• published 101 FAQs in Harvardwood 101 2023-09-20 13:10:01 -0700

  • Exclusive Q&A with Loni Steele Sosthand AB '97

    Loni Steele Sosthand AB '97 is currently a Co-Producer going into her third season on THE SIMPSONS. Prior to that, she was partnered with Jim Hope as Consulting Producers on Nickelodeon's COUSINS FOR LIFE. Loni has written for various multi-cam family comedies including LAB RATS, DOG WITH A BLOG and BEST FRIENDS WHENEVER. Loni also co-created, co-wrote, and co-produced KATRINA, a half-hour dramedy pilot for The-N (Teen Nick), executive produced by Warrington Hudlin.  Loni is a graduate of Harvard University where she wrote a novel for her honors thesis.  In addition to her writing life, Loni lives in Santa Clarita with her husband, a Stunt Coordinator/Stuntman, her ten-year-old triplets, two dogs, and one very abused minivan. 

    Q: Congratulations on your recent trailblazing episode of The Simpsons, the first-ever episode featuring the use of ASL and the show’s first-ever deaf voice actors. How did you end up as a writer and executive story editor on the show?

    Well… it was the summer of 2020, and our family, like most, was in the thick of pandemic related stress. My husband is a Stunt Coordinator and performer so his work is dependent on productions happening, and they were barely coming back.   The few that were would require him leaving us for months of quarantine apart.  Our triplets were going into the third grade and we were scrambling to figure out how to best assist their “at-home” schooling. Though I’d written on several multi-cam comedies over the years and built up my writer’s room experiences, I wasn’t staffed at the time.  With three kids, a mortgage, grocery bills and so much uncertainty, I began doing some on-line writing tutoring and started a graduate program in Psychology, finally initiating the Plan B career.  I hadn’t given up on my dreams, but I couldn’t just sit around and count on some out of the blue miracle like Al Jean and Matt Selman, the showrunners of The Simpsons reading my material (submitted by my agent), offering me a meeting and hiring me.  Then, in a merciful twist of fate, that is what happened.  

    Q: What inspired the storyline of your episode “The Sound of Bleeding Gums”?  

    When I became a The Simpsons' writer, I really wanted to tell a Bleeding Gums Murphy story because I loved that character so much from when I was a kid.  I’ve long been a jazz fan, and those early episodes with Bleeding Gums had such a delightfully bluesy sense of humor.  Of course, in pitching any idea for the thirty third season of The Simpsons there is a great challenge to do something new, while still honoring the legacy of the show.  So, in brainstorming ways to explore Bleeding Gums’ character with a fresh take, we talked about how Lisa might have missed out on some aspects of his life and not known her hero as well as she thought. That’s where the idea of her meeting his son, Monk Murphy, who happens to be deaf, came into play.  My brother Eli was born profoundly deaf, and so it excited me to get the opportunity to pay witness to some aspects of the deaf experience in the Simpsons world, something that hadn’t been done before.  My brother got a cochlear implant in his twenties and I was with him when he heard sound for the first time.  There were many moments surrounding that miraculous change in his life that were full of bluesy humor that fit into the tone of those early Bleeding Gums episodes. 

    Because of my brother I was sensitive to how we represented this deaf character and knew we’d need a deaf voice actor for the role.  When we were still in the outlining phase of the episode, I told Al Jean about John Autry II who I had in mind to play the role of Monk Murphy.  I’d work[ed] with John over a decade earlier on a pilot I did for Nickelodeon when John was still a teenager.   John uses total communication, meaning he both signs and uses oral speech to communicate and he also got a cochlear implant in his twenties.  There is a moment in the episode when Monk gets his cochlear activated and hears the sound of his father’s music for the first time, and I think that John’s performance which draws on his personal experience, combined with the beautiful animation really makes it very poignant. 

    Q: What was it like to work with your brother, Eli, who voiced one of the characters on this project? 

