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Harvardwood HIGHLIGHTS - June 2024

In this issue:



  • 2024 Jonathan Sethna Harvardwood LGBTQ+ Fellowship Applications Now Open

  • Seeking Homestay Hosts for HSIP

  • Harvardwood Summer Internship Program (HSIP)

  • Featured Job: Talent Assistant at NBCUniversal


  • Alumni Profiles: Aislinn Brophy AB '17 (author, actor)

  • Industry News

  • Welcome New Members

  • Exclusive Q&A with Lauren Mechling AB '99 (author, journalist)


  • Harvardwood Reunion Weekend Meetup (Cambridge)

  • Queer Voices in Literature (Virtual)

  • Harvardwood Lowdown (Virtual)

  • Harvardwood Pride Party (LA)

  • Writing Funny - How to Have Humor in Your Prose (Virtual)

  • Harvardwood at the ART’s GATSBY (Cambridge)

  • Last Month at Harvardwood

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

June is my favourite month of the year, and not just because I get to eat an occasional cicada--the 2024 Jonathan Sethna Harvardwood LGBTQ+ Fellowship applications are now open! As are a few Harvardwood Summer Internship Program spots for both students and Homestays, snatch them up while they're still microwave warm.

The itineraries of the month: for those in Cambridge looking to reunite, we're having a little Harvardwood Reunion! And for those in LA who only want to unite without all the re-, come to our Pride Party! And then join us to hear from Queer Voices in Literature or get the Harvardwood Lowdown from our lovely exec board, and finally cap it off with an insight on writing Humor in Your Prose. A social season to rival Gossip Girl, I would say.

It's now been over six months since we unveiled our new website and expanded membership perks. Wow! For those of you who are still on an outdated membership plan, we decided in January to extend the sunsetting process to give everyone the opportunity to transfer over to the new site. If you are still on a $5/month plan, you are only getting very limited membership perks! Come and join us with a new membership lest we leave you behind in the dark age of old membership. If you do not want to upgrade and no longer want to be part of the family, we’ll be so sad! Seriously, don’t go! But, if you really want to take a break from the incredible Harvardwood community (we don’t really understand why anyone would do that, wouldn’t you miss our emails too much?), please email us to cancel your old membership plan.

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.

Best wishes,

Grace Shi

Operations and Communications

2024 Jonathan Sethna Harvardwood LGBTQ+ Fellowship Applications Open

Harvardwood is excited to announce the second annual Jonathan Sethna Harvardwood LGBTQ+ Fellowship for projects that elevate LGBTQIA+ characters, themes, and stories by creatives and screenwriters who are Harvard University alumni.


The purpose of the Fellowship is to polish, develop, elevate, and amplify projects for the screen with LGBTQIA+ characters, themes, and stories. The gift, generously donated by Jonathan Sethna (HGSE ’03), will support at least one Fellow and their project, with the possibility of multiple Fellows being selected. Each Fellow will be awarded $5,000. In addition to grant funds, Fellows will receive one-on-one guidance from Harvard alumni and friends that want to empower artists to make the world a better place through their stories. 


The Sethna LGBTQ+ Harvardwood Fellow(s) will be announced by August 31, 2024, and the Fellowship will run from September 1, 2024 through August 31, 2025. Applicants may be at any stage of their career, and their chosen project must be a project for the screen (fiction or nonfiction, film or television). However, applicants can hold any relation to the work: writer, director, producer, etc. 


Seeking Homestay Hosts for Harvardwood Summer Internship Program (HSIP) Students

Every year, our Harvardwood Summer Internship Program (HSIP) offers a few dozen Harvard College students the opportunity to pursue summer internships in the arts, media, and entertainment sectors. HSIP facilitates career-related activities throughout the summer for participating students and companies both virtually and in-person in Los Angeles and other cities with multiple students. 

We are currently looking for homestay hosts for part or all of Summer 2024 in LA, NYC, and other large cities to help defray the cost of living for students, many of whom could otherwise not afford to participate in low-paying arts/entertainment internships. If you’re able to provide a spare room/couch/air mattress to host a college student (or three!), we’d be eternally grateful.

