Exclusive Q&A with Danielle Parsons AB '95

Danielle Parsons AB '95 specializes in making small subjects larger than life in documentary and video art using microscopes and macro setups. Danielle is the founder of Wonder Science, a Los Angeles-based production company and worldwide streaming app available on Roku, Apple TV, iOS, Android, and Fire TV players. The channel’s programming combines science and art, inviting viewers to see the invisible, and experience a flow-like state of relaxation and curiosity. As a student at Harvard College, Danielle drew inspiration from scientists E.O. Wilson and Stephen Jay Gould. Her passion for film has taken her to some far flung places, from Kazakhstan to the Galapagos Islands. She has produced and directed content for TV and digital outlets such as The History Channel, Showtime, Disney, WIRED, NPR, BBC, and Slate. Danielle's video art has exhibited at museums and galleries including SLOMA, IFP New Media Center, LAPL, and the SPRING/BREAK art show. She built a science museum in the metaverse. Danielle’s work has screened at festivals including the Imagine Science Film Festival, Goethe Science Film Festival, and the Infinity Festival, among others. Danielle creates concert visuals and music videos for bands such as Metallica. She is repped commercially by MAJORITY.

Q: Wonder Science, your amazing content platform where viewers can enjoy and learn from “a fusion of art and science”, is soon launching an app version! What does this mean for you and the platform’s future? What’s the most exciting thing about having a mobile version?

Thank you for your question and compliment! We launched the Android app in May, so now Wonder Science is available through both the iPhone App store and Google Play Store. The mobile apps represent another extension of the Wonder Science brand, putting relaxing, beautiful science into the hands of more people. They will also serve as an additional revenue stream, which is particularly valuable as I bootstrap the business!

I hope the omnipresence of mobile will cause even one viewer to start a science conversation with the person next to them. And I hope new users on mobile will also find their way to watching Wonder Science on larger TV screens via the streaming platforms, Apple TV, Roku, and Fire TV, since subscribers can watch on any device.

Q: You studied science at Harvard, then worked for several years in Hollywood as a filmmaker at MPCA, MGM and Destination Films, and eventually the History Channel. What made you gravitate towards film and Hollywood with your scientific background? 

It may appear as a pivot, but it was a natural progression. My focus had already expanded beyond science during my studies. While studying genetics and evolutionary biology, I had incredible professors like E.O. Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould, and Richard Lewontin, who opened my eyes to the intricate workings of the natural world. However, I never aspired to be a scientist. Advancing genetics requires intense repetition and specificity, and I was drawn to broader interests and making connections between diverse ideas. In my junior year, I petitioned to change my concentration to Social Studies, one of Harvard's few interdisciplinary paths, which I ultimately graduated with.

As for my interest in film, I had produced several plays during my time at Harvard, which sparked my curiosity. Working in film seemed to be a prevalent option among my peers, alongside investment banking and law school, after graduation. I had the opportunity to intern with a producer in Los Angeles during the summer between my junior and senior years, and that experience clinched the deal. So, after graduating, I headed to Hollywood.   

Q: Where did intersections between art and science first develop in your work? What personal experiences or specific gaps in science education led you to found Wonder Science?

Leading up to launching the Wonder Science channel, I had enjoyed a decade of complete creative freedom during which I produced much of its content. I have a home filming and editing studio and could do everything literally in house. The artistry in my work emerged from patiently observing and appreciating the beauty of the subjects I filmed. With limited resources, I also relied on the creative problem-solving skills of myself and my talented collaborators. We used traditional arts and crafts supplies to visualize elements that were too small to be filmed directly. For instance, we crafted molecules by gluing together balls of fluff and created stop-motion animations of quantum processes using cut-up construction paper.

Through filming hundreds of hours of science solely under my own direction, the style of my content diverged from what I saw in mainstream science media. And I thought there was value in that. As the independent streaming industry began to gain traction, I worked with multiple tech teams until we successfully developed the Wonder Science apps. I was excited to have a platform to reach audiences directly. During one summer, I assembled a team of seven editors, and together we sifted through the hundreds of hours of footage, ultimately producing twenty-five programs that became the foundation of Wonder Science. The videos covered a range of topics, including microorganisms, gems, physics, flowers, biology, and even seven videos dedicated to ants.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges of creating microscopic content? How do you even film something that’s invisible to the naked eye? 

Filming through microscopes is incredibly satisfying. It’s almost a cheat, the factor of strangeness one can achieve looking at almost anything under a microscope. There are several types of microscopy, some of which manipulate light in ways that accentuate different aspects of a subject – one technique makes a microbe seem to glow from within; another technique is great for capturing surface detail on its body. There is a delightful range of what I call “in-scope effects” that can be achieved with different filters, and even DIY. There is also microscopy that doesn’t use light at all, like electron microscopy.

As for how to film invisible subjects, it takes attaching a camera to a microscope via an adaptor. In cases where there isn’t light to capture, as when imaging the smallest things possible, it involves simply setting up a screen capture. The main trick is the microscopy. Microscopy is hard. Electron microscopes I couldn’t begin to operate alone. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people, especially to members of the Microscopy Society of Southern California, who have taught me light microscopy hands on. I try to pass it on by volunteering at STEPCon, acquainting hundreds of young students with the microscope as a window to wonder. 

To do light microscopy requires directing the light through the optics of the microscope such that the subject is illuminated and in focus. To do video microscopy is challenging because one must attend to multiple things at once: operate the camera as well as the microscope, keep the subject in focus, move the stage to keep it in frame, adjust the height of the condenser to focus the light. 

When filming so small an area, any introduction of kinetic energy into this ‘set’ – such as the light touch of a finger on the stage or focus knob, or one’s breath -- can cause shot-ending perturbations in the medium. 

One annoying but all too real challenge of filming microscopy is dealing with dust, which will detract from the impact of the footage. Sometimes the dust is on the slide. So you have to start over with a different sample on a clean slide. But count yourself lucky, because inside a microscope, there are a maddening number of hard to access places in which dust particles can collect, one more delicate than the next. When dust is unavoidable, which seems to always be the case to some degree, it then becomes a painstaking chore to mask it out as best as possible in editing. Glamorous work.

Q: How do you decide what content to create? And how do you work to ensure the content provided by Wonder Science remains up to date and relevant in an ever-changing scientific landscape?

At Wonder Science, the decision-making process for creating content is driven by a genuine sense of curiosity and enthusiasm. Firstly, my personal intellectual curiosity plays a significant role. I’ve been following that thread for years, across several broad topics represented in my work. By collaborating and conversing with experts, I gain insight that informs the content creation process. Additionally, sometimes random topics will leap out from newsletters and science publications. Other times, I figure out what’s interesting to say about something that I want to film because it’s beautiful.  

I strive to stay connected with the scientific community and keep abreast of the latest developments in several fields. I’m involved with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and attend their conferences. I am an active member of scientific groups including the Microscopy Society of Southern California and the Lorquin Entomological Society. 

