Campus Updates | CONCENTRATION: SPARKING CREATIVITY & INGENUITY

By Sean O’Rourke MAT ’68

Harvard_University_Widener_Library.jpgAt Harvard, engineering and information technology are thriving as never before. To remind us that the arts are just as important as the sciences, the Harvard Campaign sponsored a symposium on Friday, May 6, 2016. In his remarks, incoming Dean of Humanities Robin Kelsey discussed creativity in terms of historicity, boundaries and ingenuity.

Professor Martin Puchner and Lecturer Jill Johnson reviewed the status of the new concentration in Theater, Dance and Media (TDM), which at this point remains a very flexible undertaking. This year the program enrolled thirteen concentrators and  65 freshmen—numbers which bode well for the future.tdm.jpg

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Exclusive Q&A with RODRIGO GARCIA '82 (LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT)

By Dayna Wilkinson

Last Days in the Desert, from writer-director Rodrigo García AB ’82, opens in theaters on May 13, 2016. The film stars Ewan MacGregor, Ciaran Hinds and Tye Sheridan. Pictured below: García and McGregor on the set.

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Q. How did you conceive of this story of Jesus during his forty days of fasting and meditation in the Judaean desert?

A. I’m surprised the idea came to me at all, I wasn’t looking to make a movie about Jesus. The initial impulse was that Jesus would encounter a father and son with conflict between them, and that he would be compelled, consciously or not, to try to intervene. It’s not a religious movie particularly.

Q. Did the film turn out the way you expected?

A. I wanted the movie to examine whether you create your own your destiny, whether it’s pre-ordained or whether it’s determined by your parents and their wishes. As I wrote scenes, things became clearer—I added the character of the mother, for example. Then I realized I needed someone for Jesus to talk to who knew who he was. In the gospel, the only other being in the desert is Lucifer so I wrote him into the story. Eventually as I wrote, shot and edited the film, I discovered the things about the story that were personal to me.

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WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Q&A with 101 Alum NAOMI FUNABASHI (Mandeville Films)

By Henry Johnson AB '18


 NaomiFunabashi.JPGIn the #HWire blog's "Where Are They Now?" series, we check in with Harvardwood program alums to find out what they've been up to and to showcase their accomplishments since participating with Harvardwood! 


Naomi Funabashi was an English concentrator in the Class of 2012, and she will soon be the new CE at Mandeville Films. She was previously a Coordinator at Heyday Films and participated in Harvardwood 101 during her sophomore year at Harvard College.

Q. When did you decide you wanted to work in show business? 

A. I've always loved storytelling—it's why I became an English major and why I was such a bookworm growing up. Books were my first love, but as I got older I also started to really enjoy being in a theater and watching films with an audience. I'm inspired by the idea that a story could be powerful enough to unite thousands of people and move them to the effort of bringing that story to life—an effort that, in turn, moves the millions more who watch it.

Like a lot of people, I never really realized that working in the industry was a path open to me, until I learned about Harvardwood and went on the 101 J-term trip my sophomore year. That trip and the people I met on it completely changed my idea of what was possible.

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WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Q&A with HWP Alum & Past Most Staffable TV Writer TERESA HSIAO (AMERICAN DAD)

By D. Dona Le


 In the #HWire blog's "Where Are They Now?" series, we check in with Harvardwood program alums—e.g., from Harvardwood 101, the Writers Program, past Writers Competition winners—to find out what they've been up to and to showcase their accomplishments since participating with Harvardwood! 


teresahsiao.jpgComedy writer Teresa Hsiao '07 is an alum of the Harvardwood Writers Program and was named a Harvardwood Most Staffable TV Writer! She currently writes on Fox's hit comedy American Dad, and she's previously been staffed on Family Guy and What's Up Warthogs!

Q. Harvard Economics concentrator to comedy TV writer—how did that happen?

A. I went into college having absolutely no idea what I wanted to do after college. So I fell into economics because it was practical and would appease Asian parents. After my junior year I did a summer internship at Lehman Brothers which helped confirm that my future would not be in finance. Especially when Lehman went bankrupt a year and a half later. (From this paragraph, you should be able to figure out how old I am—surprise math quiz!)

I'd always kept this secret pipe dream of writing for TV, although I didn't know anything about Hollywood. I wasn't part of the Lampoon, I didn't have any connections, and I didn't know how any of it it even worked (you write something funny in Word, and the next day it's on the air, right?). But I bought a few books, started my own blog, and forced myself to write every day. I broke down episodes of my favorite shows to track stories. And once I let out the deep, dark secret that I wanted to write for TV—by actually sending scripts to friends, inviting feedback, joining writers' groups—it didn't seem like such a pipe dream anymore.

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WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Q&A with HWP Alum & Past Most Staffable TV Writer EMMYLOU DIAZ (JANE THE VIRGIN)

By D. Dona Le


 In the #HWire blog's "Where Are They Now?" series, we check in with Harvardwood program alums—e.g., from Harvardwood 101, the Writers Program, past Writers Competition winners—to find out what they've been up to and to showcase their accomplishments since participating with Harvardwood! 

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An alum of the Harvardwood Writers Program and past winner of the annual Harvardwood Most Staffable TV Writers list, Emmylou Diaz A.R.T. '07 is currently a writer on the CW's hit show, Jane the Virgin. The show's S2 mid-season premiere aired just last week on January 25th—an episode penned by Emmy!

