Exclusive Q&A with Director VALERIE WEISS MMS ’97, PhD ‘01
By Dayna Wilkinson
The Archer, from director Valerie Weiss, MMS ’97, PhD ‘01, premieres at SXSW on March 11th. Recently Valerie was tapped for the Fox Bridge Program. Photo: Courtesy of Mar Vista Entertainment.
Q. Your first feature was a romantic comedy (Losing Control) about a female biochemist who wants scientific proof that her boyfriend is “the one.” Was that autobiographical?
A. It was inspired by my time at Harvard Medical School. I met so many wonderful and quirky people there who ended up on screen in different ways.
Q. Your next feature in 2015 (A Light Beneath Their Feet) was a different kind of medical story. What attracted you to that project?
A. In the script, the portrayal of mental illness felt personal and sophisticated—very different from what you often see. I wanted the audience to live in the uncomfortable place between the bipolar mother and the 18-year-old daughter who wants to go far away to college. The mother-daughter story is full of love and felt so real. I’m very close to my mother and I have two young daughters so I empathized with both characters.Read more
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: Q&A with Past HWC Winner & HWP Alum JAMIE MAYER
By Dayna Wilkinson
In the #HWire blog's "Where Are They Now?" series, we check in with Harvardwood program alums to find out what they've been up to and to showcase their accomplishments since participating with Harvardwood!
Jamie Mayer AB ’90 won the Harvardwood Writers Competition for her TV pilot Tomorrowland. She was one of eight television writers recently selected for the Women In Film/Black List Episodic Lab, and a short film she directed based on her feature script Crowbar Smile will be released this year by Conde Nast Entertainment. Her debut YA novel Painless will be published on February 14th.
“Always be writing. Make things, even on a small scale, because it keeps you agile and can lead to unexpected things.”
Q. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
A. I grew up wanting to be a veterinarian, and that stuck pretty much until halfway through Harvard when I realized “hey, if I don’t take Organic Chemistry now, it’ll be too late!” So I decided I should probably major in the things I was really being drawn to, which were photography and film.
I wrote and directed several short films and left Harvard with a degree in Visual and Environmental Studies. I was inspired growing up by writer/directors like Steven Soderbergh, Spike Lee and the Coen Brothers—filmmakers who generate their own material and have a voice.Read more
Exclusive Q&A with DERRICK N. ASHONG AB '97 & LUCIA BRAWLEY AB '99
By Henry Johnson AB '18
Lucia Brawley AB ’99 is a producer, actor, and writer. In addition to appearing in movies and television shows such as World Trade Center and ER, she has written about arts and education for The Huffington Post. Lucia currently serves as the Vice President of Communications for amp.it, a digital media company founded by her husband, Derrick Ashong AB ’97, PhD '09 (photo below by Jane Feldman). Derrick is an artist and entrepreneur who has hosted programs on SiriusXM, Al Jazeera English, and Fusion. He recently created Take Back the Mic, an interactive hip-hop show that airs on amp.it. The show, hosted by Derrick and produced by Lucia, was an Emmy finalist in 2015.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for Take Back the Mic?
DNA. I was at a cypher at a place called Bus Stop in my hometown, Accra, Ghana. Everyone is taking turns freestyling—I got up did my thing, all is good. Then this one kid gets up, and does a rhyme in English, no biggie. All of a sudden he flips it and starts freestyling in Twi. Then he switches it up again and starts flowing in Ga.
It’s hard enough for most people to improvise in one language and this guy just did it in three. That’s when it hit me that the most interesting stuff happening in Hip Hop is not necessarily happening in the US. And I thought it would be so cool to have a show that highlights the best of the best in Hip Hop from around the world. That was almost 12 years ago.Read more
Exclusive Q&A with JOSH BRENER '07 (Actor) & MARC BRENER (Writer-Director) of THE RUMPERBUTTS
Congratulations to the talented Brener Brothers, whose indie musical comedy The Rumperbutts—starring Mates of State duo Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, Arian Moayed (Appropriate Behaviour, Rosewater), and Vanessa Ray (Pretty Little Liars, Blue Bloods)—was recently released in theaters and on Amazon, GooglePlay, iTunes, and Vimeo.
About The Rumperbutts: A married indie band duo (Mates of State) regretfully takes a job on a children's show The Rumperbutts. Despite money and success, their relationship turns to one of resentment. On one extraordinary evening, a magical man (Josh Brener) leads them on a path of rediscovery and gives them a second chance at happiness. Featuring original music by Mates of State.
Actor Josh Brener AB '07 (above, left) has appeared on Maron, The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, and Workaholics. He currently plays Big Head on HBO's hit series Silicon Valley.
Marc Brener (above, right) wrote and directed The Rumperbutts. Marc is also known for his work on Say It Ain't Solo.Read more