what would soon become Over Her Dead Body– easy, right?
Armed with this challenge, Susan did what anyone would do: take her dog for a walk. “I was walking my dog by this one house that just excited my imagination,” says Susan. “Across from what was rumored to be Gwen Stefani’s house, enshrouded in barbed wire, there’s a ‘Keep Out: No Trespassing’ sign, and I always wondered who lived there. What if my dog wandered down that driveway, and I got to meet the person who lived there?” That initial train of thought was the jumping off point for Susan’s protagonist. “What if that person walking their dog was an actress, and the dog disappears, and she meets the owner of the house who turns out to be a casting director,” Susan explains, “The casting director offers to help her, and then of course dies, because it wouldn’t be a thriller without a dead body. Then what if the actress gets all the money left to her, and then the family descends on her?” This intriguing plot captured the publishing company, and Susan suddenly had a two-book deal.
As someone who’s worn several different hats in her career, including director, screenwriter, and producer, how did Susan come to wear the author hat? “The kind of stuff I was writing, I don’t know if the [film] market got saturated, but I wasn’t writing what was selling at that moment,” Susan reflects. But she chose to view that not as a closed door, but a sign “that it was time to turn around and see what’s out there.” And she found that novel writing suited her. “It was fun writing a novel because it’s complete,” Susan says. “When you write a script it’s a blueprint for someone else to take it and mangle it. I got to see what I can do, without any other input. If screenwriters want the opportunity to write, to tell their story without anyone mucking it up, they should write novels. You’ll find out quickly if you really know how to write,” Susan laughs.
This wasn’t the only difference Susan noticed between screen and page. “The easiest part [of the publishing industry] is the people,” Susan reflects. “Everybody that I encountered was crazy smart. They read for a living! Every note that I got was good. I never had to question a note under a note, like with screenwriting. At the end of the process, you have in your hands a book that you wrote, and nobody can take that from you.” When asked what the hardest part of writing a novel was, Susan tells us, “The movie business is so hard, there is no hardest part of the book industry. It’s very straightforward. It’s more of a linear process. Once you find a buyer, there are no surprises. When you write a screenplay and find a buyer, there are nothing but surprises.” Clearly, there’s quite a different energy from industry to industry.
Susan began her career on the directorial track. “Directing is the best job in the world. It’s just really hard to get into the director’s chair. I’d love to do it again, but I want to be productive. There aren't that many movies getting made anymore. Plus movies aren’t story driven, they’re team driven. Nowadays, you need attachments. It’s not enough to have a good story. Even if you’re adapting a book, it needs to be a best-seller, internationally. You have to have a strong fanbase and history, or a star, or a proven showrunner. Books are story driven, and movies are package driven.” Her early directing days started at the DGA Assistant Director’s Program. “I wanted to be a news broadcaster, and I tried that at WBZ-TV, and they gave me a screen test and I was supremely terrible. They asked me to write, but it paid $5 a day. When I was a senior at Harvard, my dad said I couldn't move back home, so I applied for the DGA Assistant Director’s Program, and they train you to run movie sets.”
Susan emphasizes that she “walked toward the profession that walked toward [her].” And this program was an incredible experience. “I worked on movie sets at a time when I couldn't have sat at a desk all day, for ten years. I was able to travel, and work with different people, and be creative,” Susan recalls. Eventually, the training from that very program led her to create what she says she’s most proud of in her career: writing, directing, and producing All I Wish, a romcom starring Sharon Stone. “I had to be a lot of different things, I had to be a writer, I had to direct the film, I took an acting class, I educated myself in a really rigorous way. It was gratifying because it put all the pieces of my career together - the set, writing and managerial experience, and taught me a new skill with the acting classes, and I also had to raise money for it, so I had to put on a financial hat.”
When asked what advice she had for young creatives, Susan had these wise words to say: “Make sure your work is creatively fulfilling to you. People will tell you to have a brand and do it for the marketplace, but you make yourself really vulnerable to criticism if you’re only making it for other people. Creating for the joy of creating has to be enough.” Basically, if you’re doing something creative and you love it, “it’s a win-win. If you’re doing it to please somebody and they’re not pleased, then why did you do it?”