I trust my intuition to draw me to topics that are years ahead of the curve. For example, I was knee-deep in making a project on light capture during photosynthesis when experimental evidence was published saying that the process involved quantum coherence, which was at that time highly surprising to find in a biological system, and which went on to buttress the emerging field of quantum biology. More than once, I have been asked to wait to release a video until after research was published. 

Wonder Science also creates evergreen content about foundational science that will never go out of date. While some aspects of science remain enduring, there are always new breakthroughs and discoveries to explore. So it’s about striking a balance between established knowledge and emerging frontiers.

Q: What are your future plans and aspirations for Wonder Science?

One of my goals for Wonder Science is to communicate all the fascinating and important science I’ve researched over the years. To achieve this, I plan to create versions of existing and new content that incorporate narration and interviews with scientists while staying true to the channel's spirit. We have already released five narrated episodes. I’m planning to grow the content offerings over the next couple years by continuing to license outside content as well as producing in house. There are virtual reality projects and educational video games I’d be excited to do. There is merch I’m dying to make. I want to create and exhibit more science art. 

I’ve nearly always retained the rights to what I produce, and I plan to continue to grow the value of my library of science content. I am preparing to pursue funding. In order to be eligible for grants, I recently established Wonder Science Education Corp as a 501(c)(3) non-profit branch of the company. All of my big plans for Wonder Science really hinge on attracting an amazing team of people, including a CEO, and a genius who can grow our audience across all the apps.

As I look ahead, my long-term vision for Wonder Science is as a multimedia brand, akin to a young National Geographic, infused with emerging music and culture. The ultimate goal is for this overall project to help people connect with their innate sense of wonder, and to incrementally improve the health of our planet and the well-being of all its inhabitants.

Q: I played around in the Wonder Science “Metaverse” for a little bit– it’s AWESOME! How do you think AI is going to impact anything in the Wonder Science-related or STEM space, along with both the entertainment and educational spaces at large?

I’m psyched that you did that! The main Wonder Science metaverse headquarters that you visited is in Voxels, a player-built metaverse on the Etherium blockchain. I have imagined for years a Wonder Science Museum, but my ambitious designs would require mammoth sums to accomplish IRL. Suddenly I could draft the first science museum in the metaverse where anything is possible and even the rules of gravity can be ignored in pursuit of scientific learning! Now we’re waiting to see how the metaverse landscape shakes out in time. 

And now everyone is weighing in on AI which has seemingly instantly changed everything. It feels like we’re living in that stunned instant after a deep cut, staring at gaping flesh before the blood starts pouring out. I actually don’t feel entirely fatalistic about AI though, despite the  gruesome choice of analogy. I mean, there will be massive job disappearances, and some networked AI may blow us all to smithereens next year. But I believe the potential is there for equally radical upsides. And that is thrilling, because the planet could use some huge upsides.

But as to my opinion about AI in STEM and the entertainment and educational spaces… In education as in news, from here on there is no certain truth unless you see it happening in real life in real time. There is no way to assess a student’s knowledge unless you watch them in person write their exams and essays on paper, in the absence of phones or other devices. It’s funny to me the way in which this technological advancement may semi throw us back to a time before computers. Certainly I think AI will advance our entire concept of knowledge.

I guess the entertainment and education we consume will get super excellent, human artists and copyright holders be damned. Personally so far I have been using AI as a tool to improve the quality of my footage through upsizing and slow motion. I don’t yet have ideas on other ways I would comfortably use AI in Wonder Science educational projects. Check back soon! As a science artist, I’m intrigued to collaborate creatively with AI. 

Q: Finally, what do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy spending free time with my partner and my dog, and hanging out with friends. I like going to museums, movies, and the occasional Broadway show. I tend to have a novel going. I sometimes like to cook. I require free time in nature, hiking or exploring. I am a friend to insects and will interrupt a doubles tennis match to ferry a bee off the court. 


Exclusive Q&A with Anthony Chin-Quee AB '05

Anthony Chin-Quee AB '05 is a board certified Otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose, and Throat surgeon) with degrees from Harvard University and Emory University School of Medicine. He has appeared at The Moth competitions, where he’s won their Story Slam, placed as a runner-up in the Detroit Grand Slam, and performed on the NYC Moth Mainstage. He was a medical consultant for ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and a member of the writing staff of FOX’s The Resident for two seasons, distilling complex medical and social issues into palatable and understandable mainstream storylines. His critically acclaimed memoir, I Can’t Save You—a candid account of the ways in which medical residency training shattered the mind of an empathetic, well-intentioned doctor, and the arduous task of piecing it back together again through painful and overdue self-discovery—was released by Riverhead Books on April 4th, 2023. He has published opinions in Forbes and been interviewed by NPR on the topic of systemic racism in medical education. Anthony currently resides in England with his wife and daughter.

Q: Your memoir I CAN’T SAVE YOU was released on April 4th, 2023. Can you explain where the idea for writing this memoir came from originally, and what pushed you to follow through with it?

I actually remember the exact moment that the idea came to me. I was in the middle of a devastating episode of major depression during medical training: I couldn’t work, funds were running low, and I was on the losing side of a daily argument with a voice in my head that kept telling me that speed limits were light suggestions and seatbelts were annoying and ineffective. So, to summarize: I was doing great.

Then one night in bed, the anti-depressants finally started to kick in, the fog in my mind burned off, and I realized I needed to find a reason to keep going. Not just to keep living, but to keep doing this work that seemed to be killing me every day. And suddenly I remembered: I was really good at telling stories. Since I was young, I’d always loved building them, and people always seemed to gravitate toward them. It was a skill and a love that I thought had been beaten out of me by my job, but it somehow managed to find me on a night when I’d run out of things to hold on to.

There was no lofty societal inspiration. Just the hope that through the promise of storytelling I’d survive. And the distant wish that someday someone might read it and feel a little less lonely.

As far as what pushed me to follow through? Well we’ve only recently gotten curious enough as a society to learn that ‘hero’ doctors have limits and breaking points–all it took was a worldwide pandemic, a doubling of their already insane work-hours, working under the constant threat of dying from an incurable disease, and skyrocketing suicide statistics. Super low bar for humanizing the medical profession, right? But we can’t let the moment vanish just because the stories are no longer in the news. Our stories of survival and sacrifice have always been this dire. And if we have any hope of changing the profession for the better, the time to strike is now.

Q: What lessons do you hope readers take away from your story? What did you really try to focus on communicating or highlighting for your audience as you were writing?

I’d like for readers to know that it’s okay if you’ve spent minutes of, years of, or your entire life feeling like something inside of you is broken or irredeemable. That feeling need not guide you, and it doesn’t have to last forever. The choice to love yourself, your entire self and all of the paths you’ve walked is one you can make any time. There’s no magic to it. It’s just a choice. And lots of affirmations. And a lifetime of work. But once you commit to that choice, there’s no love like it in the world. 

