October 2012 | Valerie Weiss PhD '01

Valerie Weiss PhD '01 (Writer & Director, LOSING CONTROL)

By Dayna Wilkinson

Weiss.jpgWriter/Director Valerie Weiss PhD '01: "I decided to go to Harvard Medical School. If at the end of my PhD I was more in love with science than the arts, then great. But if I wasn’t and still wanted to do film, then I’d never have any regrets.”

After graduating with a PhD in biochemistry, Valerie hung up her lab coat and never doubted her career choice. Still, it’s appropriate that her movie, LOSING CONTROL, is about a female scientist, and that it was filmed in part at the medical school.

Her film also reflects her early influences. "I loved Pedro Almodovar’s WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, which I saw in my 10th grade Spanish class,” Valerie says. "Everything that happens in the film is very real to the characters, even when it’s absurd.” Valerie had started acting lessons at 9, and she continued to act through her high school years.

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September 2012 | Jonathan Alter '79

Alter.jpgJonathan Alter '79 (Journalist, Author, & Political Pundit)

By D. Dona Le '05

Journalist, author, and political pundit Jonathan Alter ‘79 was already interested in writing as a young boy. He attempted to pen his first book in second grade and also published a personal newspaper that was distributed in his Chicago neighborhood. However, despite working on his high school newspaper, Alter didn’t decide to pursue a career in journalism until after graduating with honors from Harvard College as a History concentrator.

"When I graduated in 1979, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do. My vague intention was to apply to law school but it slipped my mind,” he jokes, "and I never got around to taking the LSATs.”

Instead, Alter saved enough money to travel around Europe and the Middle East for a few months. Upon his return to the United States, he moved to Washington, DC and stayed with college friends who were working on Capitol Hill. Alter then began freelance writing for a variety of publications.

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August 2012 | Lauren Kunze '08

Lauren Kunze '08 (Novelist, THE IVY YA series)

By Cristina Slattery '97

The ten-year-old Lauren Kunze ‘08 was already devouring books and "pretending” to work, brush her teeth, eat vegetables and to sleep in order to make her parents happy.  She remembers attempting to read PARADISE LOST, rehearsing for her acting debut as Puck in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, and attending soccer practice.  Kunze grew up in the Bay Area and a she conveys a certain Californian breezy optimism over the telephone that seems the antithesis of the brooding "serious writer” persona that one sometimes encounters. But, Kunze is, in fact, a serious writer.  At age twenty-four, she is about to publish her fourth and final novel in THE IVY young adult series – a series that she began writing her senior year in college.

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July 2012 | Lauren Greenfield '87

Lauren Greenfield '87 (Photojournalist & Director)

By Sara Melson '90

Greenfield.jpgLauren Greenfield '87 picked up her first camera at her alternative elementary school, Area D, and continued to develop a passion for photography that grew over childhood and throughout high school. From the beginning, she was drawn to photograph people and real situations, observing culture from her own unique perspective. Still, says Lauren, "I never considered myself an artist.” Then, over the course of her junior year at Harvard, an international honors program afforded her an opportunity to travel the world with a select group of students and faculty mentors for nine months, intensively studying film and anthropology both on screen and in the field, and interfacing with luminaries from museums and film institutes in each country. This trip was "life-changing” according to Lauren.

"We watched many indigenous films, and we met with amazing directors. It was on that trip that I realized my calling. I wasn't sure if it would be sociology, film, photography, or anthropology, but looking at culture was my calling. When I got back to Harvard, I switched my major from Social Studies to Visual Studies. I soon realized that theory wasn't my medium, and I moved toward filmmaking and photography. The work from that year has really influenced my photography. I even met my husband, Frank Evers '87, in Vienna during that fateful trip.”

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June 2012 | Jay Chen '00

JayChen.jpgJay Chen '00 (Public Servant)

By Cristina Slattery '97

Jay Chen '00 has been getting by on very little sleep lately. Running for Congress is a "marathon, not a sprint,” he says. Chen, who is the current president of the Hacienda-La Puente School Board, decided to run for the congressional seat when a redistricting process changed the configuration of this Los Angeles district where he has lived for much of his life. Chen will face Republican incumbent, Ed Royce, in the opening primary this coming Tuesday as well as D’Marie Mulattieri, who is not affiliated with a political party. Royce has been representing the district for two decades and Chen, in fact, once worked in his office in Washington, D.C. as an intern. Now, however, he decided that it is time to take on the veteran since a redistricting process changed the demographics of the voting population in way that favors Chen, and, of course, Chen believes that Royce’s decisions are hurting the district rather than moving it forward.

