Issue 215 | December 2022


In this issue:



  • Harvardwood Holiday Auction 2022 - Bidding Live Now!
  • Harvardwood Holiday Party 2022 - December 4, Get Tickets Now!
  • Inaugural Harvardwood Producers Lab - Applications Available Now, Due December 17
  • Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship - Applications Available Now, Due January 9
  • Seeking "J-Termship" Opportunities for Harvardwood 101 Students
  • Seeking Homestay Hosts for Harvardwood 101 Students
  • Featured Job: Assistant, Comedy Touring (UTA) - CA


  • Alumni Profile: Desta Tedros Reff HLS ’13 (writer, director)
  • Industry News
  • New Members' Welcome
  • Exclusive Q&A with Loni Steele Sosthand AB ’97 (filmmaker)
  • 2022 HARVY Awards (Harvardwood Volunteer of the Year)


Become a Harvardwood member
as we further engage in socially active programming, discourse, and action to help change the entertainment industry.

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

The Holiday season is upon us, and we have applications available now for the Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship (now in its 2nd year). In addition, this marks the first year of the Harvardwood Producers Lab, applications available now. Scroll down for more information. 

This month, we're presenting the 2022 Harvardwood Holiday Party on December 4 in Los Angeles, tickets available below. In addition, the Harvardwood Holiday VIP Auction 2022 is now live — bid on meetings with alum producers and execs including Patric Verrone (Futurama, Disenchantment), Nicky Weinstock (Severance, Escape at Dannemora), Jaime Dávila (Selena: The Series) and Amazon executive Ayanna LonianAll proceeds go towards Harvardwood programs such as Harvardwood 101, Harvardwood Writers Competition, and more!

We are also looking for J-termship opportunities and homestay volunteers for our Harvardwood 101 kids, more details below. 

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 Associate
[email protected]

Harvardwood Holiday Auction - Bidding Live Until 12/31

Bidding is live until December 31, 2022!  Bid on meetings with alum producers and execs including Patric Verrone (Futurama, Disenchantment), Nicky Weinstock (Severance, Escape at Dannemora), Jaime Dávila (Selena: The Series) and Amazon executive Ayanna Lonian!


Our auction proceeds are a huge part of our year end fundraising efforts, so please bid and share among other Harvard alumni. All proceeds benefit Harvard student programs including Harvardwood 101, Summer Internship Program and Harvardwood HIGHLIGHTS writer stipends.

More information and other exciting items are available here! Thank you for your support of Harvardwood this holiday season!


Harvardwood Holiday Party 2022

You're invited to Harvardwood's Annual Holiday Party! Sunday, December 4th, 4:00-7:00pm at the St. Felix Hollywood.

Get tickets HERE!


Inaugural Harvardwood Producers Lab
Applications Available Now, Due December 17, 2022

Award-winning producers and Harvardwood Board Members Diane Nabatoff and Adam Fratto are leading an intimate virtual workshop for film and TV producers at all career stages.  Application (form here) is open to Harvardwood members.

When: one two-hour (minimum) session once a month, starting in January ‘23 and wrapping up in June ‘23.

How many: We are aiming to accept 6 qualified participants.  Participants must have at least one project to bring to the program and commit to attending all zoom sessions.

Format: This is not a lecture class; it is a workshop intended to provide participants support, feedback and counsel on the real-world projects they bring.  Each zoom session may have a talk about a specific topic and/or a guest lecture.  There will also be time for each participant to present their progress and ask questions.  In between sessions, participants will work on “homework,” or discrete project goals that they commit to pursuing in class, and report back.

The first of the six sessions will require each participant to present their project and articulate what help they hope to receive from the program. Once everyone has presented, we will determine how best to spend the next 5 sessions so that the program is most useful to the participants. This will be a working seminar to help participants effectively realize their visions.

Discussion will include:  Fine tuning your idea; How to package; How to sell, How to find financing.

