March 2014 | Matt Mazzeo '05

Mazzeo.jpgMatt Mazzeo '05 (Former Agent at CAA, Partner at Lowercase Capital)

By D. Dona Le '05

Los Angeles native Matt Mazzeo ‘05 says that “Harvard gave me the opportunity to explore all the classes I loved.”

So he took economics classes, psych classes, science classes, and more, receiving a Renaissance-Man education that has enabled Mazzeo to position himself as an expert voice at the intersection of entertainment and technology.

For seven years, Mazzeo was a star agent at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), focusing on digital media under the company’s Business Development group. He left CAA in November 2012 to join Chris Sacca as a partner at Lowercase Capital, a tech-focused venture capital fund.

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February 2014 | Helen Estabrook '03

Helen Estabrook '03 (Producer, LABOR DAY, UP IN THE AIR, WHIPLASH)

By Cristina Slattery '97

Estabrook.jpg"Every producer treats the job a little bit differently,” says Helen Estabrook ’03, one of the producers of the recently released LABOR DAY as well as a producer of films such as YOUNG ADULT, UP IN THE AIR, and JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME.

She continues, "You are creating an entire company,” each time a new production starts.

Right now, Estabrook is running Jason Reitman’s production company and she spends several months a year on set, away from her L.A. base. She explains that different types of producers are needed on a film set and that her role is that of creative producer.

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January 2014 | Damien Chazelle '07 - '08

Damien Chazelle '07 - '08 (Writer & Director, WHIPLASH, GUY & MADELINE ON A PARK BENCH)

By D. Dona Le '05

Chazelle.jpgThis month, writer-director Damien Chazelle ‘07/‘08 opens the Sundance Film Festival with his feature film WHIPLASH.

Not to mention that before hitting his ten-year college reunion, Chazelle has already sold three screenplays, and his directorial debut, GUY AND MADELINE ON A PARK BENCH (2009), won multiple film awards and was named one of the best films of the year byThe New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Village Voice, and more.

"Ever since I was a little kid, I knew that I wanted to make movies," says Chazelle. Instead of choosing film school for college, he opted to attend Harvard College, where he expected to concentrate in English or a similar field. Then, he discovered Visual & Environmental Sciences.

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December 2013 | Andrew Herwitz '83, HLS '90

Herwitz.jpgAndrew Herwitz '83, HLS '90 (Producer, THE BUTLER, ROOM 237, A JIHAD FOR LOVE)

By Dayna Wilkinson

For a long time Andrew Herwitz '83, HLS '90 wasn’t interested in law school. "My mother graduated from Harvard Law School and my father was a professor there, so as a younger person I wasn’t open to the possibility that I might like it.” (His parents told him: "You like to argue, you should be a lawyer.”)

One thing was certain—he wanted to be a Harvard undergraduate. "Growing up outside of Boston, I thought Cambridge would be an ideal place to go to college.”

Unlike Reginald Hudlin and Thania St. John, fellow members of the class of 1983 (and subjects of past Harvardwood Highlights profiles), Andrew wasn’t involved with film as an undergraduate.

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November 2013 | Nell Scovell '82

Nell Scovell '82 (Writer, Producer, & Director, LEAN IN, SABRINA)

By D. Dona Le '05

Scovell.jpgNell Scovell '82 is a true Renaissance woman: comedy writer, magazine writer, blogger, producer, director—and most recently, co-writer of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.

When asked how she feels about being known as a feminist comedy writer, Scovell grins. "Well, it’s only recently that I came out as a woman.”

Funnily—and appropriately—enough, Scovell was put in touch with Sandberg through Facebook, which she joined in 2006 at her sister’s request to check out her niece’s activities on the then-new(ish) social networking site.

"I loved Facebook immediately as a way to connect to people, and one of the people I reconnected with was Elliot Schrage, who was a year ahead of me in Eliot House.”

Schrage is Vice President of Communications and Public Policy at Facebook, and he asked Scovell whether she had seen Sandberg’s well-known TED talk.

"Seen it? I’d memorized it! I thought it was incredible, and it was the backbone for Lean In,” says Scovell. Schrage asked her whether she’d be interested in working with Sandberg as her speechwriter.

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October 2013 | Alec Nevala-Lee '02

Alec Nevala-Lee '02 (Novelist, THE ICON THIEF trilogy)

By D. Dona Le '05

Nevala-Lee.jpgNovelist Alec Nevala-Lee '02 knew from a very young age that he wanted to become a writer, and perhaps that influences his first piece of advice to young writers: "Start now.”