Please contact Programs Director Laura Yumi Snell at with your nameaddress/neighborhood, and the number of students and dates you’re able to host. Thank you!


Harvardwood Summer Internship Program (HSIP) 2024

Now in its 21st year, the  Harvardwood Summer Internship Program (HSIP) provides a list of summer internship opportunities in the arts, media, and entertainment to interested Harvard students. In addition, HSIP facilitates career-related activities throughout the summer for participating students and companies virtually and/or in-person in LA, NY, and other cities with multiple students. Past program events have included film screenings, industry panels, and networking pool parties.

Internship opportunities are released and applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Positions may be filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so we encourage students and companies to submit their materials as early as possible.

Though the priority submission date has passed, there are still plenty of opportunities. 

Over 100 companies have participated in HSIP since its inception, including ABC, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, CAA, Digital Domain, Disney, Dreamworks, HBO Films, Lionsgate, Mirabai Films, Miramax, National Geographic Films, Red Wagon Productions, Skybound Entertainment, Untitled Entertainment, Valhalla Motion Pictures and many others!

Click here if you have a company offering summer internships. 

Click here if you are a student seeking summer internships.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are a student that has secured an arts, media, or entertainment internship on your own (not through Harvardwood), you are still invited to join our HSIP events! Please email us to let us know where you are interning and in what city/region you will be spending the summer.


Featured Job: Talent Assistant at NBCUniversal

Job Description:

We create world-class content, which we distribute across our portfolio of film, television, and streaming, and bring to life through our theme parks and consumer experiences.

Alumni Profile: Aislinn Brophy AB '17 (author, actor)

by Laura Frustaci '21

Aislinn Brophy AB '17 is a queer writer and theater artist whose work seeks to explore hard truths about our world with empathy and joy. They graduated from Harvard University with an A.B. in Theater, Dance & Media. As an actor, they have appeared on stages all across the east coast. Their debut YA novel, HOW TO SUCCEED IN WITCHCRAFT, was published September 2022, and their sophomore YA novel, SPELLS TO FORGET US, is due for publication in September 2024.

Aislinn Brophy’s debut novel HOW TO SUCCEED IN WITCHCRAFT, partially inspired by their journey at Harvard, tells an all-too-relatable tale of a young girl struggling under immense pressure to succeed in a rigorous academic setting. The twist that sets Aislinn’s main character apart from the rest of us is that she also happens to be a witch. 

But let’s back up to how Aislinn came to write this incredible debut novel after graduating from Harvard in the first class of the Theater, Dance, and Media concentration in 2017. Throughout high school, Aislinn was a musical person, playing instruments in both band and orchestra. They also began their creative writing in high school, crediting their start to fan fiction as the way they really learned how to write stories.

When Aislinn got to Harvard, they weren't really interested in pursuing a classical music career. But when they auditioned on a whim for a few of the shows on campus and started performing theater, they realized that was what they wanted to do for the rest of their life. “I did a hard pivot and became a theater person,” Aislinn laughs. With their TDM degree, Aislinn now works as an actor in the Boston area. And between those performances, and during the pandemic, they found time to write their debut novel: HOW TO SUCCEED IN WITCHCRAFT.

“The book is highly related to the academic rat race,” Aislinn explains. “What the main character is willing to sacrifice to achieve her own American Dream. Class, working to get the life you want, leverage opportunities, and the performance that you have to do for gatekeepers to have them fund your dreams.” HOW TO SUCCEED IN WITCHCRAFT is about a high-achieving witch who has to decide between getting the scholarship she desperately needs and exposing the toxic teacher who is responsible for awarding that very scholarship. For Aislinn, the key part of this book was “being able to talk both about how much I love theater, and also the things that are toxic about theater, and especially theater education.” 