Q: This memoir addresses some deeply personal struggles and challenges you’ve faced in terms of racism, mental health, and being in the medical field. Were you at all nervous about sharing such personal material, and was there anything you felt you had to hold back?

My main challenge in writing this story wasn’t nerves or anxiety about sharing, but managing to share completely. I realized, as I made my way through my first draft, that many experiences and emotions that I thought I’d navigated completely still required much more work in therapy. Honesty came easy, but the act of gaining enough perspective and self-awareness to tell a story of growth, forgiveness and self-love took a lot of intentionally uncomfortable work.

Q: What was the process like for getting your memoir published? Did you have any challenges finding an agent or publisher? 

I knew absolutely nothing about the publishing world when this journey began. I didn’t have any connections or any personal fame or notoriety, so I was really at the mercy of what Google could teach me about “how to publish a book." All I knew was that I had to go on the hunt for a literary agent. So, I put together a snappy query letter (which I based on templates I found on the internet), and sent out cold emails to dozens of agents. And then I got the rejections. Dozens of them. It wasn’t until about eleven months had gone by, and I’d been rejected by about sixty agents, that one took an enthusiastic chance on me. And luckily, it was a match made in heaven. My agent, Jon Michael Darga, has become both a great friend and a fierce professional advocate. Once I signed with him, he worked tirelessly to get me set up at the right publishing house for my book.

Q: In writing this, did you find that any of your ideas or preconceptions shifted as you explored your past and history in the medical field as a Black man? Or did the feelings and thoughts that you’ve had all along sort of just crystalize more clearly?

When I began writing, I’d already gone through several phases in the evolution of my identity as a Black man—not only in medicine but in America and, really, in the world at large. The fun part was figuring out creative and poignant ways to articulate that journey. I had a feeling that there were many people out there who would relate to having a long and often uncomfortable journey through their understanding of their own racial identities, and I wanted to make sure I honored those experiences with as much clarity and empathy as I could manage.

Q: Ultimately, are you glad that you went into medicine? Is there anything about your career that you regret? And what have you done throughout your career that you’re most proud of? 

Even though, knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do it again, I wouldn’t know all that I know now if I hadn’t gone through it. So, I don’t regret any part of my medical career. Plus, it was the experience that I gained in the journey through medicine that made my entry into my new career possible. I love utilizing all that I’ve learned about both life and medicine in a way that more closely aligns with the things I’m passionate about.

Medicine-wise, the thing I’m most proud of is the way in which I’ve tried to identify others who were struggling through the profession, and help them to find confidence, community, and the freedom to be themselves. The journey, for many of us, is relentlessly dehumanizing. We lose so much of ourselves along the way, and we’re conditioned by our job to believe that we are alone in these feelings. But we’re not. And we all deserve to know that. 

Q: There unfortunately still remains a stigma surrounding discussion of mental health, especially in communities of color. How does your memoir seek to address this challenge, and does any of your other work (as a TV writer) encompass that discussion? Have you seen any changes in this stigma with the pandemic and increased awareness/conversation surrounding mental health while everyone was in quarantine?

The stigma you mentioned is still very prominent, even with the increased spotlight mental health has received over the course of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the onus has remained on the individual to recognize when they need help themselves, as opposed to restructuring our systems and workplaces to be more hospitable and supportive of our collective mental health and wellness.

So, given the fact that much of society has decided that we are ‘on our own’, it was really important to me to depict my experience of depression honestly and completely. I focused on painting as clear a picture of how the world felt both inside and outside of my head as my brain slowly crumbled. I wanted to show as many sides of the illness as possible—from the catatonic depths to the hilarious highs to the alcohol drenched hazy moments in between—so that readers who suffer (and loved ones of those readers) could recognize just how many faces this deceptive disease can take on. If we can recognize more of our individual triggers and warning signs, we might stand a chance at taking control of our mental wellness before we get to that dangerous point of no return. 

You were a story editor for the hit medical TV drama THE RESIDENT. How do you take your experiences in the medical field and use them in your work as a writer on the show?

I love the medium of television, because it’s an opportunity to educate on a very large scale, especially when it comes to medical dramas. As we crafted each episode, we’d often begin with a theme we wanted to explore. And these themes were often tied into broader medical/healthcare issues that we knew to be important to large groups of people. Then we’d use our stories as opportunities to teach the audience about how to advocate for their own health without getting didactic and preachy. One of my favorite episodes to write was about obesity bias in medicine, and how healthcare providers can miss vital diagnoses when we are preoccupied with a patient’s weight. I think we were able to empower a lot of people with that story, as well as demand that we as providers address our blind spots of bias.

Q: What was the process like for sitting down to write a memoir versus writing for television? Any surprising differences or similarities in the mediums?

The processes are extremely different! Memoir writing was a largely solitary pursuit, demanding that I create deadlines in my head as motivation to keep plugging away. Writing for TV is a total group effort. You have a whole room full of smart, creative writers who are always ready to throw new ideas into the mix. Writer’s block isn’t really a thing when working in television, since much of the process is creation by committee. When I hit a wall with the memoir, the work just stopped indefinitely! No more words until I’d taken a break/eaten a snack/gone on vacation!

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

One of the best things I learned while at Harvard was that I didn’t need to feel that my life path was limited by the paths that had already existed in the world around me. I’ve never been around a group of people (before or since college) who so freely believed that they could create the career, life and world that they wanted, even if it hadn’t existed before. It’s super cocky for sure, and can lead you to be somewhat reckless, but the sliver of that hubris that I managed to adopt freed me to leap from the well-trodden medical path into the unknown. And for that, I’m eternally grateful to the Harvard community.

Q: Finally, what do you like to do in your free time?

I love laughing and being silly with my wife and daughter! And when it comes to down time, I read lots of books (YA sci-fi/fantasy is my fave), play video games, and watch an enormous amount of TV (a bit of an occupational requirement).


May 2023 | Logan Steiner JD ‘09

by Laura Frustaci

Logan Steiner JD ‘09 is a lawyer by day and a writer by baby bedtime. Her writing explores motherhood and the creative life—two things she once thought could never happily coexist. Logan also writes a Substack newsletter called The Motherhood Question. After graduating from Pomona College and Harvard Law School, Logan clerked for three federal judges, spent six years in Big Law, and served for three years as an Assistant United States Attorney. She now specializes in brief writing at a boutique law firm. Logan lives in Denver with her husband, daughter, and the cranky old man of the house, a Russian Blue cat named Taggart. Her debut novel After Anne will be published by William Morrow on May 30th

Logan Steiner JD ‘09
always knew that she wanted to write. But her journey to becoming a published author wasn’t as direct as some might expect. After getting her undergrad degree in English at Pomona College, Logan attended Harvard Law School. Currently, Logan is a litigator who specializes in brief writing at a boutique law firm. So, where did she get the inspiration (and the time) to write After Anne: A Novel of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Life?