    My brother and I have collaborated before on different projects and it’s an easy fit because we know each other so well.  I showed him early drafts of the script, mostly to get his approval for elements of the story that borrowed from his life.  There is a segment of the episode that shows how Bleeding Gums discovered that his son was born deaf that is directly drawn from how my parents discovered that Eli was born deaf.   As a baby he was napping when my father dropped pots and pans near his crib and when he didn’t wake up from the clatter they knew he couldn’t hear.  We animated [this] in the scene where Bleeding Gums comes home late at night with a bandmate who drops his cymbals in a loud clatter that doesn’t wake the baby.  After the show aired my brother expressed how moved he was by seeing that moment represented on The Simpsons. So, when it turned out we needed one more deaf voice in the episode it made sense to cast him.  He has, of course, bugged me ever since about when his character will return and perhaps carry an episode [arc]. 

    Q: You talked a bit about the challenge of animating ASL for characters who only had four fingers– were there any other unexpected challenges or surprises that cropped up while you were creating this episode? 

    Well, the challenges of drawing the ASL were mostly taken on by our wonderful animators. I do believe one of the animators had some knowledge of ASL, but we also sent clips of their animatics to several ASL experts.  I turned to two family friends: Michelle McAuliffe, a childhood friend who is a professor at Gallaudet, and Cindy Herbst, who is a professor of ASL and an interpreter at Cal State Northridge.   Both these women were generous with their time and happy to help as we sent drafts of the animation to them and made slight adjustments.  After the show aired I visited one of Michelle’s classes at Gallaudet (via Zoom) and it was a real honor to get to meet with her students and get their feedback.  I was deeply touched by what it meant to them to see ASL on The Simpsons, and I was also happy to hear their pitches for how to do it even better and more often. 

    Q: How is writing for animation different from writing for human actors, if at all? Do you like one more than the other? Do you find writing for animation to be easier because cartoon characters have more flexibility in terms of what they can be made to do?

    I just love how patient the process is in animation. It takes about a year from the original pitch to the airing of an episode, so there are a lot of opportunities to make improvements.  I love the collaborative discussions with the animators that come after the table read.  For example, for this episode I was able to send them many images for how to draw Monk’s hearing aids and later his cochlear implant.  And the moment when Monk gets his implant turned on for the first time is illustrated to show the musical notes coming off of his father’s album, entering the cochlear implant, and then lighting up Monk’s brain with memories and images of his father.  This is a beautiful moment conveyed through animation, that could only be drawn.

    Q: In what ways did your time at Harvard influence the path you have taken since graduating?

    I went to Harvard knowing that I wanted to be a writer, but I had no idea I’d write for television.  At the time my ambition was to be a novelist. I took as many creative writing classes as I could and got to study with Jamaica Kincaid and Jill McCorkle.   I was able to do a novel as my creative writing thesis and I went on to graduate school in the MFA program at UC Irvine.  As I struggled to finish the novel, I began writing scripts on the side just for fun.  Eventually the form of writing that I had the most fun doing took over the form I was most stressed about.    I participated in writing workshops at Harvardwood that really helped me get my early spec scripts in shape.  Those workshops were great opportunities to collaborate with other writers, many of whom have since gone on to have successful writing careers. 

    Q: What advice do you have for young aspiring comedy writers? 

    Get into or start a supportive writing group and use it to keep creating and revising your specs to get them in better and better shape. Rewriting is the main part of the job and collaborating is the other.  So, getting to workshop your work in a group setting is really good preparation for the writer’s room.    

    Q: How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working?

    When I’m not working it’s all about family time.  Our triplets are now ten years old and we are just trying to savor this particularly fun time in childhood.   

    Loni's Simpson's episode of The Simpsons, "The Sound of Bleeding Gums", was released on April 10, 2022 and is available to stream now.


  • published Harvardwood LGBTQ+ Fellowship in Fellowships 2023-05-26 10:33:43 -0700

    Harvardwood LGBTQ+ Fellowship

    Jonathan Sethna Harvardwood LGBTQ+ Fellowship

    Applications are now closed

    Harvardwood is excited to announce the inaugural Jonathan Sethna Harvardwood LGBTQ+ Fellowship for projects that elevate LGBTQ+ 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 two projects. The minimum amount of grant funding is $5,000. In addition to grant funds, Fellows will receive one-on-one guidance and mentorship from Harvard Alumni that want to empower artists to make the world a better place through their stories. 

    The inaugural Sethna Harvardwood Fellow(s) will be announced by August 31, 2023, and the Fellowship will run from September 1, 2023 through August 31, 2024. 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. 

    Each Fellow will receive additional guidance and assistance through Harvardwood via programs, resources, and access to the wider Harvardwood network during their fellowship year.