Susan is already in production for her third book, Lie By the Pool, to be released fall of 2023. And she’s working on her proposal for book number four. When asked how she writes with such speed but with such masterful knowledge of a topic, Susan explained her secret weapon: “The Harvard Class of 1991 Facebook page. I scroll through all the members and find an expert in the subject, and everyone’s been really generous with sharing their knowledge. Harvard is an incredible resource.”
Susan Walter AB '91 is an author and director known for her first novel Good as Dead and her film All I Wish starring Sharon Stone. Her most recent novel, Over Her Dead Body, is available for purchase now.
Laura Frustaci ('21) is an NYC-based actor and writer. She recently completed a yearlong writing fellowship funded by Harvard in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she finished her first full-length play. Laura graduated from Harvard with a concentration in English, where she wrote a magna cum laude thesis about children’s literature. While at Harvard, Laura was the President of On Thin Ice, a member of one of the first female cohorts of performers in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, and she acted in many American Repertory Theater and Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club productions. She is currently a writer for numerous publications, including Buzzfeed.
Madelyn Ho (AB ‘08 and MD ‘16) will dance at Lincoln Center with the Paul Taylor Dance Company from November 1st-13th.
Nicholas Britell (AB ‘03), the Emmy-winning composer of “Succession,” sat down with IndieWire to discuss the music of Andor, and especially expanding the "Star Wars" musical lexicon by looking closely at the emotions that motivate the hero of "Andor!” (IndieWire)
Season 3 of Tom Clancy’s "Jack Ryan", co-produced by and starring John Krasinski and executive produced by Carlton Cuse (AB ‘81), will launch all 8 of its episodes on Amazon Prime Video on Wednesday, December 21! (Deadline)
Variety says that the latest concert at the Greek Theater in L.A. with Bonnie Raitt (RAD ‘72) and Mavis Staples made “for a two-sided portrait of what heart, soul and understated heroism look like in music.” (Variety)
Mark Sourian (AB ‘95) executive produces Apple TV+’s new action thriller, "Echo 3", which premieres on Wednesday, November 23, 2022! The series comes from Oscar winner Mark Boal ("The Hurt Locker", "Zero Dark Thirty"). (Showbizjunkies)
Red Doors, the award-winning feature debut of Georgia Lee (AB ‘98), produced by and costarring Harvardwood founder Mia Riverton (AB ‘99), is streaming on Google Movies, Amazon, Roku, Tubi, Shout! Factory TV, and Freevee. Tzi Ma (@tzima8), Jacqueline Kim, Elaine Kao, and Sebastian Stan also star.
The Jim Henson Company will spotlight the Jewish immigrant experience in a live-action adaptation of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family books by Sydney Taylor, which will be executive produced by Lisa Henson (AB ‘82)! (kidscreen)
The “Goosebumps” series in the works at Disney+, which is co-written and executive produced by James Eagan (AB ‘99), has added Justin Long to its cast as a series regular! The show is based on the popular book series by R.L. Stine. (Variety)
The Guardian calls She Said, the new movie about the Harvey Weinstein scandal scored by Nicholas Britell (AB ‘03), a “stirring drama” that “offers sensitive, resonant recent history.” (The Guardian)
Wiip has optioned The Memo, the forthcoming novel by former Wall Street Journal reporters Rachel Dodes and Lauren Mechling (AB ‘99)! Wiip will develop the book for TV with Lean Machine, the production company headed by Aline Brosh McKenna. (Deadline)
Hulu has ordered 10 episodes of "Interior Chinatown", a drama series from 20th Television and creator/exec producer Charles Yu, who wrote the 2020 bestseller of the same name. Dan Lin (MBA ‘99) Executive Produces on behalf of Rideback! (Deadline)
Watch "TheWrap’s Spotlight Conversation" with Strauss Zelnick (MBA ‘82 and JD ‘82), presented by Take-Two Interactive! They’ll discuss the current state of gaming, if the industry has hit its ceiling, and if Take-Two is a target of acquisition among other topics. (YouTube)
Chase Sui Wonders (BA ‘18) will star in former SNL comedian Pete Davidson’s upcoming TV show, “Bupkis!” Written and executive produced by Davidson, “Bupkis” is described as a fictionalized, heightened version of Davidson’s own life. (Character Media)
Maryk Bryan’s (EDM ‘97) book "The Artist's Way at Work: Riding the Dragon" about creativity in the workplace, was included in each of the celebrity gift bags distributed by Backstage Creations at this year's EMMYS!
