Couper 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.
Alan Yang '02 (Writer & Executive Producer, Master of None, Parks & 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.
Kermit Roosevelt AB '93
(Professor & Author, In the Shadow of the Law, Allegiance)
by Terence O'Toole Murnin
Kermit 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.
Eric d’Arbeloff MBA ‘93 and Howard Cohen AB ‘81
(Co-Founders, Roadside Attractions)
by Cristina Slattery
Eric 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.
Alexandra 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.”
Megan Amram AB ‘10
(Author & Comedy Writer, Silicon Valley, Parks & Rec, Science… For Her!)
By 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.
Claudia 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.”
Dan Goor '97 (Co-Creator, Executive Producer, Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
By Dayna Wilkinson
“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...”
Colleen McGuinness '99 (Comedy Writer-Producer, About a Boy, 30 Rock)
By Sara Lynne Wright
“A lot of recent graduates, especially Harvard students, want to do the responsible thing and have a job lined up when they move to Hollywood, but it’s really hard to do that unless you already live here.”
Comedy writer-producer Colleen McGuinness has practiced what she preaches.
As a writer for film and television, including 30 ROCK and ABOUT A BOY, she has no shame admitting that when she first moved out to L.A., she was unemployed.
Half-Korean and half-Irish but raised by her Irish-Norwegian grandparents since she was six months old, Colleen says the feeling of being an outsider is part of what has fueled her to write.
Benjamin Scheuer '04 (Singer, Songwriter, & Creator of The Lion)
By Cristina Slattery
Benjamin Scheuer is the singer, songwriter and creator of the critically acclaimed off Broadway musical, THE LION. THE LION is currently playing at the Lynn Redgrave Theater in New York through March 29th and will travel to Portland, Oregon, in May. Who is Benjamin Scheuer? Well, his show tells his story. Armed with several guitars, the 32-year-old Scheuer sits in different spaces on the small stage, and sings his autobiographical songs to the audience. In this intimate setting, audience members experience an intensely emotional journey. This one-man musical includes songs that explain Ben’s life and the several traumatic experiences he has had to endure.