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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Exclusive Q&A with MARK GOFFMAN, Showrunner of SLEEPY HOLLOW

goffman.jpgBy Sara Lynne Wright

MARK GOFFMAN KSG '94 is the showrunner of hit series Sleepy Hollow, in addition to being a producer and writer on White CollarThe West Wing, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Q. How did the SLEEPY HOLLOW writers approach the first season, when you were still getting to know each other?

A. In the writers room, you get to know each other very quickly. We had a mini retreat and worked backwards from the finale. We spent a lot of time talking about elements in the pilot, the characters, our history, and an overarching theme for the season. We asked ourselves: What is the wildest way we can end this season? How can we leave each of our characters near-impossibly perched on a figurative cliff?

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Exclusive Q&A with CAMERON PORSANDEH, Creator / Co-Executive Producer of HELIX

By Sara Lynne Wright

porsandeh.jpgCAMERON PORSANDEH KSG '04 is the Creator & Co-Executive Producer of SyFy's Helix.

Q. Where did the idea for HELIX come from? Do you write what you know?

A. I do write what I know, but more often it simply serves as the launching point for the story. I was in the Arctic Circle years ago and two things struck me:

It seemed like the closest to being on the moon that you can be on earth. It was stunning. The landscape was barren and haunting, and I thought someone should do a show set there. The kinds of people who would choose to live there are equally compelling. Werner Herzog did a documentary called ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE EARTH about the kind of people who would inhabit a place like the base on HELIX. I wanted to do a show that took place in the Arctic Circle filled with people on the fringes of society who have found another community among themselves.

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Exclusive Q&A with BRODERICK FOX, Director

By Sanyee Yuan

Q: Your documentary, The Skin I’m In, tells the story of your personal journey as a recovering alcoholic after you were found passed out in the  Berlin subway tracks with your head split open. When and why did you decide to tell this story? 

fox.jpgA. I had made other autobiographical video works in the past, some short works. I came out to California after Harvard to go to grad school, where I studied production at USC. Much to the shock of many of my professors and colleagues, I then went on to get a PhD from USC as well. To a lot of those people, critical thinking is completely separate from production. I began to make short works that were on a scale of production that was manageable while writing a dissertation, and I turned to using the technology at my disposal and a subject matter that was on call 24/7: me.

The first such short I made was in 2001, called Things Girls Do, which explores the gendered tropes around eating and body disorders. This was in 2001 in a pre YouTube, pre social media, pre Facebook moment. Since that film, it’s become a daily digital ritual for many to confess and reveal ourselves and to perform online. But all of that is instantaneous, with little retrospection or craft. My hope is to restore a sense of political urgency, critical reflection, artistry and play to acts of digital autobiography, using the self to ask bigger cultural questions.

In this film, I use my own experience getting sober and literally and metaphorically transforming my body through tattooing, to ask some hopefully resonant questions about identity and connection in a globalizing, digital world.

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