The award-winning PBS documentary “Little Satchmo,” the Season Premiere of Reel South which has broadcast nationally on public television, directed by John Alexander (AB '11) and produced by JC Guest (AB '11), is now streaming on all platforms. The film is an encore documentary to Alexander's and Guest's debut feature documentary, "This Is Love", which was produced by Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac) and also now streams on Amazon Prime. PBS nationally syndicated "Little Satchmo" after the film has played a limited theatrical run internationally, and an educational and institutional tour domestically. PBS has also acquired international rights for the film, and news of the upcoming broadcasts overseas is forthcoming.
New Members' Welcome
Harvardwood warmly welcomes all members who joined the organization last month:
- Helen Cummings Quintana, College, BOS/Campus
- Nathaniel Weiss, ART, LA
- Michelle DeLong, College, NY
- Mitzi Meriwether, College, SF/Bay Area
- Ian Kimbell, College, BOS/Campus
- Ruben Navarrette, College, San Diego
- Allie, GSBA, NY
- Victoria Gong, College, BOS/Campus
- Emil Droga, College, BOS/Campus
- Michael Swisher, Ext., BOS/Campus
- Brenda Ceja, College, LA
- Esia Hernandez-Edmundson, GSE, BOS/Campus
- Lydia Ghuman, HLS, BOS/Campus
- Laura Burns, College, BOS/Campus
- Lina Kaisey, HLS, LA
- Caroline Luu, Ext., Other U.S.
- Stephen Madsen, College, NY
- Benton Madsen, FOH, NY
- Andrea Lerner, GSE, MA
- Lyndon Hanrahan, College, London
- Lucia Carver, College, NY
- James Farr, College, London
- Carolyn Guard, College, NY
- Avery Britt, College, BOS/Campus
- Anya Henry, College, BOS/Campus
- James Blanchfield, College, NY
- Stephanie Lam, GSAS, BOS/Campus
- Wildman Schubert Reed, College, NY
- Dan Martin, HBS, BOS/Campus
- Anthony Zonfrelli, College, BOS/Campus
Exclusive Q&A with Andrew Bujalski AB ’98 (film maker)
Andrew Bujalski AB '98's first feature film, Funny Ha Ha, was called one of the most influential films of the '00s by New York Times critic A.O. Scott. He has also written and directed the films Mutual Appreciation, Beeswax, Computer Chess, Results, and Support The Girls which have played festivals worldwide including Sundance and Berlin, as well as the 2014 Whitney Biennial. The Boston Globe describes him as "unerringly polite and somewhat disheveled." He types 89 wpm.
Q: Congratulations on There, There's upcoming release! There, There was shot completely over quarantine, and the actors were never in the same room as one another. How did this affect your process as writer and director?
Well, it's an exceedingly perverse way of working--of course it affected everything. But it also seemed like a unique and special opportunity to make a movie about trust, and about faith. As "bubble" conditions became the norm in moviemaking--and indeed most professional production has always operated on "bubble" principles anyway--I figured we might as well push this thing to the max, lock everything all the way down, and see what connections we could still forge in limbo space. So I wrote with this all in mind. The movie essentially takes place in limbo.
The performers were set up in whatever city they were in, with a micro-crew between 2 and 4 folks, and minimal equipment that fit in one Pelican case, ready to be shipped to the next location. Myself, the d.p., producers, and others were all on Zoom. Despite best efforts we had imperfect monitoring of picture and sound...and all our communication had to be through the one Zoom channel--so if my d.p. was talking to the operator, I had to wait to talk to the actor. All quite cumbersome, but oddly not unpleasant to feel so united in our bafflement. And what immediately became clear to me was that all the insecurities and uncertainties that I was experiencing were entirely familiar. The fact is, even on a more conventional shoot, sitting at a state-of-the-art monitor with great headphones, I'm experiencing the same fear that I'm not processing the information quickly or sagely enough...So actually it was surprisingly normal for me.
Q: A quarantine movie was fairly ambitious. What was the inspiration for There, There, and what were the unforeseen challenges (aside from the obvious)? Do you feel this movie is quite different in any other ways from the films in your repertoire?