Program fee: $250 (total for six session)

Applications due December 17th, 2022


Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship
Applications Available Now, Due
January 9, 2023

Applications are available now for the Mia and David Alpert Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship for graduating seniors or recent Harvard alumni working or seeking to work in the arts, media, and entertainment fields. The multiyear gift, generously donated by Harvardwood Co-Founder Mia Riverton Alpert ’99 and her husband, producer and media entrepreneur David Alpert ‘97, includes a $24,000 per-artist grant, awarded annually, to support one or more recent graduates from the College for one year as they pursue their artistic projects. Each Alpert Harvardwood Fellow will also be paired with a mentor in their field of interest to help guide their creative endeavors and will receive additional assistance through Harvardwood.

To apply, individuals must be current Harvard College seniors or have graduated from Harvard College within the past two years (i.e. class of 2021, 2022 or 2023), complete the application form, provide a resume, a work sample or portfolio, an introductory video, an artist statement, and more. Applications will be due January 9, 2023.

Click here for more information about the Harvardwood Artist Launch Fellowship.

Seeking “J-Termship” Opportunities for Harvardwood 101 Students (Virtual or In-Person)

The annual Harvardwood 101 career exploration program for undergraduates is coming up in January 2023!   If you or your company are interested in hosting one or more current Harvard College students, either virtually or in-person, we offer our Harvardwood 101 “J-Termship” program, which matches students with companies for 1-3 week educational experiences—you can think of them as short-term unpaid internships or “shadowing” opportunities. Official program dates are January 3-20, 2023, and J-termships can last between 1-3 weeks during that time or be open-ended, if you find that your needs extend past the dates of the program.

Examples of support that our students can provide include short-term research, general organizing, exploring emergent digital technologies, social media support, etc. We just ask that you chat with students 30-60 minutes per week, and they’d be eager to learn from you in any capacity!  J-termship opportunities may be offered in any geographical location and may take place in-person or virtually.

If you’re interested in a J-Termship match, please contact our Programs Associate Laura Yumi Snell at [email protected].

Seeking Homestay Hosts for Harvardwood 101 Students

Every year, our Harvardward 101 career exploration program offers a few dozen Harvard College students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend discussions with Hollywood executives, agents, writers, and artists. Though we pivoted to digital programming for the past two years, we’re thrilled to offer some in-person activities again this year.

Our Harvardwood 101 “J-Termship” program (short-term professional experiences) spans the first 1-3 weeks of January, and we are currently looking for homestay hosts during that time in LA and NYC.

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 Associate Laura Yumi Snell at [email protected] with your name, address/neighborhood, and the number of students you’re able to host.  Thank you!

Featured Job: Assistant, Comedy Touring (UTA) - CA

Job Description: 
UTA ‘s Comedy Touring department is seeking an Agent Assistant. UTA’s distinctive and world-renowned roster of comic talent is unrivaled in the industry. From college tours to arenas, from stand-up to podcasts. Candidates must have the ability to proactively function under tight deadlines in a fast -paced working environment and experience managing daily schedules/calendars, as well as preparing for meetings. Qualified candidates must have precise, detailed-oriented organizational skills, as well as excellent communication and writing abilities.

 Click here for more info!



Alumni Profile: Desta Tedros Reff HLS '13 (writer, director)

amanda_micheli_cropped.jpgby Laura Frustaci

“Entertainment is the most effective form of advocacy,” says Desta Tedros Reff, HLS ‘13. Most recently, she’s been executive producing the Amazon TV series A League of Their Own. The show has seen really positive reviews, especially with regard to its LGBTQ+-centered content. “We’re infusing both queerness and Blackness into this classic American film,” says Desta. “I was a lover of the film. As a queer Black woman, I’m very excited about putting myself into a narrative I always had to imagine myself in.” That’s part of what makes the show so resonant with audiences right now. Desta explains, “This was the first show I’ve ever been on where the room was so diverse in so many ways - queer writers, writers of color, trans writers, and non-binary writers. More than just the writers’ room, across the spectrum of the show, it was a supportive and safe space that translated to the screen.”

