top of page

Harvardwood HIGHLIGHTS - February 2024

Updated: Feb 5


In this issue: MESSAGE FROM HARVARDWOOD

NEWS

  • Featured Job: Associate Producer/Field Producer at Delirio Films

FEATURES

  • Alumni Profiles: Billy Kimball AB '82 (writer, producer, executive)

  • Industry News

  • Welcome New Members

  • Exclusive Q&A with Elizabeth Filippouli KSG '04 ALM '24 (journalist, activist, writer)

CALENDAR & NOTES

  • Virtual: Writers-- How to Craft a Compelling Bio

  • Cambridge: Harvardwood Mixer

  • Virtual: Installation and Curation-- A Conversation with Visual Artist Flora Kao

  • Virtual: Work Less with Dr. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

  • LA: Oscars Watch Party 2024

  • Virtual: Casting Masterclass and Q&A with Lisa Beach

  • Last Month at Harvardwood

Want to submit your success(es) to Harvardwood HIGHLIGHTS? Do so by posting here!



After what feels like a particularly lengthy January, we at Harvardwood readily welcome an abnormally long February!


Our applications for the Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship and the Pitching for TV Writers lab have closed, and many talented professionals are sifting through applications. Just think, their eyes might be scanning your application as you read this! How thrilling.


Events! We have many virtual events coming at you in February and March. Writers, misspelled your own name in your bio? Happens to the best of us, so join us to learn How to Craft a Compelling Bio. For those in Cambridge, come chat at the Harvardwood Cambridge Mixer because we're sure ready for some fresh takes on the T. And for the cool cats in LA, you can't miss our Oscars Watch Party where we'll...watch the Oscars? This one is self-explanatory but it'll be a party. And more below!


At this point if you're still not on the new memberships with expanded perks, what are your priorities? We have begun to sunset the old membership, so be sure to sign up for the new membership. We're very excited to be in this new era with everyone, so please join us in the new, glorious age of Harvardwood. As always, we want to hear from you, our members — if you have an idea for an event or programming, please tell us about it here. If you have an announcement about your work or someone else's, please share it here (members) and it will appear in our Weekly and/or next HIGHLIGHTS issue.

Please consider donating to Harvardwood. Your donations are tax deductible! Best wishes, Grace Shi Operations and Communications Harvardwood grace@harvardwood.org



Featured Job: Associate Producer/Field Producer at Delirio Films


Job Description:

Delirio Films, a boutique production company with a focus on premium documentary film and television, is hiring a full time associate producer/field producer to join our small, fun, highly collaborative team. The role will involve heavy physical production including budgeting, scheduling, staffing shoots, cost reporting and more, as well as some creative development. Ideal candidates should have both strong creative and logistical skills; must be detail oriented, quick-learning, highly motivated, extremely well organized and communicative.



Alumni Profile: Billy Kimball AB '82 (writer, producer, executive)

by Laura Frustaci

Billy Kimball AB '82 is a writer, producer, and executive with 35 years of experience in television, film, and digital media. He received two Emmy Awards, a WGA Award, a Peabody Award, and an AFI Award for his work as a writer and co-executive producer on VEEP. Other credits include nine episodes of THE SIMPSONS and the 88th and 89th Academy Awards. Starting this January, he will be teaching the comedy writing class at the USC Film School. He graduated from Harvard College in 1982 where he was on the HARVARD LAMPOON.



When asked about his career journey as a comedy writer from Harvard to HBO’s widely acclaimed VEEP, Billy Kimball (AB 1981-2) says: “There’ve been a lot of directions to my career and I think I may have had one of the strangest trajectories in the entire business. Things came my way by chance just as often as by planning.” Billy graduated from Harvard College in 1982 with the idea that he wanted to be a writer, whether in publishing, or journalism, or television and film. Feeling adrift postgrad, Billy returned to New York, where he’s from, and began freelance work as a reader for READERS DIGEST which he describes as “several steps removed from any sort of a job that exists today.” He also worked as a photo editor for Gamma Liaison, “which was kind of adjacent to magazines, so I thought maybe it would sort of lead somewhere.” Billy recalls. “And I tried to write little freelance articles back when a career in magazines was a potential option.”


After a year in NYC with little progress in his writing career, he was hired to write on a show in Los Angeles called NOT NECESSARILY THE NEWS on the basis of material he’d written during college while on the Harvard Lampoon. “I landed in LA without a car or a driver’s license,” Billy remembers. “I got in on a Saturday and started work on a Monday, and I had to walk to work.” After working at the show for the next two and half years, Billy felt he had learned more about Hollywood but hadn’t really taken any of the obligatory “pre-professional steps” that other early career writers were taking. So he ended up back in New York working at a bookshop.