    “Harvardwood is so excited to have the opportunity to cultivate and promote art and artists’ work featuring LGBTQ+ stories, thanks to the generosity of donor Jonathan Sethna,” said Harvardwood Director Laura Frustaci (AB ‘21). “Growing up with two moms, there was a dearth of onscreen representation when it came to families that looked like mine. I hope that this fellowship and others like it can rectify that for younger generations. Now more than ever, we rely on art to heal and raise awareness about identities and communities that are frequently overlooked and even persecuted. We believe that this fellowship will bring to light impactful stories centered around talented and emerging LGBTQ+ voices and experiences.”

    The Fellowship selection committee is comprised of Harvardwood board members, other industry professionals, and/or Harvard University staff with expertise in various artistic disciplines.

    2023-24 Eligibility

    To apply, individuals may identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community or ally to the community, as long as the proposed project meets the fellowship goals of uplifting LGBTQIA+ characters/themes/stories. Applicants must be Harvard University alumni in order to complete the application, which must include a resume and an artist statement with a brief description of the envisioned project to be completed or substantially developed during the term of the Fellowship. Applicants should also include a work sample or portfolio.

    The finalist round may include a virtual interview. Individuals who have previously been beneficiaries of Harvardwood grants or scholarships or have participated in Harvardwood programs are eligible as long as they meet the other terms of eligibility.

    Applications will be accepted starting on July 1, 2023 and will be due July 31, 2023, with the recipient(s) announced in August 2023


    Applications are now closed

  • 2023 Winners of Harvardwood Writers Competition & Most Staffable TV Writers

    Harvardwood has announced its latest set of Writers Competition winners, also naming its Most Staffable TV Writer for 2023.

    The official arts, media, and entertainment alumni organization for Harvard University, Harvardwood looks to spotlight talented up-and-coming writers from diverse backgrounds and to connect them with mentors, as well as producers, agencies, and management companies.

    Writer-producers participating in this year’s program as mentors include Neal Baer (ERDesignated Survivor), Emily Halpern (80 for BradyBooksmart), and Jeff Schaffer (Dave, Curb Your Enthusiasm).

    Read more

  • published Issue 218 | March 2023 in HIGHLIGHTS Magazine 2023-03-01 16:56:39 -0800

  • published Issue 215 | December 2022 in HIGHLIGHTS Magazine 2022-12-01 19:48:33 -0800

  • published Issue 214 | November 2022 in HIGHLIGHTS Magazine 2022-11-01 12:02:06 -0700

  • published November 2022 | Susan Walter AB '91 in Alumni Profiles 2022-11-01 07:37:54 -0700

    November 2022 | Susan Walter AB '91

    amanda_micheli_cropped.jpgby Laura Frustaci

    “You have to walk toward the industry that’s opening its arms,” author and creative Susan Walter AB ‘91 says. That’s how she ended up as a bestselling author with a new book just out and two more in the works to come.
    Over Her Dead Body is available for purchase as of today (!), and the story about how this book came to life is a bit… surprising. 

    Just before the pandemic, Susan wrote a book on spec called Good as Dead. She tells us, “I wrote it because I was frustrated with the movie business after a good solid decade and a half of doing rewrites and selling specs that never got made. I hit a brick wall and just needed a break. So, I wrote this book for me.” Throughout the writing process, she secured a literary agent who shopped the book around until they got an offer. However, the publishing company’s offer was contingent on also getting a second book from Susan. “They said, ‘So, what’s your next book? We need a proposal by tomorrow,’” Susan recalls. “It took me nine months to write the first book, and I had to plot book two in 24 hours.” She had roughly one day to come up with the concept, plot, and characters of what would soon become Over Her Dead Body– easy, right? 

    Armed with this challenge, Susan did what anyone would do: take her dog for a walk. “I was walking my dog by this one house that just excited my imagination,” says Susan. “Across from what was rumored to be Gwen Stefani’s house, enshrouded in barbed wire, there’s a ‘Keep Out: No Trespassing’ sign, and I always wondered who lived there. What if my dog wandered down that driveway, and I got to meet the person who lived there?” That initial train of thought was the jumping off point for Susan’s protagonist. “What if that person walking their dog was an actress, and the dog disappears, and she meets the owner of the house who turns out to be a casting director,” Susan explains, “The casting director offers to help her, and then of course dies, because it wouldn’t be a thriller without a dead body. Then what if the actress gets all the money left to her, and then the family descends on her?” This intriguing plot captured the publishing company, and Susan suddenly had a two-book deal. 