This is too infrequently the case in Hollywood spaces. “When I’m trying to translate my experiences, there's usually a communication barrier being surrounded by the straight white male as I try to explain myself to them,” Desta says. But, on A League of Their Own, Desta and the rest of the team have discovered, “We’re all speaking the same language, so we can have more nuanced and specific portrayals that people don’t usually see.” 

Desta didn’t always intend to go into TV writing. She attended Harvard Law School and graduated in 2013, then pursued social justice work, most notably in a small town in Mississippi (where she earned a Community Public Health Award, one of her proudest accomplishments). “They don’t give [the award] to outsiders very often, but I worked hard to be accepted into their community,” she smiles. And Desta continues this legacy in her work in the entertainment industry, citing a self-imposed “advocacy mandate” in everything she creates. 

Desta has certainly found television, film, and media to be extraordinarily effective advocacy resources. “I’ve done advocacy on multiple levels, and the hardest part is getting people to show up and listen,” Desta explains. “There’s much less convincing in entertainment. People come to you and they want to see what you have to say.” So, it’s been a rewarding career shift for her to be able to continue focusing her talents on helping people, but using television to appeal to a much broader and more willing audience. “We’re shaping culture and the way people see the world, so it’s the highest opportunity for advocacy. There’s opportunities in everything we create, and for me I’m always looking for that.” She parallels law and entertainment: “[TV] is not that different from what I do in the legal spaces. I’m working with smart, interesting people with diverse backgrounds trying to build something, whether that’s an argument or a story. It’s the same skills: I have to convince you, either to be on my side or to emotionally invest in the story I’m telling.”


Desta also points out that, “Advocacy exists on different shows on different levels. When I was a staff writer for Shooter, I wrote this scene in the show, and the leads drive by a confederate flag, the white lead and Black co-lead, and they have a semi-critical conversation about the confederate flag, and on that type of show with that type of audience, that can lead to tremendous change.” 

What does she like best about TV? Well, “What’s nice about television is that it’s really collaborative, which is what I enjoyed about law school. You are all the time creating with really cool people with really unique points of view and they bring pieces to a project that make it better and make you better…The strength of your collaborators elevates your skill.” How is this different from film?I like the idea of film,” says Desta, “Most people who are writers start writing features, but it’s different in film because there’s so much time. [TV] is more think-on-your-feet in a way that I find really engaging.” 

When asked what advice she had for aspiring writers and creatives, Desta replies, “Don’t lose your point of view because that’s what makes you special. Your POV can be a lot of things, for example, mine is a deep empathic storytelling - I always have to figure out what motivates people and the way people work, and I can’t help but empathize with them.” She continues, “What is your unique lens? Finding ways to show that is what will set you apart. A lot of scripts don’t jump off the page; there are good bits and pieces, but it still doesn’t jump off the page. What jumps off the page is pieces of you, as many pieces of you that you can put on the page, it makes a difference.” She also says to never stop creating. “The more you do things and put out into the world, it will help you be seen and it will help you get better.”

Desta also emphasizes the importance of living life in order to feed creativity. “You need to write and have interesting experiences. I’ve lived a full life, and it helps me balance the stakes of the career which can feel completely all-consuming. It’s so high stakes and so low stakes at the same time, so having a life helps you be a better creator and helps you weather the storm better. And it was the same thing when I went to law school.” Finally, she recalls, “Another writer gave me this advice once: 'Listen to your life, and it will actually guide you.' It’s not a race. If you put enough effort into something you will be successful you just can’t control when.”

Her success in the entertainment industry has come at the perfect time for her. Looking ahead, Desta is excited to be co-writing a pilot for HBO and hoping for a second season of A League of Their Own. In this industry, Desta says, “You’re always doing 50 things and nothing simultaneously.” In the time between that, Desta enjoys finding low-stakes, tangible creative projects with a beginning, middle, and end (like building her kids a playhouse) and then playing with her kids (in said playhouse).  