Throughout their theater education, Aislinn frequently observed that certain negative experiences were enacted on young people in those spaces, and those experiences would affect their perception of both themselves and the industry. Whether or not it’s really true, “They’re forced to swallow a pill of ‘this is how the world works’,” Aislinn says. “That’s part of what I was trying to explore with it: the balance between joy and lightness and fun, and the difficult situations that are happening. For example, how young women of color are pitted against each other for very limited seats at the table, as if their enemy is each other, when in fact their true enemy is the system.” 

Now, Aislinn is working on their sophomore novel, to be released in September. SPELLS TO FORGET US is a YA contemporary fantasy novel set in Boston about a magical world where magic is a secret from regular humans. They gave us a teaser: “The main characters are a girl who is a witch, and a regular person, and they meet and fall in love. The witch has to cast a spell so if they break up the non-magical person will forget about her. They break up and the spell goes wrong, they both forget about each other, and it’s an endless cycle of meet cutes.” Oh, love! And it sounds like this could also make an amazing feature film adaptation in the future…

The writing process for second novels can sometimes be challenging for writers. But Aislinn developed a good system for writing and pushed through that supposed sophomore slump with ease. “I am spaghetti at the wall at the beginning,” Aislinn laughs. “I start working from a list perspective. My books frequently have an overambitious amount of things. Usually, they have at least one major theme that doesn’t end up being there. I come up with the pitch line early and expand from there.  A lot of things are not incredibly fleshed out when I start…they’re skeletons and I fill out the skeletons with colors, shapes and flesh that will be interesting to me.” Aislinn uses the Save the Cat beat sheet, which should sound familiar to all TV writers, to fill out the novel’s major events, and then drafts from there. They make it sound easy!

Aislinn’s pivot into novel writing from their creative work as a theater artist came fairly naturally to them. “All of my artistic work feels very related because it’s all funneled through my lens of the world,” they explain. “I bring elements of my craft into one another; snappy dialogue is very fun and a strong element in books for teens specifically. When I’m writing scenes, I’m basically writing a play, and then filling in what’s happening in the world. I’m acting out my own lines, and then I shoot for somewhat naturalistic dialogue with a little bit of a punch up.”

Aislinn aims to use that snappy dialogue to give students language for what they experience in their young adulthood. “In my work, I tend to be reflecting on experiences that I’ve had and things that I’ve found frustrating about the way the world is set up. The reason my book is on the academic rat race is because I’d already lived that…I didn’t have good analysis on how that was affecting me at the time, so now that I’m on the other side of that experience, I’m trying to hand teens tools to reflect on how these systems are impacting them.” 

Aislinn finds this important in their work because so many young people lack a voice with which to speak up in toxic spaces. Aislinn’s work aspires to empower students to use their voices. “Writing for young adults is inherently an activist thing to be doing,” they say, “because trying to impact youth is one of the greatest changemaking things you can do in the world.”

Aislinn also has advice for those young people about pursuing an artistic career. “For people trying to work professionally, it is important to try and identify what success actually looks like for you, and go for that, and continually try to reevaluate what success looks like for you,” they say.  “As you start working, your goalposts will continue to move. Try to celebrate yourself at every level and for every win. A lot of accolade-based achievements are so far out of your control. You can try to put yourself on a path towards getting those accolades, but the sooner that you can find a thing that’s specific to yourself that you actually want to do, the closer you’ll be to being fulfilled and actually happy. What is the root of what you want?” And once you know what you want out of life, you can start on the fun part: working to make that dream a reality.


Industry News

Dean Norris AB ’85 reveals why he joined LAW & ORDER: ORGANIZED CRIME cast in an interview with Cinemablend. (One Chicago Center)


Tiya Miles AB ’92 was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship, she will study the lives and writing of Harriet Jacobs and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who authored important books in the fight against racial slavery in the 1850s and early 1860s. (The Harvard Gazette)


Gaming and Leisure Properties appoints Debra Martin Chase JD ’81 to Board of Directors as a new independent director, effective immediately, to fill the vacancy created by the previously disclosed passing of JoAnne A. Epps. (Yahoo)