    As someone who’s worn several different hats in her career, including director, screenwriter, and producer, how did Susan come to wear the author hat? “The kind of stuff I was writing, I don’t know if the [film] market got saturated, but I wasn’t writing what was selling at that moment,” Susan reflects. But she chose to view that not as a closed door, but a sign “that it was time to turn around and see what’s out there.” And she found that novel writing suited her. “It was fun writing a novel because it’s complete,” Susan says. “When you write a script it’s a blueprint for someone else to take it and mangle it. I got to see what I can do, without any other input. If screenwriters want the opportunity to write, to tell their story without anyone mucking it up, they should write novels. You’ll find out quickly if you really know how to write,” Susan laughs.Bros.jpg 

    This wasn’t the only difference Susan noticed between screen and page. “The
    easiest part [of the publishing industry] is the people,” Susan reflects. “Everybody that I encountered was crazy smart. They read for a living! Every note that I got was good. I never had to question a note under a note, like with screenwriting. At the end of the process, you have in your hands a book that you wrote, and nobody can take that from you.” When asked what the hardest part of writing a novel was, Susan tells us, “The movie business is so hard, there is no hardest part of the book industry. It’s very straightforward. It’s more of a linear process. Once you find a buyer, there are no surprises. When you write a screenplay and find a buyer, there are nothing but surprises.” Clearly, there’s quite a different energy from industry to industry. 

    Susan began her career on the directorial track. “Directing is the best job in the world. It’s just really hard to get into the director’s chair. I’d love to do it again, but I want to be productive. There aren't that many movies getting made anymore. Plus movies aren’t story driven, they’re team driven. Nowadays, you need attachments. It’s not enough to have a good story. Even if you’re adapting a book, it needs to be a best-seller, internationally. You have to have a strong fanbase and history, or a star, or a proven showrunner. Books are story driven, and movies are package driven.” Her early directing days started at the DGA Assistant Director’s Program. “I wanted to be a news broadcaster, and I tried that at WBZ-TV, and they gave me a screen test and I was supremely terrible. They asked me to write, but it paid $5 a day. When I was a senior at Harvard, my dad said I couldn't move back home, so I applied for the DGA Assistant Director’s Program, and they train you to run movie sets.” 

    Susan emphasizes that she “walked toward the profession that walked toward [her].” And this program was an incredible experience. “I worked on movie sets at a time when I couldn't have sat at a desk all day, for ten years. I was able to travel, and work with different people, and be creative,” Susan recalls. Eventually, the training from that very program led her to create what she says she’s most proud of in her career: writing, directing, and producing All I Wish, a romcom starring Sharon Stone. “I had to be a lot of different things, I had to be a writer, I had to direct the film, I took an acting class, I educated myself in a really rigorous way. It was gratifying because it put all the pieces of my career together - the set, writing and managerial experience, and taught me a new skill with the acting classes, and I also had to raise money for it, so I had to put on a financial hat.” 

    When asked what advice she had for young creatives, Susan had these wise words to say: “Make sure your work is creatively fulfilling to you. People will tell you to have a brand and do it for the marketplace, but you make yourself really vulnerable to criticism if you’re only making it for other people. Creating for the joy of creating has to be enough.” Basically, if you’re doing something creative and you love it, “it’s a win-win. If you’re doing it to please somebody and they’re not pleased, then why did you do it?” 

    Susan is already in production for her third book, Lie By the Pool, to be released fall of 2023. And she’s working on her proposal for book number four. When asked how she writes with such speed but with such masterful knowledge of a topic, Susan explained her secret weapon: “The Harvard Class of 1991 Facebook page. I scroll through all the members and find an expert in the subject, and everyone’s been really generous with sharing their knowledge. Harvard is an incredible resource.”  

    Susan Walter AB '91 is an author and director known for her first novel Good as Dead and her film All I Wish starring Sharon Stone. Her most recent novel, Over Her Dead Body, is available for purchase now.


