February 2016 | Jack Riccobono '03

Jack Riccobono '03 (Writer & Director, The Seventh Fire)Riccobono.jpg

by Sara Lynne Wright

Filmmaker Jack Riccobono’s first piece of advice to anyone who wants to make independent film is to find collaborators you can trust. His longstanding industry relationships, many of which go back more than thirteen years to his time at Harvard, show he’s followed his own advice.

THE SEVENTH FIRE, a feature documentary he directed/shot/produced that is slated for a May 2016 theatrical release, follows Native American gang members embroiled in the drug trade on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. While this nuanced portrait of a rarely seen part of America feels very far from the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, the film’s list of credits has Harvard all over it.

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January 2016 | Johnny Lee '01

Johnny Lee '01 (Violinist, Los Angeles Philharmonic)Craig Mathew/Mathew Imaging, courtesy of the LA Philharmonic

by D. Dona Le

At the age of 5, Cleveland native Johnny Lee AB ’01 jumped at the chance to begin playing the violin so he could emulate his older twin brothers (photo to the right by Craig Mathew/Mathew Imaging, courtesy of the LA Philharmonic). 

“I wanted to play violin from the onset. My brothers didn’t. They do other things now,” Lee laughs, “and I stuck with it—but it was kind of a convoluted journey to it.”

That journey included the Cleveland Institute of Music (the pre-college and graduate-level programs), Harvard College in between, several orchestras and numerous music festivals, and then—since 2005—a coveted job with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

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December 2015 | Couper Samuelson '02

samuelson.jpegCouper Samuelson '02 (President of Feature Production, Blumhouse Productions) 

by Terence O'Toole Murnin

A TALL MAN RISES IN STATURE: The “Harvard Mafia” is alive and well in Hollywood with Couper Samuelson producing a new paradigm for art and commerce to coexist on the silver (really any) screen

William Couper Samuelson is a human dynamo, and with all respects to the late, great James Brown, the very tall (6’6”) producer may have just snatched the title as the “hardest working man in show business” and claimed it for himself.  Known for such hits as the Academy Award-nominated WHIPLASH, WE OWN THE NIGHT, and THE GIFT, the lanky livewire has no less than five films already set for release in 2016, including HUSH, AMITYVILLE: THE WAKENING, DELIRIUM, 6 MIRANDA DRIVE, and THE PURGE 3.

Our interview is a fit of stops and starts. Calls and deadlines — and details — and a dinner to attend this evening. At last, he’s ready and it’s easy to see why the man has charmed his way into the upper echelons of Hollywood with a combination of brains, luck, pluck and networking savvy extraordinaire.

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November 2015 | Alan Yang '02

alanhead2.jpgAlan Yang '02 (Writer & Executive Producer, Master of NoneParks & Recreation)

by Sara Lynne Wright

Master of None, the upcoming Netflix series co-created by Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari, is the most autobiographical show Alan’s ever worked on. “I always wanted to do stories that were universal. So I didn’t want to write a show people could categorize as an Asian show. But I think the lesson you learn over and over again – and I’m not claiming to know anything about writing - is that the universality you’re looking for is in the specificity of your experience.”

Alan’s refusal to claim he knows anything about writing reads like a joke, but he’s serious. He’s that humble. This humility, along with his evident and uncommon talent, must have helped him work his way up from staff writer to co-executive producer on Parks and Recreation over the seven seasons of the show. Before that he wrote for South Park and Last Call With Carson Daly

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October 2015 | Kermit Roosevelt '93

Kermit Roosevelt AB '93
(Professor & Author, In the Shadow of the LawAllegiance)

by Terence O'Toole Murnin

Kermit_Roosevelt.jpgKermit Roosevelt’s Real-Life Tales of a Government Bent on Repeating History Inform the Historical Fiction of Allegiance, His Latest Novel, while also Sharpening His Vision as a Professor of Law

Kermit Roosevelt has the kind of brilliant, beautiful mind that makes attorneys look cooler than Matthew McConaughey in THE LINCOLN LAWYER. Shifting seamlessly from his role as Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School where he has prolifically published on matters focusing on constitutional law and conflict of laws, in 2005, he also published his first novel, In The Shadow Of The Law (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Paramount quickly snapped up the rights to the entrancing book set in a powerhouse Washington, D. C., law firm, and Carol Mendelsohn of CSI fame served as Executive Producer of a TV Pilot that featured Joshua Jackson, Frank Langella, Kevin Pollak and Alan Tudyk.