“I wanted to write from a really young age,” Logan explains, “and I love Anne of Green Gables; it was one of the most influential books I read when I was young. The series is near and dear to my heart.” Logan recalls. “I got really good advice from trusted professors...I was debating the English PhD route, and they said that’s a very narrow and very long path, so if there’s something else you’re interested in, try that first. Law was interesting to me, so I went to law school with the aim of writing but not putting pressure on my creative dreams to support me.” Logan feels that this distinction was very beneficial to her creative process. 

From a young age, Logan’s artist mother instilled in her the idea of not relying on art to make a living. Logan’s mom taught her to have something steady to pay the bills. For Logan, this was law. “I continue to appreciate the flexibility of a law career,” Logan begins. “Fast forward several years after graduating from law school, I had clerked for judges and worked at a Big Law firm. I was getting good experience and had great opportunities, but I had lost focus on my creative dreams.” Then, unexpectedly, Logan experienced a tragic family event that she said served as her wakeup call: the death of her younger brother. “Losing my younger brother unexpectedly was such a shock to my system and to my family,” Logan explains. “It woke me up to the fact that life is finite, and I didn’t want to put off doing the thing I had always wanted to do for any longer. I took a six month unpaid leave of absence from my law firm and started researching and writing After Anne.” 

Logan was set on her genre of choice before she even began brainstorming. “I knew I wanted to write historical fiction about the life of a creative person. I’ve always been interested in the story within the story—the story of the person who wrote the books that I love,” Logan says. “I went on a hunt for writers whose work had stuck with me over the years, and Anne of Green Gables was such an early influence for me… I read about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life and had this immediate response of wanting to tell her story.”


Lucy Maud Montgomery (who went by Maud), the prolific and talented author of Anne of Green Gables and over 20 other novels, as well as 530 short stories and 500 poems, compelled Logan. “She had an incredible life documented in public journals, and in a wonderful biography written of her, but there was a lot of mystery. Her granddaughter revealed that she committed suicide in 2008, generations after the fact. The fact that Maud committed suicide but wrote such life-affirming characters opened up so many questions for me.” So, Logan got to work exploring these questions. It was a long journey of research and writing. Logan went back to her law job full time and continued writing on the side. Once she had a completed draft, it was another long and winding path to finding an agent and a publisher. “That took time and resilience in the face of rejection,” Logan smiles. “Learning about Maud’s own resilience was helpful to keep myself going.” 

One major challenge of writing historical fiction is drawing the line between sensationalizing and reporting. Logan’s process was to first scour historical research and scholarly literature written about Maud, including the biography Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings by Mary Henley Rubio. “One of my goals was to be a complement to, and not compete with, the biographical account, while getting to the emotional realities and undercurrents,” Logan notes. “ A couple of early readers wanted the book to be more sensationalized. I wasn’t willing to do that. I was committed to keeping it authentic. Maud was a complex woman, so it took a lot of drafts to get things right.” 

However, there were several places where the historical record leaves gaps, and where Logan was excited to extrapolate on Maud’s story. “She left a note beside her bed when she died that read like a suicide note, but it  had the page number ‘176’ at the bottom that looked just like the page numbers in Maud’s journal notes,” Logan explains.  “The first 175 pages—which were likely journal notes from the last three years of Maud’s life—have never been found. There are many different things that could have happened to those 175 pages, but I wrote about the one I think is most likely based on what I’ve come to know of Maud: that she burned those pages so there wouldn’t be a detailed record of her last few, painful years.  Maud was fascinated with fire from a young age, and she was committed to editing and curating [her] story. She edited her own journals for eventual publication and had bonfires burning papers at the end of her life. So I imagined my best guess of what happened to those 175 pages into the novel.” Examples like these demonstrate the balance Logan struck between her own creative voice and Maud’s recorded reality.

Another challenge Logan found in writing a novel was stopping her own harsh self-editing. “Drilled into me from school and my legal career is a very loud internal editor,” Logan laughs, “so getting words on the page was the biggest challenge for me sometimes, just writing without editing.” This connects to Logan’s advice for any aspiring future author: keep going. “Really remind yourself why you’re doing it,” Logan states. “Which ultimately, for me, wasn’t about getting published or about other people’s opinions, but about my own experience of writing. There was so much depth to Maud’s story that added to my experience of living my own life—that was a big part of the ‘why’ for me.” Also, be intentional with selecting your agent. “So much of this is luck and happenstance, but who your agent is matters a lot. I saw my agent speak at a conference, and I really connected with her. My connection with her has been one of the most rewarding parts of my author journey. So, being thoughtful about the agent and looking for an agent who understands your work and is a good long term career fit is really important, even if it takes more time to get there.” Logan concludes. 

Although Anne of Green Gables is a book from over a century ago, it endures as a timeless classic and is reimagined and reinvigorated by Logan’s contribution to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s canon. “Anne’s endurance has been about her unfiltered, exuberant spirit: people read about her and remember they have that same freedom,” Logan offers. “Anne’s early dreams were about going beyond what was expected of her as a young girl in a rural town. Reading about her inspires people to break free.” In After Anne, Logan reminds us that the story of a character’s creator can be as interesting and inspiring as the character she creates. 


Exclusive Q&A with Ashley LaLonde AB '20

Ashley LaLonde AB'20 is a professional actor currently on tour with the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, where she covers all three Schuyler Sisters — Eliza, Angelica, and Peggy/Maria. She has performed across NYC at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Sony Hall, 54 Below, and more. Recently, she also starred in the world premiere of Joe Iconis & Rob Rokicki's Punk Rock Girl, originating the lead role of Angela Quivers. Ashley graduated from Harvard in 2020 with her bachelor's in Sociology, secondary in Theater, Dance, and Media, and citation in Spanish.

Q: You’re currently on the national tour of Hamilton, covering all three Schuyler Sisters: Eliza, Angelica, and Peggy/Maria. Wow! What’s the biggest challenge of being accountable for all three roles, and what’s your favorite part about being on a touring production?

Eliza, Angelica, and Peggy/Maria are all dream roles of mine, so getting to play all three is truly an answered prayer. Swinging is definitely a challenge though! Hamilton is three hours long with fifty songs — and almost everyone is in every song. It’s a real ensemble piece, so learning several different versions of that took a lot of time, focus, and practice. Now when I go on for a certain role, I really have to compartmentalize the other roles so I don’t get the blocking or harmonies confused. I also have tracking sheets with notes on each part so I can review backstage. They’re all very different characters with varying vocal styles and personalities. So I definitely enjoy the mental challenge of it all, as well as tapping into the versatility required to play each role. Overall though, my favorite part about being on tour is the show itself! Hamilton is an artistic masterpiece, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

Q: What is the tour life like for an actor, exactly? How has this experience been different from prior production experiences, where the shows stay in one venue (and perhaps you were only playing one given role!)?