    Dayna_Wilkinson_headshot.jpgLaura Frustaci ('21) is an NYC-based actor and writer. She recently completed a yearlong writing fellowship funded by Harvard in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she finished her first full-length play. Laura graduated from Harvard with a concentration in English, where she wrote a magna cum laude thesis about children’s literature. While at Harvard, Laura was the President of On Thin Ice, a member of one of the first female cohorts of performers in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, and she acted in many American Repertory Theater and Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club productions. She is currently a writer for numerous publications, including Buzzfeed.

  • published Issue 213 | October 2022 in HIGHLIGHTS Magazine 2022-10-01 12:05:30 -0700

  • “THE CREATIVE PATH” career course is launching online! Harvardwood members get $250 off!

    Capes Coaching's signature “THE CREATIVE PATH” career course is launching online and Harvardwood Full members get $250 off!

    The Creative Path course guides you through 12-weeks of deep exploration as you unlock your personalized system for turning big life and career goals into small, consistent, actionable steps, culminating in a one-year career plan you can count on. You walk away with the tools you need to stay focused, strategies for overcoming obstacles, and support from a community of motivated creative professionals and trained coaches... empowering you to manage your career with clarity and purpose.

    Fall enrollment ends on 9/30.

    Exclusive discount code for Full Harvardwood members. 
    Use Code MYPATH for $250 off 

  • published Issue 212 | September 2022 in HIGHLIGHTS Magazine 2022-09-01 14:07:18 -0700

  • published September 2022 | Andy Borowitz AB '80 in Alumni Profiles 2022-08-23 23:51:42 -0700

    September 2022 | Andy Borowitz AB '80

    amanda_micheli_cropped.jpgby Laura Frustaci

    In 2018, Andy Borowitz swept the nation with his comedy tour called “Make America Not Embarrassing Again,” a 90-minute stand-up show about how we ended up with Donald Trump as President. “Sarah Palin,” says Andy, “was the gateway idiot who led to Trump.” So, in 2021, mid-pandemic isolation, Andy decided to further analyze the historical significance of our ignorant politicians. “I ordered a lot of history books and started steeping myself in the political history of the last 50 years,” Andy recalls. And that’s where the idea for Profiles in Ignorance: How America’s Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber was born. 

    It quickly became apparent to Andy that everything began with Ronald Reagan’s victory in the 1966 California gubernatorial election. Essentially, Andy explains, “What the ‘60s started teaching political parties was they had to have candidates who were good on TV. Reagan’s campaign managers hired UCLA psychologists to pour facts into him so that it would seem like he knew enough.” It was a slippery slope from there. 

    This experiment was such a success that Reagan beat the incumbent Governor Pat Brown by one million votes. We descended from Reagan to Dan Quayle to George W. Bush to Palin to Trump. “In the 1960s it was important for a politician to appear to know things,” Andy argues. “But now it’s the opposite, because we’re scared of knowledge in this country.”

    Profiles in Ignorance is “very, very different from anything I’ve ever written before because The Borowitz Report is completely made-up, and Profiles is 100% true, nothing is made up, unfortunately,” Andy states. In writing this book, Andy hopes that “it motivates people to get to work and help elect well-informed candidates.”

    Even though it's all true, it's hard not to think of Profiles in Ignorance as the next phase of Andy's career as a political satirist. Andy created The Borowitz Report in 2001, and the satirical news column now has millions of readers around the world. His two most recent books were both best-sellers: The 50 Funniest American Writers and An Unexpected Twist, which Amazon named the Best Kindle Single of 2012.

    Profiles in Ignorance is divided into “The Three Stages of Ignorance”: Ridicule, Acceptance, and Celebration.

    “When I wrote this, I had a general sense, as a sentient human, that our politicians now were of a very low caliber,” Andy explains. “In the course of my investigation, those three stages emerged. First, the Ridicule stage, when it was still important for politicians to seem knowledgeable.” This was the era of Reagan, but also of Dan Quayle, who, like Reagan, knew very little but lacked Reagan’s ability to hide it. Then came the second stage: Acceptance. “George W. Bush started out like Quayle, knowing virtually nothing about foreign affairs,” Andy states. “But he turned his ignorance into an advantage: He’s just like an average American! Who would you rather have a beer with?” That brings us into the third stage: Celebration. In this era of politics, Andy says, the prevailing view is, “Knowledgeable people are elitist, and they are scheming against you, and they don’t understand you. Consequently, politicians with Ivy League degrees are now pretending to be idiots, saying things they clearly know better than to say because ignorance has become the coin of the realm.” 