Netflix’s first original medical procedural PULSE has added Nestor Carbonell AB ’90, who has starred in THE MORNING SHOW and LOST, to its growing cast. (Deadline)


Apple TV+ has picked up a second season of THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME, created and adapted by author Laura Dave alongside Academy Award-winning co-creator Josh Singer MBA ’00 JD ‘01. It is the first collaboration between the married couple. (MSN)


John Lithgow AB ’67 played the ‘new kid in school’ as he learned dance, ceramics, silk-screen printing and vocal jazz ensemble with Los Angeles-area high school students in his new show ART HAPPENS HERE WITH JOHN LITHGOW, airing Friday on PBS with the goal of promoting arts education. (AP News)


FALLOUT, executive produced by married couple Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy JD ‘07, has been renewed a week after release and has lassoed more than 65M viewers, making it the second most-watched title ever in that time frame on Prime Video. (Deadline)

Ex-Disney ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood AB ‘86 is signing on to a new gig. Sherwood and Joanna Coles will lead THE DAILY BEAST—he will be THE DAILY BEAST’s CEO and publisher. (Daytime)


The travel series CONAN O’BRIEN MUST GO has been renewed for season 2 at Max. Conan O’Brien’s AB ‘85 show’s second season will consist of six episodes. (Variety)


James Franco and Tommy Lee Jones AB ‘69 will star in mob thriller THE RAZOR’S EDGE, which begins production June 25. The film follows a mob hitman facing a perilous mission after his daughter’s kidnapping. (MSN)


Award-Winning actor Courtney B. Vance AB ’82 was the Featured Speaker for the Harvard Alumni Association’s global celebration of alumni on May 31. (Harvard Alumni)


Damien Chazelle AB ‘07, the Oscar-winning filmmaker of LA LA LAND, WHIPLASH, and FIRST MAN, is writing and directing a new movie that will hit theatres in 2025. He will produce the film with Olivia Hamilton under their Wild Chickens Productions banner. Paramount Pictures will back Chazelle’s next feature film. (MSN)


Prime Video announced during its upfront presentation Tuesday that it has ordered a LEGALLY BLONDE prequel series, titled ELLE, from Reese Witherspoon’s media company, Hello Sunshine. Mindy Kaling and BROOKLYN NINE-NINE co-creator Dan Goor AB ‘97 are writing the script. (ABC News)


SOMEONE SPECTACULAR will make its world premiere off-Broadway this summer. Directed by Tatiana Pandiani, previews will begin July 17 at the Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre at The Pershing Square Signature Center. SOMEONE SPECTACULAR will be produced by B3-A12/Domenica Feraud, Paige Evans AB’84, and Margaret Leigh. (Playbill)

20th Century Studios has acquired an original mother-daughter comedy pitch from BOOKSMART’s Sarah Haskins AB ‘01 and Emily Halpern AB ‘02, enlisting Gloria Sanchez to produce. (Deadline)


Amazon released the promo for YOU’RE CORDIALLY INVITED on Tuesday. Directed by Nicholas Stoller AB ‘98, the movie is set to begin streaming via Prime Video on January 30, 2025. (Hollywood Reporter)


China Forbes AB ‘92, the main singer and songwriter for Portland band Pink Martini, has released her third solo album. (Beaverton Valley Times)


Peacock has officially ordered the untitled Greg Daniels AB ’85 and Michael Koman comedy mockumentary series set in the same universe as THE OFFICE. Domhnall Gleeson and Sabrina Impacciatore will lead the ensemble cast of the show, which is set to begin production in July. (Deadline)  


Welcome New Members

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

  • Stephanie Lim

  • Yangsze Choo

  • Qin Qin

  • Kendra Wilkinson

  • Edward Carpenter

  • John Wilson

  • Ava Gavitt

  • Jaida Wilson

  • Catherine Mignone

  • Alexandria Ankai

  • Alana Biden Lytle

  • Paul Barry

  • Brittney Russell

  • Steven Bussard

  • Alexandra Tibbetts

  • Manuel Chavez


Exclusive Q&A with Lauren Mechling AB '99 (author, journalist)

Lauren Mechling AB '99 has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, The New Yorker online, and Vogue, where she wrote a regular book column. She's worked as a crime reporter and metro columnist for The New York Sun, a young adult novelist, and a features editor at The Wall Street Journal. A graduate of Harvard College, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. She is currently a senior editor at The Guardian US. Her next novel, THE MEMO, co-written with Rachel Dodes, will be published in June 2024.