The touring lifestyle is really exciting and a fun way to see the country! It’s been a blast getting to know and experience tons of new cities. Even more, it’s very special to bring such a beloved show to fresh audiences. For many people, it’s their first time seeing a Broadway show — and they’re already huge Hamilton fans. So the crowds are thrilled and super welcoming. I will say touring is also hard and can be exhausting. It’s difficult to pack up your whole life every few weeks and settle into new, unfamiliar places. Similarly, covering several principal roles is definitely harder than playing one, but it’s also very rewarding!  

Q: For all our aspiring actors out there, how can they do what you do? How did you get in the door at audition rooms (like Hamilton’s)? Has COVID affected your process at all?

Getting in the room can be challenging! If you don’t have representation, the best way to be seen is to submit/go in for open casting calls. These are listed on websites like Playbill, Actors Access, Backstage, and Actors Equity. Show up prepared and ready to potentially wait. Better yet, equip yourself with at home self-tape equipment. You can buy relatively cheap ring lights and tripods online (I bought mine on Amazon). I record all my self tapes on my iPhone front facing camera to get a clear view of the frame. Additionally, invest in your training! Take classes and work with coaches if you can, especially on material that could pop up in an audition. Feel free to reach out to me for formal audition coaching as well! Remember to always bring a piece of yourself into every role you audition for — give casting a reason to choose you. Lastly, know that building your career can take many years of persistence and patience. I auditioned for Hamilton many times over the course of 6 years before getting cast!

Q: You had a long theatrical history at Harvard– from being one of the first women in the Hasty Pudding Theatricals Cast (and first ever black woman) to performing in a total of 5 different mainstage Equity shows, including two world premieres, at the American Repertory Theater. How did your time at Harvard impact where you are now? What, if anything, do you think was most instrumental in your career journey?

Harvard definitely taught me how to better understand people — which is the core of acting. That’s why I loved studying the social sciences. Practically speaking, Remo’s acting classes in the TDM department were really helpful, as well as performing in the Hasty Pudding show which operates on a nearly professional schedule. Getting as much quality artistic experience as possible is vital. Of course, working professionally at the American Repertory Theater was ultimately the most impactful as it gave me professional experience and connections for post-grad life. Consider applying for an internship there or auditioning at one of their open casting calls (that’s what I did!). 

Q: How is it different being in a world premiere show versus being in a show that’s been running for many years and performed in many different iterations? Do you have a preference for which you perform in?

They’re both exciting in different ways. Being in a world premiere is such a blast because you get to create the entire show from the ground up with the creative team and other performers. There’s so much possibility and so much unknown. The show also changes every day as the team comes up with new ideas and scraps the old. I absolutely love the experience of building and crafting an original character. Being in a longer running show like Hamilton is exciting because you already know how amazing the show is (and so does the audience!). There’s already a huge fan base as well. The fun part as an actor is to figure out how to bring new life and luster to a character that’s already been played.

Q: What’s been your favorite project to work on thus far, and why? Looking towards the future, what’s your dream role (or who is your dream collaborator)?

I have so many favorites. But I’ll say the last three big projects I’ve done have taken the cake. Hamilton is a total dream show, and I’ve loved working with this insanely talented cast. Before that, I played Natalie in Next to Normal at Westport Country Playhouse. That show is stunning and so powerful, and our cast shared a special connection. It was also cast as an all BIPOC family, which struck a special nerve. Lastly, originating the role of Angela Quivers in Punk Rock Girl was such a blast. The show is a wild musical comedy and a party on stage every night. I have many dream roles and dream collaborators, and some of those projects are actually in development now. But I’d be really excited to work on something that connects deeply with my own identity and deeper questions of meaning, purpose, and love.

Q: What was a time in your career that you made a mistake, and what did you learn from it?

I’ve made tons of mistakes along the way! I’ve had big mess ups in the audition room and even some on stage. That’s what I love about art though — it’s messy and beautiful and imperfect. I once learned the wrong song for a Broadway audition and then had to sight read in the audition room. Recently, I even showed up on the wrong day for a big audition. On stage, I’ve forgotten costume pieces or props. But you live and give yourself grace, and you learn every single person messes up. It’s very human.

What piece of advice do you have for young aspiring artists and performers?

Work hard, hone in your craft, and put yourself out there as much as possible. Reach out to new people and make new artistic connections, especially with potential future collaborators. At the same time, remember that what’s meant for you (artistically and otherwise) won’t pass you by and that each person’s timeline looks different. There is no one way to have a successful acting career, and there is no one way to live a happy life. Your life and career will happen in seasons, and every season has wonderful things and not so wonderful things. Be present where you are now, and stay true to the vision and values you want to bring into the world through art.

Q: And finally, what do you like to do in your free time?

On tour, my free time often looks like exploring new cities, and most importantly, trying new foods! I love to eat good food and have been very pleasantly surprised to find tons of delicious food all across America. I also love to stream new series and shows. A few current favorites are Abbott Elementary, The Last of Us, and Euphoria.


April 2023 | Eric I. Lu AB'09 MD'16

by Laura Frustaci

Eric I. Lu AB'09 MD'16 is a Taiwanese American writer, producer and director. Recently, he developed a TV show with CBS about EMS workers in New York City. Previously, he wrote five seasons on a hit Fox medical drama called THE RESIDENT. Eric concentrated in social anthropology at Harvard College and holds a medical degree from Harvard Medical School, which is where he decided to become a full-time filmmaker after helping to start a Youtube channel called Jubilee Project that has amassed over a billion views online. After moving to LA, Eric directed a documentary called LOOKING FOR LUKE about Harvard College student Luke Tang who had died by suicide, in order to raise awareness about mental health in the Asian American community. Today, Eric is passionate about collaborating and telling meaningful stories that make an impact.
“Growing up, I didn’t even know you could write for TV,” says Eric I. Lu, who was a writer/producer for five seasons on the hit Fox medical TV show The Resident. “There was no one around me who was a TV writer. It wasn’t fathomable or imaginable in my mind.”

Eric was born in Taiwan and raised by his grandparents. At age three, he moved to Dallas, Texas to find his parents. He went on to grow up in the South and then attend Harvard. “For most of my life growing up, I lived a sheltered life in a bubble,” recalls Eric. “At a very young age, I was thinking that I had to be a doctor, so I went into Harvard thinking that would be my path.” However, Eric found himself compelled to try something totally new once he arrived at college, where so many new doors were opened. 

“When I first started at Harvard, an upperclassman concentrating in Anthropology invited me to a class, and it seemed really cool, so I went,” Eric explains. He ended up as a Social Anthropology major. “From Anthro, I fell in love with storytelling.” Eric spent a lot of his time while at Harvard in Dorchester listening to drug addicts tell their stories. “I spent a summer in Taiwan with recovering addicts, and post-grad worked in a prison for addicts in Taiwan.” After that, Eric did in fact end up attending medical school. But somewhere along the way, he fell into creating what would become a multi-million subscriber YouTube channel. “I had fallen in love with filmmaking. It became a calling for me,” Eric reflects. The shorter version of Eric’s story? “I started making films, moved to LA, and one day out of the blue, got an opportunity to write for TV, and that changed the trajectory of my entire life.”