“It was a while before I strung together other things,” Billy explains. Those things ended up being as varied as writing the 1989 Miss Universe pageant to being a gameshow host to working with his longtime collaborator Al Franken (AB '73) on coverage of the 1992 Presidential Election for Comedy Central. Billy also spent a year living in Ukraine working for the United States Agency for International Development. “I wasn’t saying no to anything that sounded interesting.”


Upon returning from Ukraine, Billy got a job as EP and the original showrunner of THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG KILBORN. Faced with a host of new responsibilities far greater than just writing, he had to learn about spreadsheets and contracts and union work rules . “I knew about writing,” Billy says, “but there was certainly a period when I really had to fake it when reviewing budget actuals and approving expenditures on equipment I’d never heard of. I was able to fall back on common sense, not panic, and remind myself that other people doing this weren’t necessarily smarter or more hardworking than I was.”


He then went on to produce Harvard alumnus Franken’s radio show for AIR AMERICA and do a whole host of other things including writing nine episodes of THE SIMPSONS. “In around 2003 I wound up being hired as head of programming for a new network called Fusion that was a joint venture of Disney and Univision and moved to Miami to do that, and when I eventually got fired, I went on very happily to VEEP.” Billy was hired by another Harvard grad and Lampoon member, David Mandel (AB '92), to work on the wildly popular sitcom starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. They worked together on VEEP for three seasons, with Billy continuing to develop his own projects on the side including writing the Oscars telecast in 2016 and 2017 all while commuting back and forth from LA to Miami, where his family remained settled. Now, after such a wonderful variety of writing experiences, Billy works on developing, pitching, and selling shows as well as teaching television comedy writing at the University of Southern California.


One question Billy continues to consider as both a professor and writer is the idea of influential media through the years. “I’m a little dubious of the canon,” Billy admits. “I’m not sure how much material is obligatory… I watch old shows and movies with my kids and a lot of times it doesn’t hold up.” So perhaps there is no universal guiding media that we all must revere when entering the entertainment industry. “People can have both high and low media consumption,” Billy muses. “I like deadpan and underplaying. I’m content with lean forward television. I’m stuck with the habit of paying attention.”


When comparing live TV to late night to sitcoms like VEEP, Billy notes that they’re all incredibly different to write for. But the most important thing? Just be a good writer. “If you’re a good writer, you can figure it out and transcend genres more easily than people think. You only have to look around you to see how the genre boundaries are blurrier than ever,” Billy explains. And quite frequently, a roomful of good writers will arrive at the same ideas about the plot or the character’s next move nearly simultaneously. But most importantly, Billy notes, “Being able to write jokes is the more commonplace skill, and aspiring writers have to learn about the importance of story and character.” You need to know both where your character came from and where they’re going to find success in a writer’s room.


And once you learn who your character is, the challenge becomes keeping audiences engaged with them. “Television is full of characters that you’ve seen something like before and stories that are highly predictable, so avoiding stereotypes and clichés without doing something perverse and weird, surprising people and getting their attention, is crucial.” Billy explains: “On VEEP, we felt we had the kind of fanbase that knew the show, knew Julia, really liked her and the show, and was with us, so we felt we could try to guess what they thought we were going to do next or set up a situation where the comedy outcome appears to be obvious, and then discuss how you can do something completely unexpected but still earned. You always want a show to be funny, to have real laughs and real jokes, but those [subversive] moments add a lot for shows with loyal audiences. As much as they feel disappointed that they didn’t guess correctly, they feel seen [because] you were thinking about their expectations and attempting to defy them in an interesting way.”


In Billy’s multi-decade career in the entertainment industry, he has, of course, picked up a number of nuggets of wisdom. One is from a lesson he learned early on in his work. “You can learn a lot from bad experiences," Billy laughs. “Things in show business don’t last forever, so when you’re feeling frustrated or drained, often you can learn something from what the people running the show are doing that you think is bad just as much as you can learn a lot from good producers. Make a little lemonade out of your career lemons.”


And on that note of career lemonade, when first entering the industry, Billy says it’s key for young writers to remember that, “a lot of times your first audience is an agent, producer, or actor as a writer. Think about how you’re going to get their attention and surprise them.” And finally, he leaves us with: “What you do in TV and movies is attempt to please an audience. It’s not as private and self-evaluative as writing a novel or poem. So, it’s always good to put yourself in the shoes of the audience. Assume the best about your audience and you’ll have that north star to guide you as you begin your work.”