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September 2015 | Eric d'Arbeloff MBA '93 & Howard Cohen AB '81

Eric d’Arbeloff MBA ‘93 and Howard Cohen AB ‘81
(Co-Founders, Roadside Attractions)

by Cristina Slattery

roadsideattractions.jpgEric d’Arbeloff MBA ‘93 and Howard Cohen AB ‘81 are the founders of Roadside Attractions, a specialty film distributor based in L.A.

They are also a married couple and parents of a ten-year-old son. The films they acquire and distribute are designed to appeal to an intellectually curious audience and films have included everything from a documentary about Anna Wintour and VOGUE magazine to a story about Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. 

STONEWALL, a film about the famous Stonewall riots that initiated the gay rights movement in Greenwich Village in New York City in June of 1969, will be released on September 25th.

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August 2015 | Alexandra Petri '10

Alexandra_Petri.jpgAlexandra Petri AB '10
(Playwright, Author, Washington Post Columnist/Blogger)

By Dayna Wilkinson

Photo courtesy of Trina Sobotka

“I love being able to communicate with people and tell stories. People ask, ‘why do you spend so much time writing?’ Well, why do you eat cake?”

Writer and humorist Alexandra Petri ‘10 had a happy but slightly unconventional upbringing. From the time she was a child, she traveled from Washington D.C. to Wisconsin to campaign for her father, former Congressman Tom Petri ’62, HLS ’80. “There were parades,” she recalls. “Lots of parades.”

Alexandra was always a voracious reader, but not of the books you’d expect. “When I was really young my mom (Anne Neal ’77, HLS ’80) said she’d either read me her old art history text book or a graphic novel of Othello with the unabridged text.  I chose the latter, and just loved it, though as you’d expect a lot of it went over my head. After that, we’d read King Lear and other works out loud.”

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July 2015 | Megan Amram '10

Megan Amram AB ‘10 
(Author & Comedy Writer, Silicon ValleyParks & RecScience… For Her!)

amram.jpgBy D. Dona Le

Most classical musicians start taking lessons in early childhood. Olympic-level athletes often begin training as soon as they’ve learned to walk.

But contrary to what her meteoric career as a comedy writer would suggest, Megan Amram ‘10 didn’t sprout from her mother’s forehead, fully formed and armed with the mighty pen. In fact, Amram wasn’t even funny as a child, describing herself instead as a math and science nerd.

Her first foray into comedy writing happened shortly before college, when she took a comedy class offered at her high school. With the encouragement of her teacher, Amram considered a career in comedy writing as “something that maybe I could do” for the first time.  

Maybe was quite the understatement. Five years after high school—about five months after Amram arrived in Los Angeles after graduating from Harvard—she landed her first writing job… for The Academy Awards.

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June 2015 | Claudia Weill '69

weill.jpgClaudia Weill '69 (Theatre, Film & TV Director, Girlfriends, thirtysomething, The Belle of Belfast)

By Dayna Wilkinson

Claudia Weill didn’t set out to be a director.  A first generation American, she grew up drawing and painting: “the arts were to my Swiss family what sports are to an American family, what you did on weekends.”  After her junior year in college, a summer job changed everything. “I was a PA on a documentary about the ‘Summer of Love’, 1967 in the Haight-Ashbury. I was happy to do anything, from taking publicity stills to casting and locations, dropping the director’s laundry off on the way to the film lab, making meals for fifty and interviewing folks on camera. It was way too much fun to go back to school after that summer.”

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May 2015 | Dan Goor '97

Dan Goor '97 (Co-Creator, Executive Producer, Brooklyn Nine-Nine)

By Dayna Wilkinson

goor.jpg“When I went to college I wanted to be a doctor and a comedian—like my idol Jonathan Miller, from the British comedy revue Beyond the Fringe.”

Dan’s twin interests can be traced back to his upbringing in Bethesda, Maryland down the street from the National Institutes of Health. “I’ve always been very interested in science and molecular biology,” he says. “I grew up with it—my Dad and everyone around us worked at NIH. Scientists describe what they do as stories, and I think that fostered my fascination with storytelling.”

His appetite for comedy emerged early. “My brother was a really talented pianist--he’s four years older. While he’d practice, I’d read Woody Allen short stories to him. We got hold of a video camera and spent hours making up sketch comedy routines and cracking each other up. We imitated what made us laugh on TV--Saturday Night Live, Monty Python, televangelists...”

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