Here’s the longer version. “When I was going to medical school, I never would have said I could write for a medical TV show. I felt like I was living in one, so I avoided medical TV shows altogether,” Eric laughs. Right before entering med school, Eric and his friends started their YouTube channel, the Jubilee Project. “I had done short videos in college with my camcorder, and found it interesting and fun,” Eric says. “One of our short films got 2 million views in the first month, and that blew us away."
Bros.jpg“At the beginning, it wasn’t something that crossed our minds, but we were three Asian American guys fresh out of college who had no business getting into filmmaking, but YouTube was a place where your voice could be heard. You could make your own content, and create stories that you resonate with, and reach millions of people,” Eric explains. “During the week I would be in class, and on the weekends I would make videos in LA, Boston, NY, DC, even Spain. We were partnering with different nonprofits and organizations and trying to tell entertaining stories that could also make a positive impact. Storytelling felt like it had this potential to make an impact because of the way it can generate empathy and inspire change. We were seeing people respond to our videos and seeing the tangible impact we could make on peoples’ lives.”

This is how storytelling, TV, media, and medicine intersect for Eric. “There are many ways that you could impact medicine, not just practicing, but through storytelling.” By his second year in medical school, the Jubilee Project had blown up so much that Eric actually ended up taking time off to focus fully on YouTube. Eric says he and his friends just knew it was the right thing to do. “Now is the moment. Now is the time when we go all in. Let’s take that leap of faith,” Eric recalls. “One friend was working at Bain in NYC and one at the White House. We packed our belongings into a car and drove cross country to move in with my parents and create content full time. I fell in love with storytelling and filmmaking and it became this calling for me where it was a bigger sense of purpose. Greater than myself.”

Eric and his friends were working out of his parents’ garage: “It almost felt like a startup,” Eric remembers. “Ultimately we moved out because my parents were very against it. They didn’t support my decision, but I felt like I gained a family through the Jubilee Project team. No matter the vessel for content, the platform or how you’re consuming stories, there’s always stories. People love storytelling and respond to stories that move them. Whether TikTok or a movie theater, all of it is viable as a vehicle to become a storyteller.” Eric and his team traveled around the world and even worked with professional basketball player Jeremy Lin.

“We wanted to change the world and we were foolish enough to try. Why not us? We were young and idealistic.” However, Eric did decide to go back and finish up med school in the end. “Because of my immigrant background as an only child, I respect, honor, and love my parents for the sacrifices they made. So I went back to them and told them I would go back and finish medical school and figure out my path. I will put my heart into the doctor thing.” Eric completed med school and did rotations at MGH, but he felt as though he’d been ripped away from his passion. “I remember sitting in conference rooms at MGH, looking out the window, wishing I was sitting at coffee shops writing.” That mentality is what pushed Eric away from applying for residency. “I told my dean I wasn’t applying for residency, and she looked me dead in the eye, and said, ‘Your films heal, and if we taught you how to heal during medical school, we did our job.’ I wasn’t practicing medicine, but that doesn’t mean medical school was a waste of time.” Medical school provided Eric with the framework he needed to jump into media as a means of healing. 

After graduating med school, Eric learned about and joined Harvardwood. He applied for the Harvardwood TV Writers Program (now the Jeff Sagansky TV Program). That’s how he wrote his first pilot, which landed him his first job as a writer on The Resident. A med school connection called Eric up and asked if he wanted to be involved with the show, and Eric sent over his fresh pilot. “It’s so hard to staff on a TV show. Having a medical background helped. They asked for more work, and that’s where YouTube came in. I know how to tell stories. I had been doing YouTube for ten years. So many components had to come together, and everything I had done leading up to that point did.” And that’s where he’s been writing for the past five years.

When asked what advice he had for creators, Eric responds, “You can do this. It is possible to dream bigger. The unfathomable. Even if it hasn’t even crossed your mind. You never know. Anything is possible... I’m telling you now. Your voice matters. Your stories matter.”


Exclusive Q&A with Bennett Singer AB '86

Bennett Singer AB '86 is an award-winning producer/director/writer whose films have been screened at The Smithsonian, The United Nations, The British Museum, and the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. His latest documentary, Cured, directed with Patrick Sammon, opened the 2021–22 season of PBS' acclaimed documentary showcase Independent Lens and has garnered more than 20 awards and accolades, including a 2022 Emmy nomination, the American Historical Association's John E. O'Connor Film Award for best historical documentary, the Jonathan Daniels Award, and a $50,000 award in the Library of Congress Lavine/Burns Prize for Film. A feature film based on Cured is currently in development, and a classroom edition is being produced in partnership with History UnErased. Singer previously co-directed Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin, a "potent and persuasive piece of historical rediscovery" (Los Angeles Times) that premiered at Sundance, aired nationally on PBS' POV series, and won the GLAAD Media Award; and Electoral Dysfunction, a "frightening and enlightening documentary" (WBEZ Radio) that "lives up to its title" (New York Times). Hosted by political humorist Mo Rocca, the film aired nationally on PBS and won the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award; a classroom edition was distributed free of charge to more than 20,000 educators. Singer won a duPont-Columbia Award for his work on Eyes on the Prize II, the landmark PBS series on the history of the civil rights movement. The former executive editor of TIME Magazine's education program, he has written curriculum materials to accompany dozens of film projects, including The Laramie Project and Band of Brothers for HBO and The Diary of Anne Frank for PBS Masterpiece. Singer is also the author or editor of five books, including 42 Up, the companion volume to Michael Apted's documentary series; and The Student Body, a "wry, insider thriller" (Village Voice) that he wrote with three Harvard classmates. Learn more about his work at www.bennettsinger.com.

Q: You are currently in the process of working with History UnErased to produce a “Classroom Edition” of your most recent documentary, Cured, for use in high school social studies and psychology classes. You’ve done this before for your documentary Electoral Dysfunction. What is that editing process like? How do you decide what to keep and what to cut? As the former executive editor of TIME Magazine's education program, how do you think that influences what you do now?

The first step is to talk with teachers — and students — to hear their thoughts and questions. Based on their very helpful comments, we then move into a ruthless editing process in which we cut the film down from feature length to about 30 minutes so that it can be shown and discussed in a single class period. Stripping away everything that’s extraneous to the central story and themes results in a streamlined version of the narrative. One thing I came to understand during my eight years at TIME is that teachers really appreciate access to primary-source documents. In the case of Electoral Dysfunction, we created a 128-page curriculum guide that includes literacy tests, a range of ballots, political cartoons, and excerpts from the constitutions of other countries (along with four short videos that we produced for the New York Times Op-Docs series). We raised $200,000 in grant money to be able to give free copies of the Electoral Dysfunction teaching kit to more than 20,000 teachers, and we partnered with several organizations, including the National Council for the Social Studies, on distribution and professional development sessions for teachers. It has been immensely gratifying to visit classrooms and to see the kinds of discussion, reflection, and engagement that these materials spark.