 

Industry News


Jeff Yang AB ‘89's new book, THE GOLDEN SCREEN: THE MOVIES THAT MADE ASIAN AMERICA, is a 'cheer out loud' for the films that made Asian America. (NPR)


The latest page-turner thriller from New York Times bestselling author Gregg Hurwitz AB ‘95 goes on sale February 13 from Minotaur Books: LONE WOLF. (Book)


Sara Bibel AB ‘95 is part of the writing team that won an Emmy for THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. (Entertainment Weekly)


Marshall Lewy AB ‘99 to executive produce DYING FOR SEX, FX’s limited series from writers Liz Meriwether and Kim Rosenstock, director Leslye Headland and 20th Television. (Deadline)


Hulu has set March 28 for the launch of WE WERE THE LUCKY ONES, its upcoming limited series based on Georgia Hunter’s New York Times bestselling novel and executive produced and written by Erica Lipez AB ‘05. (Deadline)


Kayla Cromer and Wavyy Jonez will join ABC’s THE GOOD DOCTOR in its final season, executive produced by Peter Blake AB ‘91 JD ‘95. (Deadline)


A new PBS special, ART HAPPENS HERE WITH JOHN LITHGOW, features an awards-laden John Lithgow AB ‘67 celebrating how arts education nurtures and inspires the hearts and minds of students of all ages. (Deadline)


Emmy-nominated screenwriter John Orloff, creator of the highly anticipated Apple TV series MASTERS OF THE AIR, has signed with Verve for representation, legally represented by Ken Richman AB ‘90 JD ‘93 at Hansen, Jacobsen, Teller. (Deadline)


The Motion Picture Sound Editors unveiled the nominations for its 71st annual MPSE Golden Reel Awards. Emmy-winning THE WONDER YEARS director and producer Michael Dinner AB ‘78, will receive the MPSE Filmmaker Award. (Deadline)


Trailblazing SHAFT actor Richard Roundtree gave his last on-screen performance in the feature title THELMA, which debuted at Sundance and was produced by Nicholas Weinstock AB ‘91. (Deadline)


Prime Video has slotted Thursday, March 14 for the premiere of the second half of INVINCIBLE’s eight-episode second season, David Alpert AB ‘97 executive produces. (Deadline)


TOKYO VICE, executive produced by John Lesher AB ‘88 and loosely inspired by American journalist Jake Adelstein’s first-hand account of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police beat, will return February 8 to Max. (Deadline)


Jeremy Renner is back in action on the third season of MAYOR OF KINGSTOWN, with executive producer Michael Friedman JD ‘15 . (Deadline)


The American Society of Cinematographers has unveiled the nominations for its 38th annual ASC Awards, honoring the year’s best in feature film, documentary and television cinematography. Edward Lachman AB ‘65 is up for the Netflix pic EL CONDE. (Deadline)


Greg Daniels AB ‘85, who adapted NBC‘s THE OFFICE for American audiences based on the hit BBC series of the same name from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, is setting up a development room to explore a possible new series in the same world. (Deadline)


CARSICK starring Laura Yumi Snell ALM '18 is playing February 28th at the TCL Chinese Theatre as part of the Golden State Film Festival!

 

Welcome New Members

Harvardwood warmly welcomes all members who joined the organization last month (or those who migrated their membership over):

  • Nicholas Hilgert

  • Hamza Masoud

  • Anthony Visconti

  • Annie Harrigan

  • Dexter Griffin

  • Nicole Machrone

  • Alexa Albanese

  • Winston Michalak

  • Lexi L

  • Isabella Texeira-Ramos

  • Jake Cahn

  • Jonathan Steinberg

  • Anthony Cistaro

  • Jordan Roe

  • Jessica Gamburg

  • Noah Gold

  • Takenoshin Yaza

  • Braden Ellis

  • DayOnna Carson

  • Bryant Valenzuela

  • Christina Li

  • Payton Thompson

  • Mahbuba Sumiya

  • Kate DeGroote

  • Diego Espinosa

  • Warren Sata

  • Tatheer Adnan

  • Mika Simoncelli

  • Ruiqi He

  • Phil Gillen

  • Camila Sanmiguel Anaya

  • Laura Coe

  • Ethan Labouisse

  • Paul Sullivan

  • Willard Bullock

 

Exclusive Q&A with Elizabeth Filippouli KSG '04 ALM '24 (journalist, activist, writer)


Elizabeth Filippouli KSG '04 ALM '24 has a 25-year career span across media and social entrepreneurship. Her book FROM WOMEN TO THE WORLD-LETTERS FOR A NEW CENTURY (Bloomsbury, 2021) raises awareness on women as agents of change across different cultures, religions, and social structures. She is the writer and producer of the theatre play ALEXANDER THE GREAT-BETWEEN DREAMS AND IMAGINATION. As a journalist she worked at Al Jazeera English, CNN International and in Greek media. She has an MBA from Oxford’s Said Business School (2011), an MA from London City University (2010) and an ALM in Creative Writing from Harvard University (May 2024).