Desta Tedros Reff is a writer and director that has written for a variety of different shows, from character dramas (Sorry for Your Loss, The Last Tycoon) to action (Shooter) and then some (The Purge, Grand Hotel). Currently, she serves as an Executive Producer on Amazon's television reboot of A League of Their Own. Before transitioning to entertainment, Desta had a former career as a lawyer and spent several years in the Mississippi Delta working as a social justice advocate. Desta loves to tell stories from a place of empathy and is driven to bring marginalized perspectives into the mainstream, specifically through authentic portrayals of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC characters and stories.


Dayna_Wilkinson_headshot.jpgLaura Frustaci ('21) is an NYC-based actor and writer. She recently completed a yearlong Harvard Postgraduate Traveling fellowship in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she wrote her first full-length play. While at Harvard, Laura studied English and performed with the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, the HRDC, On Thin Ice, and  the American Repertory Theater.

Industry News

Jesse Leon (AB ‘01)'s memoir "I’m Not Broken" got an amazing review in The Crimson.

Broadway World says that anyone who sees Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf directed by James Bundy (AB ‘81) at the Yale Repertory Theatre is “fortunate indeed,” as it’s one of the best  productions the writer has seen in Connecticut “in the past fifteen years!”

Can’t get enough of Star Wars: Andor’s soundtrack? Composer Nicholas Britell (AB ‘03) has released "Niamos! (Morlana Club Mix)," the addictively catchy (and surprisingly modern) track from episode 7, “Announcement,” on his YouTube channel!

Dean Norris (AB ‘85), best known for his role in the hit TV series Breaking Bad, is set to appear in a new Netflix thriller called Carry On. The role will see him star alongside Logan Marshall-Green and Sinqua Walls!

Camp Siegfried, a new, intimate two-character play written by Bess Wohl (AB ‘96) and directed by David Cromer, opened Nov. 15 at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater. Wohl calls it a “deeply American play” about seduction. Critics call it “important,” “intimate,” “disturbing,” and “fascinating.” The show runs through December 4.

Netflix has released its first look at the upcoming The Pale Blue Eye, produced by John Lesher (AB ‘88)! the 1830-set movie sees Christian Bale portray a former police detective called upon to unravel the mysterious murder of a cadet at West Point.

Massachusetts Center for the Book has named Harvard Professor Tiya Miles (AB ‘92, RDI ‘22) the recipient of its Nonfiction Award for All That She Carried, a compassionate account of three generations of Black women’s lives, from slavery to freedom.

The TBS anthology comedy series Miracle Workers created by Simon Rich (AB ‘06) will return on January 16, 2023! “Miracle Workers: End Times” sees the show’s main cast head into a post-apocalyptic future for a nightmare domestic scenario.

Of Sherman’s Showcase by Bashir Salahuddin (AB ‘98) and Diallo Riddle (AB ‘97), the NYT says: “Spaceship? Check. Trap nursery rhymes? Check. Dashikis? Check… this musical comedy tribute to Black culture has returned, as joyfully absurd as ever.”

The Sundance Institute has introduced the latest crop of participants for its episodic program as well as its slate of creative advisors, including Daniel Chun (AB ‘02)

Prior to Broadway, Life of Pi will make its North American Premiere at the American Repertory Theater, co-led by Artistic Director Diane Paulus (AB ‘88) and Executive Director Kelvin Dinkins, Jr. from December 4, 2022, through January 29, 2023!

Ramin Barhani’s 2nd Chance, the feature-length documentary that Showtime Documentary Films landed after its Sundance Film Festival premiere earlier this year and produced by Joshua Oppenheim (AB ‘96), is headed for theaters ahead of its TV debut next spring!

She Said, the new film produced by Jeremy Kleiner (AB ‘98) and composed by Nicholas Britell (AB ‘03) was released by Universal on Nov. 18! The film depicts the work done by journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey to break the story of Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct allegations.

Roadside Attractions, the indie distribution company run by Howard Cohen (AB ’81) and Eric d'Arbeloff (MBA ’93), has Call Jane in theaters now, and is releasing doc To the End on Dec. 9! Make sure to catch these incredible films!