Q: Congratulations on your most recent novel, THE MEMO! Do you have any particular writing habits or rituals while working on your writing? What are the hardest and easiest parts of the process for you?


Thank you! Some of my brilliant writer friends tell me about going away for a couple of weeks and banging out a draft of a novel–but I could never do that. Sad to say, I am not a mad genius. I am a hard worker. My process has always involved daily writing sessions, sometimes no longer than half an hour. When I was a crime reporter in my early twenties, I’d wake up and write a couple of hundred words before I got ready for work. Lo and behold I had a finished novel within a year or so (it helped that I had a co-writer friend who was diving into the manuscript every afternoon). This is my ninth book. I’ve bounced around among genres but the process has more or less remained the same: slow, steady, and early. As I type this, it’s 6:13 on a Sunday morning.

Q: THE MEMO is a time travel comedy. What made you decide to write in this genre, and how does it compare with other genres you’ve written in?

My last book, HOW COULD SHE, was a literary novel about three women on the downtown scene who jockey for social dominance. I started working on THE MEMO in the beginning of the pandemic, when the idea of writing another social satire set in well-to-do pockets of New York was unfathomable. I needed escapism, and a book about a woman who gets to go back in time and fix her past mistakes was the perfect magic carpet ride to take me away from the horrors of lockdown.

Q: You wrote THE MEMO with writing partner Rachel Dodes. How does the partnership dynamic work well for you both when writing, and how do you handle any potential disagreements while working together?

Rachel and I met when we were baby reporters at The Wall Street Journal, and I have always been blown away by her whirring mind and big fat heart. We reconnected a few years ago when I appeared on her podcast Nope (RIP) and we just knew that we wanted to do something together. Writing a novel with a friend isn’t that conventional, but it should be. I don’t know what I would have done without a “thought partner” as I hear they call them these days. Rachel and I would chat at least once a day and go over the latest additions to our shared Google doc and brainstorm ideas. We knew we were onto something when it made us both laugh. No less valuable has been having somebody with whom to navigate the ups and downs of the publication process.

Q: Humor seems to be a key element in THE MEMO, adding depth to the portrayal of the characters' experiences. How do you balance humor with the more serious or poignant moments in the story, and why do you believe humor is an effective tool in storytelling?

Whether its wry or poignant or arch or plain old bananas, humor is my queen. I think I would struggle to connect with a story that felt devoid of wit and a touch of zaniness.

Q: You’ve also written YA novels. How was the transition from writing for a YA audience to an older audience? Does your approach to storytelling differ when writing for a younger audience compared to writing for adults?

It was an inevitable transition. I started out writing YA when I was only a few years out of high school, when that world was still alive in my mind. When I was in my early thirties, I wrote what would have been my seventh YA novel. I thought it was going to be huge–it was about human trafficking and a pair of magical fortune teller sisters–but it didn’t find a publisher. I felt devastated, a little betrayed. I realized that a juicy book deal was by no means guaranteed, so I might as well write the book that I truly wanted to read. When I started writing HOW COULD SHE, I imagined it coming out as a pamphlet that women would pass around in secret. That freed me up to write a work whose plot was more subtle than my previous works, and that touched on my preoccupations and obsessions.

Q: In addition to your many published novels, your notable journalistic work spans prestigious publications like The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and The New York Times. How do you adapt your writing style to suit the tone and audience of different publications?