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May 2012 | Michael Lynton '82, MBA '87

Michael Lynton '82, MBA '87 (Chairman & CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment)

By D. Dona Le '05

Lynton.jpg"I don’t write, I don’t paint, and I don’t take photographs,” Michael Lynton (AB ‘82, MBA ‘87) says bluntly, when asked about his creative tendencies.

What does he do?

Mr. Lynton is the Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and, just last month, was named CEO of Sony Corporation of America. As of June 27, 2012, he will not only be co-chairman of SPE with Amy Pascal, but also oversee Sony Music Entertainment and Sony/ATV Music Publishing. And Mr. Lynton’s professional accomplishments are not limited to film and entertainment. Before joining Sony Corporation in 2004, he was the President of AOL International and the CEO of the Penguin Group.

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April 2012 | Alison Brown '84

Alison_Brown.jpgAlison Brown '84 (Musician & Founder of Compass Records)

By Sara Melson '90

I ring the doorbell of a quaint craftsman-style house off of Music Row in Nashville, and a young intern lets me into the magical world of Compass Records (named "one of the greatest independent labels of the last decade" by Billboard Magazine). From its inception in 1994 by Alison Brown '84 and bandmate/husband Garry West, Compass has steadily established itself as the premier independent record label for folk music, with releases ranging from the award-winning bluegrass of the Gibson Brothers and Dale Ann Bradley to banjo prodigy extraordinaire Noam Pikelny and the largest current catalog of classic Celtic music in the world from the famed Green Linnet and Mulligan catalogs, which Compass acquired in 2006 and 2008 respectively. Alison takes me on a tour of the house, which it turns out was home to the notorious "Outlaw" group in Nashville in the mid-70s. The Outlaws—Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser—were, as Alison puts it, "cool before it was cool."

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March 2012 | Galt Niederhoffer '97

Galt Niederhoffer '97 (Writer & Producer, HURRICANE STREETS, ROBOT & FRANK)

By D. Dona Le '05

Niederhoffer.jpg"I’m always a writer first,” Galt Niederhoffer ’97 declares. "Producing is what I do during the day and writing is what I do at night.”

As a producer, director, and novelist, Niederhoffer achieved success at a young age—before she even graduated from Harvard College. She has produced over 20 films, 8 of them Sundance Film Festival selections & award winners. Niederhoffer wrote two original novels: A TAXONOMY OF BARNACLES (2005) and THE ROMANTICS (2008), which was later adapted into a 2010 movie. Her third novel will be published in Spring of 2013.

Her most recent film, ROBOT AND FRANK greatly impressed audiences at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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February 2012 | Baratunde Thurston '99

Baratunde Thurston '99 (Author and Comedian, HOW TO BE BLACK)

By D. Dona Le '05

Thurston.jpgBaratunde Thurston ’99 is an overnight success that took ten years, and he attributes this achievement to the fact that "I was the best, just amazing—the best blogger, the best writer, the best comedian. So that’s my advice: just be the best.”

Thurston also recommends, "Do something, go somewhere, be somebody, be with somebody, be with multiple somebodies who keep you on a certain velocity of change.”

If that’s his professional bucket list, then Thurston’s about ready for early retirement.

Fortunately for us, he "very much want[s] to know the world”—a drive that keeps him constantly generating creative content as a writer, comedian, political activist, guest speaker, Twitter personality, technology nut, and all-around awesome human being.

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January 2012 | Chris Salvaterra '90

Salvaterra.jpgChris Salvaterra '90 (Producer, FAST FOOD NATION, GOOD NIGHT & GOOD LUCK, AMERICAN PIE)

By Cristina Slattery '97

"I have attempted to pursue the truth with some diligence and to report it,” states Edward R. Murrow, the legendary newsman and subject of the film, GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK. Chris Salvaterra ’90, former Harvard varsity football player and now a producer at Katonah Pictures (named after his hometown) helped to bring GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK to American and international audiences. Regarding movie scripts, he says that "I hope that if I am moved by the writing, others will be too.”

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