Undoubtedly, it was the bizarre situation we all found ourselves in in March 2020 that sent me down this path, but it's an experiment that would have appealed to me at any time, and really could have been done at any point in the last hundred years if anyone had been nutty enough to try it. To me it goes to the heart of the cinematic magic trick. Every edit is a kind of lie-in-service-of-a-truth. So it was exciting to think of pushing that in a way I'd never seen it pushed before.
Formally, visually, structurally, I'm on alien terrain with this project. But from a story perspective, I suppose I'm in my wheelhouse. Everything I've ever done has been about people trying to connect--succeeding, failing, and sometimes not knowing the difference. As always it all comes down to the performances, here from a crazy talented cast including Jason Schwartzman, Lili Taylor, and Harvard's own Jon Natchez ('99)!
Q: Do you feel that what you’ve done with this movie has sort of paved the way for a new type of filmmaking, or do you think we’ll continue to see movies made in this experimental, quarantine style?
Oddly enough I think the actors were all pretty accustomed to the kind of isolated performance they had to do here. Self-taping auditions at home is now the norm for working actors. And many have worked in the green screen world where their scene partners are tennis balls on C-stands. So in some sense we were just making a green screen movie without the green screen. But as for the particulars of our approach...I'd love to see someone else's take on it, of course, but no, I don't expect to set a trend here. Too weird!
Q: You’ve previously been dubbed “the godfather of mumblecore”. How do you feel about this title? What do you think it means? And how do you think mumblecore as its own style or genre has influenced the evolution of the film industry?
It's been fascinating to witness the lifespan of that word--my sound mixer Eric Masunaga said it as a joke to me in 2005, I made the error of repeating it to a journalist, and now it seems to have a reach much farther than any of my actual movies ever had. So I've kind of gleaned a definition for it just from context over time, but it took a while for me to get past the alienation of seeing it applied to my work as if it were an aesthetic style or anything anyone had consciously set out to create. Mostly I think it's just a kind of generational catch-all. Nirvana and Pearl Jam never sounded much alike to me but they were both "grunge" because they steered away from the mainstream pop that preceded them and wore flannel shirts. (I also like flannel shirts.)
Q: You’ve been credited as a writer, director, and editor for most of your projects, as well as appearing as an actor. Do you have a favorite, between the four? Why or why not?
It's all torment. At best, divine torment. At worst, just regular torment. Of course it's most gratifying when I get to see a project through from the first kernel of an idea to the final sound and picture tweaks. At that point I've also collected energy from dozens if not hundreds of brilliant collaborators along the way, and I never tire of enjoying their great work.
Q: Do you feel that your work has thematic elements, or messages, that you’ve consistently tried to either consciously or subconsciously incorporate?
Of course! I've tried running in many different directions but as Buckaroo Banzai said, "No matter where you go, there you are."
Q: Which film have you made that you’re most proud of? And which project taught you the most?
Irrational as it may be, I love them all.
Q: In what ways did your time at Harvard influence the path you have taken since graduating?
Oh enormously. I was a VES kid and delightedly drank all the Kool-Aid the program had to offer. The hardest part of filmmaking, so often, is just seeing what's in front of your face (or camera) and knowing how to respond to it, so the strong verité documentary backbone there seemed great preparation for really any kind of filmmaking. VES trained me not to fear reality, which tends to seep into your frame no matter how much you bulwark against it.
Q: What’s one film you think everyone should see in their life?
Another impossible question! If you find one that moves your soul, you've done well.
Q: How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working?
Feeling guilty that I'm not working.
Andrew's film There, There will be released on November 18, 2022.
Please stream the movie HERE before the conversation.
An unprecedented pandemic has ravaged the planet, leaving resources insufficient to maintain the human population. To combat the crisis, a totalitarian governing body known as The Bureau established "The Deal.” Accept The Deal, and you'll receive a job, housing, and medical care that will keep you safe and healthy for twenty more years, at which point you must take your own life.
Tala Bayani took The Deal when she was twenty, pregnant, and alone. She spent the next nineteen years raising her daughter Analyn and saving everything she had so her daughter wouldn't have to take The Deal. Just five days before Tala is due to die, Analyn gets an unexpected medical diagnosis. Now the adventure begins, as Tala fights to get her daughter beyond the reach of The Bureau before her time is up.
Once you take The Deal, there’s no turning back. The Bureau makes sure of this.
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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.