Q. What made you decide to pursue a career in TV writing?

A. In many ways, ending up in TV was a happy accident. I never formally studied screenwriting and didn’t set out to do this at all. In fact, I didn’t know that TV writing was a job you could have. I grew up in the theatre as an actress, and that was what I was most focused on as a kid. I was always doing some kind of show, whether it was a school play, or a community musical, or a one-woman extravaganza in the family room downstairs. (There were a lot of those.) I attended Williams College as an undergrad where I was an English and a Theatre double major. Then I studied acting in New York after graduation and finally ended up at Harvard, at the A.R.T. Institute. My time in Cambridge was inspirational, but after I got my MFA and moved to LA, I was really discouraged at the lack of opportunities for an actress like me, a classically trained performer of color. I also HATED auditioning.

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Exclusive Q&A with GREGG HURWITZ '95 (ORPHAN X, THE BOOK OF HENRY)

By D. Dona Le

hurwitz.jpgOrphan X, the latest novel by Gregg Hurwitz AB '95, will be published on January 19, 2016. The book is the first in the Evan Smoak series that Hurwitz is adapting for Warner Brothers, with Bradley Cooper producing (and possibly starring). Recently, director Colin Trevorrow finished shooting Hurwitz's screenplay, The Book of Henry

Read our special Q&A with Hurwitz about both of these upcoming projects below!

Q. There's been a tight lid on details about THE BOOK OF HENRY, but can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the idea and the choice to explore this dark plot with child-aged protagonists?

A. ​I can't even remember the inspiration since I wrote the first draft—literally—18 years ago. It felt like this pure, rare thing where I just thought of this single mom and her two kids stuck in a near-impossible predicament. I will say that Henry's voice (Henry is the 12-year-old prodigy at the center of the story) came very naturally. Not because I'm a prodigy or anything close to it but because sometimes my characters are smarter than I am, even in real time. I can't remember ever hearing characters' voices that distinctly right off the bat. ​

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Exclusive Q&A with JOSH BRENER '07 (Actor) & MARC BRENER (Writer-Director) of THE RUMPERBUTTS

Congratulations to the talented Brener Brothers, whose indie musical comedy The Rumperbutts—starring Mates of State duo Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, Arian Moayed (Appropriate BehaviourRosewater), and Vanessa Ray (Pretty Little Liars, Blue Bloods)—was recently released in theaters and on AmazonGooglePlayiTunes, and Vimeo.

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About The Rumperbutts: A married indie band duo (Mates of State) regretfully takes a job on a children's show The Rumperbutts. Despite money and success, their relationship turns to one of resentment. On one extraordinary evening, a magical man (Josh Brener) leads them on a path of rediscovery and gives them a second chance at happiness. Featuring original music by Mates of State.

Actor Josh Brener AB '07 (above, left) has appeared on MaronThe Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, and Workaholics. He currently plays Big Head on HBO's hit series Silicon Valley.

Marc Brener (above, right) wrote and directed The Rumperbutts. Marc is also known for his work on Say It Ain't Solo

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Exclusive Q&A with JODI REDMOND, Producer

By Sara Lynne Wright

Screen_Shot_2015-04-23_at_4.14.39_PM.pngTHIS YEAR AT SUNDANCE, The Witch, produced by Jodi Redmond GSE '08, received the Directing Award: U.S. Dramatic and then was acquired by A24 & DirecTV (U.S. distribution rights) and Universal Pictures International Productions (foreign rights).

New England, 1630. William and Katherine lead a devout Christian life, homesteading on the edge of an impassable wilderness, with five children. When their newborn son mysteriously vanishes and their crops fail, the family begins to turn on one another. In his debut feature, writer/director Robert Eggers painstakingly designs an authentic re-creation of New England - generations before the 1692 trials in Salem -- evoking the alluring and terrifying power of the timeless witch myth. Told through the eyes of Thomasin, the teenage daughter (in a star-making performance by Anya Taylor-Joy), and supported by haunting camera work and an ominous score, The Witch is a chilling portrait of a family unraveling within their own fears and anxieties, leaving them prey for an inescapable evil.

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Exclusive Q&A with VANESSA PARISE, Director

By Sara Lynne Wright

parise.jpgWhat attracted you to #POPFAN?

Lisa Hamilton Daly, a really smart, accomplished executive at Lifetime, brought the project to me to direct. When I read the script, I could immediately visualize the style I wanted to shoot. I saw pockets of practical light with bits of scenes disappearing into the shadows, and moving cameras shooting through layers of depth as we revealed the characters.

One of Lifetime’s goals is to bring in the twenty-something audience, so this film could be edgy – visually and thematically dark. The script also had very challenging acting roles for the actors. One of my strengths as a director is working with actors, so I love complex roles that actors can really dig into – characters I want to keep watching.

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Exclusive Q&A with PATRICIA DANAHER, Director of Harvardwood Publishing

Harvardwood Publishing is relaunching this spring with a whole host of new initiatives to develop and expand the imprint and its reach. Patricia Danaher is the new Director of Harvardwood Publishing, and she spokes to us about her plans.

danaher.jpgI’m very excited to be announcing a wide range of new activities for Harvardwood. Late next month, we will be launching our first anthology, a co- publication with the Harvard Review, which will feature work from Seamus Heaney, Joyce Carol Oates, Sherman Alexia, Sharon Olds and Tony Hoagland, among many others. Harvard Review editor, Christina Thompson is working very enthusiastically with Harvardwood Publishing on this and other future collaborations.

Our first anthology will have the passage of time as its theme and is dedicated to the memory of Nobel laureaute Seamus Heaney who was a longtime friend of the Harvard Review and a member of its board. We will have launches in Cambridge, New York and LA.

Later this year, we plan to publish a second anthology, which will feature new work from a broad range of writers. We will announce the theme and the submissions criteria in April. Several future anthologies are planned.

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