Q: Your film Electoral Dysfunction, which aired nationally on PBS and won the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel Award, is hosted by political humorist Mo Rocca, also a Harvard grad. You also co-wrote The Student Body with three Harvard classmates. Do you find yourself often collaborating with fellow alums?

I do! Mo Rocca ’91 is a national treasure, and it was a joy to work with him on the voting film, which was structured as a road trip in which Mo sets out to discover how voting works (or doesn’t work) in America. I also loved co-authoring The Student Body — a thriller, published by Random House, about a prostitution ring at Harvard — with Faith Adiele, Michael Melcher, and Julia Sullivan, three friends from the class of 1986. (As Harvard Magazine put it in a racy review, that book “gives new meaning to the idea of getting into Harvard.”) Victoria Bassetti ’86 wrote the excellent companion book to Electoral Dysfunction; and beyond that, I had the pleasure of working with Ellen Reeves ’83, Carol Cashion ’83, and the late Lisa Quiroz ’83 as colleagues at TIME’s education program, and with Ellen Reeves on several other projects, including Garda's Lieutenant, a theatrical work that received an A.R.T. Alumni Lab/Harvardwood grant to support its development.

Q: Speaking of co-writing, in addition to all of your remarkable documentary work, you’ve also written/edited five books. How do you find that medium as functioning differently from the visual medium of film/TV?

After my freshman year, I worked with Diane Wachtell ’83 as assistant editor of the first edition of Let's Go: California and the Pacific Northwest. Diane went on to become Executive Director of The New Press, and I’ve done several book projects for her. She commissioned me to edit an anthology for LGBTQ young people and to edit the companion volume to Michael Apted’s 42 UP; more recently, my husband David Deschamps and I co authored LGBTQ Stats, an almanac of facts and figures on the ongoing LGBTQ revolution. We really strove to cover a lot of ground with that project, and it meant a lot when Professor M.V. Lee Badgett of UCLA’s Williams Institute described the book as “the most comprehensive portrait of LGBTQ life around.” I think I have finally come to understand that as a general rule, films have the strongest impact when they are visceral, emotional, and sparing on facts and narration; books, on the other hand, are the ideal medium to convey copious amounts of information — in the case of our Stats book, more than 10,000 facts, all lovingly footnoted.

Q: Do you feel that your work has thematic elements, or messages, that you’ve consistently tried to either consciously or subconsciously incorporate? Both in documentary filmmaking and as an author?

While my films and books address a broad range of topics — including civil and human rights, voter suppression, and LGBTQ equality and visibility — they are united thematically by their focus on activists striving to bring about systemic change. Cured is a good example of that: it’s the story of a surprising and unexpected David-versus-Goliath victory that transformed the social fabric of America. As you can imagine, I’m thrilled that a feature film based on Cured is now in development.

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

As a sophomore, I took Diana Eck’s Core class on Indian civilization and followed that by spending the summer of 1984 on a program in India that brought together 20 Americans and 20 Indians to explore the legacy of Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence. That was a life-changing experience, and looking back, there was something miraculous about having the opportunity to be part of the team that created Eyes on the Prize (a 14-hour PBS series on the history of the civil rights movement). I started at Blackside, the Boston-based production company that produced Eyes, as an intern during the spring of my senior year (after seeing a posting at Harvard’s career office); what was supposed to be a two-month internship wound up becoming a full-time job that lasted for nearly five years and became my version of film school. I think that summer in India and that study of Gandhi’s revolution played an overarching role in motivating me to tell stories about activists who speak truth to power.

Q: What’s one documentary you think everyone should see in their life?

The Times of Harvey Milk, by Rob Epstein and the late Richard Schmiechen. I clearly remember seeing that astonishingly moving documentary when it came out in 1984. It was that film — along with Eyes on the Prize — that made me want to become a documentary filmmaker.


March 2023 | John Meigs JD ‘95


by Laura Frustaciamanda_micheli_cropped.jpg

 John Meigs JD ‘95 became a name partner at his firm Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush, Kaller, Gellman, Meigs & Fox at the start of 2022, becoming the first person of color there to achieve that status. Heading into the year, he busied himself with what earned him that position: making deals. He set Kaley Cuoco to star in the half-hour Peacock series Based Upon a True Story, Winston Duke to join Amazon’s Marked Man, Sherri Shepherd to topline her own talk show (Sherri), Steven Caple Jr. to direct the Lionsgate adaptation of the YA thriller Thieves’ Gambit and Betty Gilpin to play the lead in Peacock’s Mrs. Davis and the co-lead in Showtime’s Three Women. Meigs also optioned Leila Mottley’s bestselling debut novel, Nightcrawling, to Amblin and closed a deal for Michelle Buteau to co-write and star in a Netflix series based on her book Survival of the Thickest.

Born and raised in South Central LA, John Meigs JD ‘95 loves what he does for four reasons: he’s a self-proclaimed “deal nerd” and a “Papa Bear” towards his clients, he believes in the cultural impact of media, and he has the opportunity every day to change the lives of his clients.

John grew up with a mother who was an elementary school teacher and a father who was a war veteran, engineer, and ultimately a trial lawyer (and later, a judge). John’s father was one of his biggest inspirations for going to law school. “I remember him going to law school at night while working in the day,” John recalls. “I saw him taking the bar exam, and I saw him become a public defender. And I realized being a lawyer means you go to court and speak on other people’s behalf, and I thought ‘Wow, what a cool thing.’”

Although he began Harvard Law School with the intention of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a trial lawyer as well, in his first year John took the elective ‘Harvard Negotiations Project’, and everything changed. He fell in love with the class, doing mock negotiations under the supervision of ​​Roger Fisher, author of the bestselling novel Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. John then went on to become a teaching assistant for the course for his next two years of law school.

After graduation, John started down the BigLaw litigation route at Kirkland & Ellis in Los Angeles. Following that, John did a clerkship on the Federal District Court. “The judge had a bunch of entertainment litigation cases,” he says “One was involved in a movie called Anaconda– it was a copyright infringement case. As clerks, we would come up with an opinion and present it to the judge. And I thought, ‘This is really cool, the briefs for this case are like a comparative literary analysis between this screenplay and this movie.’ I could marry my love for film and television with legal argument.” It was a huge moment of realization for John, so after his clerkship, he pivoted and moved to a firm where he could do entertainment litigation.
However, it wasn’t exactly what he expected. “After three years of that, I started to realize the joke was on me because I wanted to be a trial lawyer, and in the entertainment context, there were key players doing deals over and over again, and when they get mad, they sue each other, but before it even goes to trial, they’re going to make a deal to settle. You could be planning for a three-week trial, and doing 18-hour days, and then it gets canceled. That was soul crushing. I either needed to get out of entertainment litigation and go to trial, or I had to double down and go over to the deal side because that’s what entertainment law is about.”