"Every life choice I’ve made since I was out of high school has been geared toward [a career in writing], even if it wasn’t obvious at the time,” Nevala-Lee says.

At Harvard, he concentrated in Classics because he believed that knowledge of Latin and Greek would give him a unique toolbox as a writer. "Before the twenty-first century, if you were going to be a writer, an artist, or any other intellectual, you learned these languages,” Nevala-Lee explains, "so I thought, ‘It worked for them, maybe it’ll work for me.’”

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September 2013 | Jonathan M. Goldstein HLS '95

JonGoldstein.jpgJonathan M. Goldstein HLS '95 (Writer & Producer, HORRIBLE BOSSES, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2)

By Dayna Wilkinson

While camping in the remote Yukon, a former class clown learns he’s been accepted by Harvard Law School.

"I decided ‘I’ll apply and see what happens,’” Jonathan Goldstein HLS '95 says. "I never thought I’d get in.”

Nor did he imagine that law school would lead to a career as a screenwriter. This summer, Jonathan and his writing partner sold THE BUS DRIVER, a comedy pitch, to New Line for seven figures.

"I always had a predilection for comedy,” Jonathan recalls. "One of the highlights of my childhood was when we got HBO—I watched movies like AIRPLANE and CADDYSHACK over and over. I was in trouble a lot in school because I was always making jokes and being sent to the principal’s office.”

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August 2013 | Liz Ryan '81

Liz Ryan ’81 (Producer & Assistant Director, NYPD BLUE, THE OFFICE, THE GREEN MILE)

By Cristina Slattery '97

Ryan.jpgLiz Ryan ’81 was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Directors Guild of America, and is proud to report her name sits on their website just above Steven Spielberg's!  She says that she overuses the phrases, "Wow,” and "that’s really interesting,” and this curiosity and enthusiasm have propelled her to the top of her profession as an Assistant Director of TV shows and films.  Her last film, GO FOR SISTERS, was shot in the deserts of Acton and Colexico, California, and Mexicali and Tijuana, Mexico and due out this fall, was directed by John Sayles.  Her TV credits include NYPD BLUE, FREAKS AND GEEKS, THE OFFICE, and THE REAL HUSBANDS OF HOLLYWOOD. 

She considers herself an optimist and has meditated for years.  Ryan notes that "for a woman, the greatest challenge of being a director is getting the job.”  She continues, stating that, "more often than not, we have to raise the money to make a movie ourselves.”  However, even if gender still may be an obstacle in Hollywood, Ryan has been overcoming obstacles since her youth and she continues to persevere to do work she loves.

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July 2013 | Charles Hirschhorn '79

Charles Hirschhorn '79 (Producer, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, QUIZ SHOW, THE SANTA CLAUSE)

By Dayna Wilkinson

Hirschhorn.jpgGrowing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Charles Hirschhorn '79 liked movies but he loved cooking, so after sophomore year at Harvard he took a year off to cook.

"I was on my feet, cooking in a hot restaurant kitchen twelve hours a day,” he recalls. "I quickly realized that cooking is much too difficult and I had to find a new way to make a living. I decided I wanted to work in the movie business.”

Back on campus, he took filmmaking studies and studio arts classes toward a joint degree in Economics and VES (Visual and Environmental Studies). He made contacts in the film industry through Harvard’s Office of Career Services and spent spring break junior and senior year in Los Angeles, meeting film executives and producers.

After graduation, he worked in Boston then went off to film school at USC—but not for long.

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June 2013 | Melissa M. Lee '03

Melissa M. Lee '03 (Producer, DEAR LEMON LIMA, THE MAGLEV STORY, BENDS)

By Dayna Wilkinson

MelissaLee.jpgRaised in Hong Kong and educated in the UK, Melissa Lee '03 came to Harvard to study biochemistry—then a core curriculum class in French cinema changed everything.

"I fell in love with film,” says Melissa, independent producer of such films as DEAR LEMON LIMA (2009), CIRCUMSTANCE (2011) which won the US Audience Award at Sundance in 2011, and BENDS (2013), which had its world premiere at last month’s Cannes Film Festival. "My interest was so nascent that I didn’t know how I should be involved [in film]. I approached it theoretically at Harvard, taking literary theory, film theory and classes at the Graduate School of Design.” Switching concentrations junior year, she graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Literature.

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