No matter who I am telling a story for, I always conduct more interviews that I possibly need to and look for the details that excite me or crack me up. I’ve started writing stories for Elle Decor, which on the face of it makes no sense, and I am so not a “design person”--I live in my head. But I take the same approach that I do with all my journalism and grill everyone I can get on the phone, try to get to the deeper story about who these people are and what excites them (and drives them to tear down 8,400 square foot homes).

Q: Your journalism portfolio covers a diverse array of topics, from fashion trends to literary reviews. How do you decide which subjects to explore in your articles, and what draws you to write about them?

I’ve always been more or less of a generalist, meaning I do pretty much everything other than hard news. I have interviewed Beyonce, filed a dispatch from an energy vortex on an Arizona mountaintop and written a New York Times op-ed about the joy of breaking up with friends. Sometimes an editor will come to me with an assignment they think I could make interesting and funny, and other times I will be having a conversation and a stray tidbit will make an impression that gets me googling in the hopes that there is a “there there.” (There always is, if you look hard enough.)

Q: How does your writing process differ when drafting shorter articles versus writing full-length novels? Or does it stay consistent?

Well, I am a morning person and a morning writer, so if you were to look through my window it would appear to be the exact same (me, with my coffee, hunched over my computer). When I’m working on shorter pieces I tend to procrastinate by reporting as long as I possibly can before it’s time to start writing, and then arranging and rearranging the statistics and quotes that I think I want to include before I start writing the sentences that serve as the connective tissue. You can’t do that as much with fiction writing, so I procrastinate by obsessively rereading and reworking every little line. I could never write by hand!

Q: You currently work as a senior editor at The Guardian US. How do you balance the demands of this role with your creative writing?

I was hired at the Guardian the same summer that Rachel and I sold THE MEMO, and since then I’ve been focusing on getting acclimated at the paper. Most of my morning writing sessions are devoted to composing film reviews and author interviews, or editing features by other people. But there’s no way I won’t be working on another novel before long, so we’ll see how that goes.

Q: What advice would you give to young, aspiring writers working on their first drafts?

Books don’t write themselves, but if you can dedicate a tiny bit of time every day, you’ll be surprised how quickly you have 20, then 30, pages. And I hear we’re all meant to start a Substack! (I still need to get around to that bit myself.)

Harvardwood Reunion Weekend Meetup (Cambridge)

Saturday, 6/01   Free

It's Harvard reunion weekend! Stop by our alumni meet-up at Charlie's Kitchen on Saturday, June 1st and catch up with your old Harvardwood friends (and make some new ones)!


Queer Voices in Literature (Virtual)

Wednesday, 6/05   Free for all members

Happy Pride Month! We are so excited to continue our Harvardwood Author Series with a discussion with four incredible queer authors: Jas Hammonds, Sami Ellis, Jen St. Jude ALM '18, and Aislinn Brophy AB '17!


Harvardwood Lowdown (Virtual)

Monday, 6/17   Free for all members

Join us for another Harvardwood Lowdown! This informal conversation occurs with members of our leadership team Mia Riverton Alpert, Adam Fratto, and Allison Kiessling, and special guest appearances from new board leadership - President Diane Nabatoff and Vice President Kenneth Williams!


Harvardwood Pride Party (LA)

Thursday, 6/2o  

Come mix and mingle with other industry professionals at Echo Lake Entertainment in celebration of Pride month!


Writing Funny - How to Have Humor in Your Prose (Virtual)

Wednesday, 6/26    Free for all members

Join us to discuss the techniques of writing humorous prose and her new book THE MEMO with author/journalist Lauren Mechling AB ’99!


Harvardwood at the ART’s GATSBY (Cambridge)

Thursday, 7/25  

Join us for Gatsby, directed by Tony Award winner Rachel Chavkin (Hadestown; Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812; Moby-Dick) with choreography by Tony Award winner Sonya Tayeh (Moulin Rouge!).


Last Month at Harvardwood

Last month at Harvardwood, we had a successful virtual edition of Harvardwood 101, spoke to writer-director-producer Nell Scovell, moderated by Ashley Zigman, talked about Writing Adaptable IP, discussed AAPI Voices in Publishing, and more!


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!



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.

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