Sinclair Daniel, as well as Ashleigh Murray, Brittany Adebumola and Hunter Parrish have joined the cast of The Other Black Girl as series regulars. Marty Bowen (AB ‘91) produces on behalf of Temple Hill Entertainment!

Read Harvard Magazine’s interview with Kevin Kallaugher (AB ‘77) on the art of editorial cartooning! He’s produced some 10,000 cartoons for the Baltimore Sun and The Economist and his work is syndicated in more than 100 newspapers worldwide.

In the first trailer for Peacock’s forthcoming Pitch Perfect spinoff series Bumper in Berlin, produced by Megan Amram (AB ‘10), Adam Devine’s Bumper has some new challenges to conquer on his path to international superstardom –– including Jameela Jamil.

Randi Zuckerberg’s (AB ’03) recently-formed company Assemble Stream, Inc. announced Thursday it is acquiring Web3 membership community Meta Angels! Meta Angels will join HUG under the Assemble umbrella.

The nine-episode first season of the HBO Original drama series The Last of Us, executive produced by Carolyn Strauss (AB ‘85) debuts Sunday, January 15 at 9:00 PM ET/PT on HBO and will be available to stream in 4K on HBO Max!

Jack White, the former White Stripes leader, has joined John Lithgow (AB ‘67, ARD ‘05) in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, which stars Leonardo Di Caprio and is set to be released on Apple TV+!

A new trailer has just been released for The Whale, the upcoming drama directed by Darren Aronofsky (AB ‘91), which is already generating awards buzz for what IndieWire calls Brendan Fraser’s career-best performance.

Edgar Ramirez has been cast as the lead in Season 2 of Dr. Death at Peacock, which is executive produced by Marshall Lewy (AB ‘99)! It will tell the true story of Paolo Macchiarini, whom Ramirez will play.

Read The Harvard Crimson’s Harvard Authors Spotlight with Gabrielle Zevin (AB ‘00), author of the New York Times bestselling novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow! The article is written by Hannah E. Gadway (AB ‘25).

CBS is developing the drama series Manner of Death from writer and executive producer Emily Silver! The CBS Studios project will also be executive produced by Dan Lin (MBA ‘99) and Lindsey Liberatore for Rideback.

Hear the first songs from Damien Chazelle’s upcoming film Babylon, composed by Oscar-winning composer Justin Hurwitz (COL ‘08)! Rolling Stone says the first offerings have arrived “with a wild energy to match the film’s hedonistic vibe.”

‘Sidney’ Director Reginald Hudlin (AB ‘83) says he ‘Doesn’t Exist’ without the work of Sidney Poitier. After making his documentary about the Hollywood icon, the director reflected to IndieWire, "Sidney was doing exactly what we as a people needed him to do."

Listen to "Awake at Midnight" from Bliss, Emma Lively and Tyler Beattie's musical comedy sounds designed by Tony winner Nevin Steinberg (AB ‘89), follows four unconventional princesses as they escape their sheltered lives.

Searchlight Pictures has wrapped production on The Supremes At Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, produced by Marty Bowen (AB ‘91), and announced that Dijon Means, Xavier Mills, Cleveland Berto and Ryan Paynter will round out the cast!

There, There, the new film by Andrew Bujalski (AB ‘98), is now on VOD! The film stars Jason Schwartzman, Lili Taylor, Lennie James, Molly Gordon, Avi Nash, Annie La Ganga, Roy Nathanson, and Jon Natchez. IndieWire says that the film is “COVID cinema done right” and “viscerally concerned with how we see the space that separates people.”

Robin Weigert and Lior Ashkenazi have been cast in series regular roles on the Hulu Limited Series We Were The Lucky Ones, starring Joey King and executive produced and written by Erica Lipez (AB ‘05)

Iain Reid and Jason Schwartzman are adapting Apples - a 2020 Greek film of the same name from Christos Nikou - for TV. Nikou will direct and it will be executive produced and written by Reid and Schwartzman. Carolyn Strauss (AB ‘85) will EP through Sister!