Q: Your career has spanned journalism, activism, and creative pursuits like adapting and producing a theatrical production inspired by ALEXANDER THE GREAT. How do you balance and draw inspiration from these diverse areas of your professional life?


I draw inspiration from real-life characters and 'the human condition'. One of the great things about journalism is that it thrusts you right into the heart of human stories. Meeting people from all walks of life and social strata and listening to their extraordinary journeys and stories that often sound unreal inspires my theatre and creative writing work. Performing arts, and the Arts in general, have tremendous change-making power. Many established ideas and structures must be updated in our complex and fast-changing world. Theatre and film can help people become more active citizens and better critical thinkers, this is how it all connects in my work.


Q: As a journalist, you've covered geopolitics and interviewed notable figures such as Ted Turner, Al Gore, and Christiane Amanpour. How have these experiences influenced your perspectives on global affairs and storytelling?

They have influenced me a lot. Ted Turner's teen years were marked by traumatic family experiences that built his character and resilience and impacted his approach to life, business, and worldview. He launched CNN as the first 24/7 news network in 1981 when everyone advised him against it. But Turner was way ahead in understanding that technology and globalisation had set the world on a different track, which was irreversible. He donated $1bn to the UN to create the UN Foundation, paving the way to true-impact philanthropy. Christiane is a fearless field reporter and a great interviewer who has always been covering human-centric stories, something I've also been doing in my work across these different fields. When Al Gore lost the presidency, he continued raising global warming and climate change awareness. That life-long activism message is a very important one. We cannot be idle onlookers; we must act as best as possible for this world.

Q: The play you adapted and produced, inspired by 'Alexander the Great,' explores the idea of greatness in leadership. What made the play topical for 2023 audiences?


It is about rethinking the idea of 'charismatic' leadership through a present-day lens. What made Alexander so worshipped and admired by many different cultures through the centuries? I think he was a philosopher-leader who never tried to change the local cultures because he adapted to them, respecting and celebrating diversity. He was eager to learn from others. At the play's heart lies democratising the idea of greatness, openness and continuous learning. The play raises contemporary issues such as war, peace, and the dangers of modern day civilisation as well as technology through metaphors and myth. The combination of Greek philosophy, mythology and history fascinates audiences, because it creatively triggers our imagination. This is the power of storytelling. I am currently working on developing a new production of the play, which is giving the project prospects for a variety of creative iterations.


Q: Your book, FROM WOMEN TO THE WORLD-LETTERS FOR A NEW CENTURY, spans a diverse range of topics in a collection that features women such as Booker-prize nominated Elif Shafak, activist June Sarpong OBE, journalist Mariane Pearl, economist Vicky Pryce, film director Shamim Sarif, and actress/activist Yasmine Al Massri. What inspired you to put this collection together, and what message did you aim to convey through the work?


I envisaged the book as an open dialogue between women and a vessel through which the women in this book are revisiting their relationships with mothers, daughters, friends, mentors, and role models. Ultimately, the relationship with ourselves. The wisdom these women have acquired through the years makes their voices warm and human. They also raise major social issues, including the gender gap, mental health, unemployment and racism, but also personal challenges such as self-doubt, lack of confidence, the constant struggle to find our own identity, and obstacles that prevent women from achieving their full potential. All women in my book are role models of activism: Elif highlights the necessity of compassionate leadership, Shamim writes about her marriage to her wife Hannan and the battles against social bias, and Yasmin has written a powerful poem recounting her childhood in a worn-torn Lebanon, and battling against violence, abuse and trauma.


Q: Being the daughter of a Greek journalist, author and playwright and having a great-great aunt who was the first woman elected mayor in Greece, how has your family background influenced your career choices and perspectives?