    What was the biggest challenge for Andy in writing this historical book? “I had to come up with a topic that would hold my interest for a year,” Andy laughs. The Borowitz Report is much more ephemeral. “It’s like writing a haiku, you don’t have to focus on it for very long,” confesses Andy. “Of course, everything we do is ultimately disposable, every book, every play, everything, but this [book] was going to be in my life for a lot longer than a column. There was time to ruminate on it and refine things.” Overall, though, Andy says that “the creative process was tremendously enjoyable. There’s an advantage to breaking the mold of what you do a little bit.” 

    Taking a step back to look at the bigger picture, Andy hopes that his platform “can be useful to advance the common good. I never want to take myself seriously -- I’m a jokester, I’m always going to be a clown -- but I can leverage my platform to advance causes I believe in.” This book combines satire with political activism. “That’s the power of comedy,” Andy explains. “You develop an intimate relationship with your audience … and that’s helped me raise money for organizations I’m passionate about like Planned Parenthood and the International Rescue Committee.” Andy’s advice for people looking to be politically active? “Start locally. What are the problems with your community, what are the problems with your town?” 

    Over the past few years, the news cycle has gotten more and more outrageous. “Governmental malfeasance is a really good target for satire,” Andy confirms. “As our government was screwing up, that created more things to write about and more worthy targets. For me, writing jokes about the stuff is in and of itself really cathartic.” However, Andy specifies that for him, it’s important to be aware of who he’s targeting with his jokes. “I never make fun of victims. I try to identify who is the villain in the story, and go after them,” he explains. “It’s a way of channeling those negative emotions into something positive and maybe even entertaining.”

    After such a long and tremendously successful career, Andy certainly gained wisdom along the way. And he shares his best nugget: “Say yes. Don’t be afraid to say yes to things that are out of your immediate wheelhouse.” Additionally, he states, “One of the most important things anyone can possess is the acknowledgement of what we don’t know. Creatively, that’s important. Really try to embrace your intellectual humility, and that’s how you’re going to learn things. Surround yourself with people who know more than you do and mine their knowledge.” 

    Andy’s book Profiles in Ignorance will be released on September 13. He is appearing in conversation with Congressman Adam Schiff in Santa Monica, CA, on Friday, Sept 16. Click here for more information.

    Photo by Howard Schatz


    Dayna_Wilkinson_headshot.jpgLaura Frustaci ('21) is an NYC-based actor and writer. She recently completed a yearlong writing fellowship funded by Harvard in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she finished her first full-length play. Laura graduated from Harvard with a concentration in English, where she wrote a magna cum laude thesis about children’s literature. While at Harvard, Laura was the President of On Thin Ice, a member of one of the first female cohorts of performers in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, and she acted in many American Repertory Theater and Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club productions. She is currently a writer for numerous publications, including Buzzfeed.

  • published Issue 211 | August 2022 in HIGHLIGHTS Magazine 2022-08-02 14:29:08 -0700

  • 2022 Winners of Harvardwood Writers Competition & Most Staffable TV Writers

    Harvardwood has announced its latest set of Writers Competition winners, also naming its Most Staffable TV Writers for 2022.

    The official arts, media and entertainment alumni organization for Harvard University, Harvardwood looks to spotlight talented up-and-coming writers from diverse backgrounds and to connect them with mentors, as well as producers, agencies and management companies.

    Writer-producers participating in this year’s program as mentors include Carlton Cuse (Lost), Mark Goffman (The Umbrella Academy), Teresa Hsiao (Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens), Colleen McGuinness (Life & Beth) and Jeff Melvoin (Killing Eve).

    Read more

  • published Harvardwood is Hiring in Job Listings 2022-07-03 18:17:07 -0700

    Harvardwood is Hiring

    Looking for a part-time hustle with growth potential? A day job with exciting ties to entertainment and the arts? A way to give back to Harvardwood? We need you!

    Harvardwood is growing and expanding its activities, and we are looking for a handful of part-time associates to help administer programs and manage the daily activities of the organization. We are putting out the word to our community for creative, entrepreneurial individuals to join us.