California-based production company 44 Blue Productions has brought former Snap executive Jill Dickerson (AB ‘91) aboard as its new executive vice president! Congratulations Jill!

Watch Apple TV+’s Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock: Night of the Lights holiday special, executive produced by Lisa Henson (AB ‘82)! The Fraggles have returned for new adventures about the magic that happens when we celebrate our interconnected world.

New Members' Welcome

Harvardwood warmly welcomes all members who joined the organization last month:

  • Dan Soliman, Kennedy School, DC
  • Andrew Zuckerman, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • Alex Aldrich, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • Rebeccah Fleischmann, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • Elyse Martin-Smith, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • Noel Manzano
  • Bimba Carpenter, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • Raye Mitchell, HLS, LA
  • Fergal OGorman, NY
  • Evelyn Carr, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • Samuel Bennett, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • Ioana Belu, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • Sophia Wang, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • Omar El-Halwagi, Kennedy School, LA
  • Marwan Refaat, Ext., LA
  • Kiran Iyer, HLS, LA
  • Hannah Kim, College, LA
  • Adam McCabe, Ext., LA
  • Victoria Johnson Campbell, Kennedy School, LA
  • Sophia Pasalis, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • Tristen Tarp, LA
  • Brady Connolly, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • Majd Steitieh, Kennedy School, LA
  • Victor Arruda, College, BOS/On-Campus
  • June Vayo, College, LA
  • Jeffrey Levy, Ext., BOS/On-Campus

Exclusive Q&A with Loni Steele Sosthand AB ’97 (filmmaker)

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.


2022 HARVY Awards (Harvardwood Volunteer of the Year)

Since 2010, Harvardwood has identified one or more individuals to receive a “Harvardwood Volunteer of the Year” (aka HARVY) award, to honor volunteers who have demonstrated outstanding service and dedication to our organization.

Sarah Zeiser PhD ‘12

Co-Director of the Boston Harvardwood Writers Program

Dr. Sarah Zeiser is Co-Director – with Heather Faris – of the Boston Harvardwood Writers Program and has been a module leader in the Jeff Sagansky Harvardwood TV Writers Program. She is a recipient of the Gold Prize for TV Drama Pilot in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards for her script about the early life of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and won a Fellowship to attend the Stowe Story Labs with her pilot about the murder of a woman believed to be a fairy changeling in late-19th-century Ireland. (They say write what you know, and she knows history pretty well). 

Dr. Zeiser holds a BA in Medieval Studies from Smith College and an AM and PhD in Celtic Languages & Literatures and Medieval Studies from Harvard, where she is currently an Associate of the Department of Celtic and Manager of Special Projects for the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning. She has held fellowships at the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Besides writing, she also enjoys playing the violin, crafting, and annihilating her enemies during board games.

Kristen Shim AB '17

Director, Harvardwood Mentorship Program

A native of San Diego, Kristen has worked in various non-arts related corporate jobs - strategy consulting, product design - while pursuing her true passion: writing fiction. She is currently working on her first short story collection. She graduated from Harvard in 2017 with a degree in economics.


Heather Faris

Co-Director of the Boston Harvardwood Writers Program.

Writer-Producer Heather Faris has won numerous awards for her TV and feature scripts, most notably the Black List/Cassian Elwes Screenwriting Fellowship, the Page International Screenwriting Awards, and a CineStory TV Lab Fellowship. She is also an Academy Nicholls Fellowship semifinalist. Heather attended UCLA’s Professional Program in Screenwriting, has a master’s degree in psychology, and co-produced the film LULLABY, starring Garrett Hedlund.

Heather’s experiences as a photo editor for Vanity Fair magazine, post-feminist film reviewer as “Betty Crocker,” clinical psychotherapist, college writing professor, and community organizer all fuel her desire to write compelling female leads in stories that create social, political, or spiritual change. After penning a novel and several screenplays about the Vietnam War, Heather led an effort to build a school in rural Cambodia named for Cambridge; she continues to mentor local students to support it.

Heather is represented by Empirical Evidence.



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