We first understand the world through the stories of our ancestors, and then we see the world through the lens of our own experiences. Having a father who was fully dedicated to the writing craft made me appreciate the importance of finding a mission in life to be passionate about and working hard for it. This is a tremendous learning. Find something that speaks to our emotional and creative side motivates us to maximise our potential. It gives us a sense of mission. Also, growing up among artists, actors, and poets liberated my imagination and made me realise the importance of staying connected to our psyche, and our humanness.


Q: Your upcoming projects include both a novel and a theater play inspired by Maria Callas. Can you provide a glimpse into these projects and what themes or messages you plan to explore? How do you balance simultaneously working on two different mediums?


Sure. 2023 marked 100 years from the birth of Maria Callas, a woman whose name became synonymous with Opera in the 20th century. Callas was a true star, not just a celebrity, she was entirely dedicated to her craft. She grew up in complex family circumstances, that included a strained relationship with her mother, her parents' divorce and trying to survive famine and the Nazi oppression in Athens during WWII. Maria had to survive through rigid patriarchal structures and relentless stereotyping. And she made it, she thrived-big big time, becoming a legend. My father knew Maria well, as he did Onassis, and he had also interviewed Maria's mother, Evangelina. So, my play is focused less on the fame, the career and the tragedy of the Diva's final years, as are most plays and films to date. I explore a different side of Maria, her inner thinking, the things she was not talking in interviews about, but also how harsh the press was on her. I shine a light on angles that make Maria more relevant to women today. The novel I work on is an autofiction book loosely based on an investigative story I had covered as a journalist a few years back.


Q: Having worked internationally in places like Greece, the US, the UK, and the Middle East, how have these diverse cultural experiences shaped your storytelling and the themes you choose to explore in your work?


What makes people's stories fascinating is the dramatic side, the human condition. The conflicts we face, the struggles and battles we face daily on a human level, the existential questions, and our constant journey to live life on our way to death. These are common in every culture, so working across different cultures has helped me develop a language of communication that stretches beyond what we call our 'mother tongues'. As humans, we are connected through a more profound language that reflects our common destiny, and this is always present in my work, as much as it is in my life.



Virtual: Writers: How to Craft a Compelling Bio

Monday, 2/12 Free for all members

In this 90 minute event, Joey Tuccio from Roadmap Writers will give writers the tools to write a compelling writer's bio that should be included in all marketing emails to execs, how to target the best companies for you and your projects, and how to make yourself as appealing to reps as possible.


 

Cambridge: Harvardwood Mixer

Friday, 2/23 Free for all members

Come join us for our first Cambridge mixer of the new year!


 

Virtual: Installation and Curation: A Conversation with Visual Artist Flora Kao

Thursday, 2/29  Free for all members

Join us for a conversation with artist Flora Kao AB '00 about her new solo art installation BEYOND, exploring the beauty of Taiwanese lotus offerings.


 

Virtual: Work Less with Dr. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Monday, 3/4  Free for all members

Join Harvardwood x Penntertainment for a conversation with author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, PhD, as he discusses the hidden role that rest plays in the lives of creative, prolific people.


 

LA: Oscars Watch Party 2024

Sunday, 3/1o Free for Premium members

How accurate are your picks for Best Actress and Best Actor? Who will take home the Oscar for Best Picture this year? Watch the fashion, excitement, and drama of the 96th Academy Awards with other members of Harvardwood!


 

Virtual: Casting Masterclass with Lisa Beach

Thursday, 3/21 Free for all members

Join us for an exclusive masterclass with renowned casting director and Harvard alum Lisa Beach (WEDDING CRASHERS, LOGAN, HUNG, etc)! Whether you're an actor, director, producer, or writer, you'll gain invaluable insights into the casting process, audition techniques, and standing out in a competitive industry.


 

Last Month at Harvardwood


Last month at Harvardwood, we saw the BEYOND installation with Flora Kao, caught up with Harvardwood at Sundance, talked PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS with show creator Jonathan E. Steinberg, and more!

 

List of All Upcoming Harvardwood Events Here Want to submit your success(es) to Harvardwood HIGHLIGHTS? Do so by posting here!

Become a Harvardwood member! We work hard to create programming that you, the membership, would like to be engaged with. Please consider joining Harvardwood and becoming an active member of our arts, media, and entertainment community!

 

DISCLAIMER

Harvardwood does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any of the information, content or advertisements (collectively "Materials") contained on, distributed through, or linked, downloaded or accessed from any of the services contained in this e-mail. You hereby acknowledge that any reliance upon any Materials shall be at your sole risk. The materials are provided by Harvardwood on an "AS IS" basis, and Harvardwood expressly disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied.





23 views0 comments
bottom of page