    Associates will engage in a range of activities, possibly including programs/events; administrative; tech (websites, databases, etc); membership, communications, and marketing; and financials and budgeting. Specific responsibilities will be mutually determined based on area(s) of interest and expertise. Associates will work closely with current staff, leadership team, Board of Directors, members and external stakeholders. Location is remote, with occasional in-person work possible. Pay is hourly and varies based on role, responsibilities and experience. 

    If this may be right for you, please send resume and indication of your areas of interest to [email protected]!

  • Exclusive Q&A with Marshall Lewy AB ’99

    Marshall Lewy AB '99 is the current Chief Content Officer at Wondery, the largest independent podcast publisher and home to Dr. Death, Business Wars, The Shrink Next Door, American History Tellers, Dirty John and many more. Before his time at Wondery, Marshall wrote and directed the feature films Blue State and California Solo and was nominated for an Emmy for producing HBO’s TV series Project Greenlight featuring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

    Q: Your show WeCrashed, similarly to that of Hulu’s The Dropout and Showtime’s Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, focuses on a story of failed tech startup founders. Audiences seem ravenous for more of these true-life miniseries dramas. What do you think it is about these types of narratives that are so gripping to watchers? How much artistic liberty do you feel can be taken when adapting these stories to the screen? 

    A: We've told a lot of these sorts of true stories about bad actors in business across our various Wondery podcasts, from many seasons of Business Wars to our investigative miniseries like WeCrashed and The Vaping Fix, which was a series about the rise and fall of JUUL. They always have such fascinating characters, with stories of hubris and usually the perversion of the "American Dream." I think people respond because they tap into some deep vein that we all relate to, and they also are very of-the-moment for some of the challenges we're all going through collectively right now. I think we’re living through a period in time where lots of us are having trouble comprehending the larger realities happening all around us (e.g. pandemic, land war in Europe, domestic political upheaval, etc.), so we looking for an anchor of “truth” even in our fiction. And when it comes time to take these true podcasts and turn them into TV series, we recognize that the TV show is now a fictionalized drama, not an investigative series –  we want to support the vision of the writers, showrunners, actors, and directors who are working to bring the series to life. We share as much of our research and reporting as we can, but we also want them to make it their own, and hit the themes and truths they want to explore. 

    Q: Both WeCrashed and Joe vs. Carole are miniseries which originally played out as podcasts. How do you bring a podcast to life onscreen? How do you decide which podcasts could make compelling visual retellings in TV format?

    A: We never make a podcast for the sole reason of turning it into a TV series – we are attracted to these stories because they’re fascinating stories and we think podcast listeners will respond. But I think we've found success in bringing them to TV because the narrative, character-driven way we create our podcasts attracts visual storytellers. And in many cases, we’ve had actors want to play certain roles just from listening to our podcast, which was the case with Kate McKinnon signing on to play Carole Baskin (which was six months before the Tiger King documentary ever aired on Netflix!), as well as Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell for our podcast The Shrink Next Door.

    Q: You said in an article for The Hollywood Reporter that “listeners are growing more accustomed to podcasts that push the limits of how stories are told” in light of Wondery’s groundbreaking decision to release several podcast series in Dolby Atmos. This makes Wondery the first podcast streaming service in the US to deliver podcasts in the immersive sound format. What do you find unique about the further possibilities of the podcast format?

    A: I started as an avid listener of podcasts before I got into making them. I loved the purity of the writing and the production – compared with television and film, there are a lot fewer moving parts, production-wise. I also loved the intimacy and authenticity of them. Even though podcasts have been around in some form for almost twenty years now (and radio long before that), it’s still so early in the evolution of on-demand spoken-word audio and audio storytelling. Spatial audio, smart speakers, interactivity ... there’s still a lot more to explore.

    Q: Early on in your career, you accrued credits both as a writer and director, but for years your primary focus has been producing, especially podcasts. What led you to where you are now? What influenced you to pivot into producing, or was that always the goal? 

    A: My dream from the time I was a kid was always to be a film director. I went to film school at Columbia after Harvard and got an MFA in Film Directing. When I started film school, there wasn’t Youtube, podcasts, video streaming, etc. So my dream was to make thoughtful films that played in movie theaters on the big screen! But in the years after film school, I kept finding myself attracted to all the other ways that were proliferating around visual storytelling. So about a year after I wrote and directed a film that premiered at Sundance called California Solo, I started working more on the producing side, working with creators across all different types of media: film and TV, but also digital short-form, audio, book publishing, etc. I found it moved so much faster and allowed me to exercise so many different muscles than working on just one or two projects at a time. After that, it would be hard to go back to making just one movie at a time. At Wondery, I directed our first scripted audio drama Blood Ties, which just launched its third season, and that's been a great way to get back to directing scripted content.

    Q: In what ways did your time at Harvard influence the path you have taken since graduating?

    A: Well, I spent many, many nights during college watching old and obscure movies at the Harvard Film Archive and the Brattle Theater, and I took a bunch of film courses. I also created a “sitcom” at HRTV, the Harvard television station that had its headquarters in the basement of Pforzheimer House in the Quad. They had all kinds of video cameras and rudimentary digital editing systems back when you could only hold about 30 minutes of video footage on a single hard drive. We never got any audience because none of the houses at Harvard actually were wired for cable, but it was still a good way to practice making things.

    Q: In a 2020 interview, you mentioned that you hadn’t noticed an increase in podcast listeners due to the pandemic at that time. Now, over two years later, do you find that statement remains accurate, or has there been a tangible COVID impact on the podcast industry in the wake of months-long quarantines? How about in terms of the creation, rather than the consumption, of podcasts? 

    A: It's hard to delineate what growth over the past few years came from the podcast boom that had already begun pre-pandemic, with what got accelerated by the pandemic. We did see a pretty steep dropoff in podcast listening during the first few months of the pandemic, but listening bounced back quickly as people found new times of day and activities to do while listening to podcasts. For example, maybe they started listening to podcasts while walking the dog instead of driving to work. So the pandemic has been a time of listener growth, and I think of podcast creation, too. One of the best examples of a very successful podcast that was born out of the pandemic is Smartless, which we now distribute and have a major partnership with at Wondery and Amazon Music. We launched a show in March 2020 called Even the Rich which seemed very ill-timed when it first launched and got off to an extremely slow start, but it has since become one of our most successful ongoing shows. 

    Q: What do you think is most essential to crafting a successful podcast? 

    A: A passionate connection to the subject matter, access to something or someone (or a point of view) that no one else in the world has, and a good microphone.

    Q: Do you have a favorite podcast (or podcasts) you’d always recommend? What about TV shows, movies, or other go-to favorite pieces of media?

    A: I’ll stick with podcasts only so the answer doesn’t go too long, but you can’t go wrong starting with some of the greatest episodes and stories from This American Life.

    Q: How do you like to spend your time when you’re not working?

    A: I used to love running and cooking, but now I have 4 kids ages 10 and under, so it’s mostly work and family these days.


    Wondery's extensive catalog of podcasts can be found on their website at wondery.com. The TV show WeCrashed is available to watch on Apple TV+, and Joe vs. Carole is available to watch on Peacock.


  • published Issue 209 | June 2022 in HIGHLIGHTS Magazine 2022-06-01 12:00:12 -0700

  • Seeking Director / DP for Alumni Testimonials - Cambridge, MA

    Seeking Director / DP for Alumni Testimonials
    Cambridge, MA
    June 3-5

    Earlier this month, the Supreme Court received the opening brief from SFFA in their lawsuit against Harvard’s race conscious admissions policies, challenging forty years of legal precedent giving higher education institutions the ability to create diverse communities that enrich those institutions and society. As alumni, we all contributed to the broad diversity that is Harvard and were able to learn so much more during our time at Harvard because of the rich, vibrant communities Harvard's admissions policies helped facilitate. Now, we want to help Harvard by creating a viral social media campaign about the importance of diversity.

    Volunteer leaders from Harvardwood and the HAA are seeking a director, cinematographer or other film/video-savvy alum who will be in Cambridge between June 3-5 during reunions to record a series of 10-minute alumni testimonials supporting diversity in college admissions. The estimated time commitment for filming is 3 hours on one of those days, and an interior space on campus will be provided along with administrative support. Minimal tech requirements (an iPhone 11+ or similar should suffice). This is a pro bono project.

    If interested, please contact: [email protected]

    Read more

  • published Issue 208 | May 2022 in HIGHLIGHTS Magazine 2022-05-01 01:17:10 -0700

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