John decided to join 20th Century Fox, worked there for a year, and gleaned as much as he could. Then he joined his current firm, and has been there now for 22 years. “I was made equity partner two years ago and a named partner one year ago, and as of last year, my understanding is that our firm is the highest grossing entertainment boutique in the business. I love what I do, and a lot of what I do is informed by what I learned at the Harvard Negotiation Project all those years ago.”

In a groundbreaking achievement, John was the first person of color to be made a named partner at his firm. “The first thing I did after I became named partner was to hire an amazing Black woman to work for me. She’s from South Central LA like me--she wants to support creatives who advance marginalized stories, also like me,” John says. “We work really, really hard. If you’re really going to have the sleepless nights and time away from your family, and pour yourself into your clients, you have to believe there’s a greater good. Storytelling is the way that we translate culture. It has the power to change hearts and minds, and the most powerful means of storytelling is television.” In terms of diversity at his firm, John confirms, “I want our firm to look like America. We’re working on it. I’m working really hard on it.”

In his everyday practice, John explains what he feels has made him such a strong and effective lawyer for so many years: “I find that I approach things differently from my counterparts, with deep research and planning, and combine that with my trial experience, it’s a unique approach for my clients. One example of that is, I represent Kaley Cuoco. I’ve worked with her since before Big Bang Theory. When we got to the big negotiation, when we reached $1 million per episode, I dusted off these old boxes and pored through the  Friends re-negotiations. I created a chart adjusting the Friends payments for inflation and noting that Friends was a bigger ensemble.” During the negotiation, someone from Warner Brothers claimed John and Kaley were asking for even more than the Friends cast asked for. John turned around and said, “Actually, we’re not” and pulled up his research. And they got the deal.

Making life-changing deals for his clients is what he’s truly passionate about. “I’m a deal nerd. At my core, I’m a deal nerd and I fight for my clients, particularly when I feel like they’re being undervalued, underpaid, or mistreated in any way, particularly if that coincides with race, gender, sexual orientation bias, I go super hard… I love being a part of the change of someone’s life. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.” Being a lawyer holds a deep significance and purpose for John. “We’re advocates,” he explains. “We’re representatives. I take the word representative seriously. Re-presenting. I’m not going to make a negotiation about me or my ego, I’m going to make it about that client. If you’re looking for a shark, that person leaves blood in the water and everyone hates them. And then everyone hates you, and also hates the client vicariously. You do not want that. You want to have the best utility for the most people, in terms of your approach… honest, fair, and reasonable. Have facts and data. Forging good relationships means people will do you favors. That’s not unique to me, but it’s something I feel is very important.”

For anyone considering law school, John had some wisdom to share. “Don’t go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer,” John states. “Don’t go because you don’t know what to do with your life. You really have to want to practice the profession and take it seriously. It’s not the most glamorous thing in the world. If you want glamor, be an agent or manager or studio executive.” And what would he tell himself at the start of his career? “The advice that I would give to my younger self: The ‘lone wolf’ mentality is very limiting. There’s an old African proverb: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go in a group.’ Establish a cohort and allies. It’s really hard to do it by yourself.”



Exclusive Q&A with Emily Halpern AB '02 and Sarah Haskins AB '01

Emily Halpern AB '02 and Sarah Haskins AB '01 wrote the BAFTA and WGA-award nominated 2019 feature Booksmart. They received an Emmy nomination for their work on Black-ish and have written for numerous shows including Good Girls and The Real O'Neals. They also created Carol's Second Act for CBS and Trophy Wife for ABC. Halpern and Haskins are currently under a development deal at CBS Studios. The latest movie they wrote, 80 for Brady, will be released through Paramount Pictures this February starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno and Sally Field.

Q: What is the story behind the inception of 80 For Brady? And what was it like getting such a star-studded cast to work on your film?

We were approached in winter 2020 by Donna Gigliotti, a producer on the film. By that point, the concept had found footing with producers; an agent at WME’s grandmother was member of a group of octogenarian women in Boston who called themselves ‘Over 80 for Brady’ and got together to root for the Patriots (and Tom) every weekend as a celebration of friendship and football. This agent thought their story could make a great basis for a film and brought it to Tom Brady. Thankfully, he agreed and came on board. At some point these various entities partnered with Fifth Season (then Endeavor Content.)

The concept immediately resonated with both of us. Emily is from Boston. Sarah loves sports. And we both loved the idea of writing another story of female friendship.

Getting the star-studded cast was, thankfully, not our job. From the project’s inception, though, producers thought this film could have great roles for iconic actors. We agreed.

Q: Director Kyle Martin said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter that the four iconic female leads are all “character-forward,” with “jokes in the back seat,” and further noted: “That is how we wrote and angled the characters and how they performed it.” Do you agree with this evaluation? Was that similar to your approach for writing Booksmart?

We always try to lead with story and characters in our writing, and let the jokes follow organically. Emphasis on ‘try’ - it’s not easy to do, but it’s something we strive for. Because we find again and again that the strongest jokes are jokes germane to both story and character. Otherwise they often just feel random and don’t land.

Q: Coming off such a success as Booksmart, did that affect your writing process or mentality when starting this project at all? Was there anything you wanted to do differently with this film?

We were so lucky with Booksmart. It took ten years to get made and it’s a miracle that all the hands it passed through were additive and that everyone involved understood the essence of Molly and Amy. So if Booksmart affected our attitude toward this project it probably gave us hope that scripts can, one day, actually become movies. 

This project was different from Booksmart from the beginning – we were pitching on an existing idea, with cast and producers attached. But we loved the idea of telling another story about women and female friendships; we also liked the idea of telling that story for an older demographic. And the premise was so fun, we knew we’d enjoy writing it.

Q: It was a pretty long journey to get Booksmart made - 10 years, to be exact. How was that different from the process to get 80 for Brady made? How challenging is it to get a screenplay in front of someone, when it feels like Hollywood is shifting to be more risk-averse and streaming has hugely impacted big theater releases?

Booksmart was our own original idea and the first screenplay we wrote together, so we had a bigger hill to climb just getting people to read it. It’s also tough to sell a movie with teen girls as the leads, so we faced a number of hurdles from the outset. 80 For Brady was already set up; we came in and pitched our take and got the job. So that was one big difference. We’ve also found that it’s easier to get a movie made if Tom Brady is your producer and four iconic women are the stars.

Q: Sarah, you’ve talked a lot about how feminism has been important to you throughout your life - was writing a football movie (which is a generally male-coded topic) about four older women an act of feminism/pushing boundaries for you?

In this particular case it just felt real: I grew up in a family full of women who liked sports. My Mom and her female friends loved watching the Cubs. My gramma rooted for Notre Dame football. I still play on a basketball team with my sister. Emily and I are always conscious of writing our female characters as three-dimensional people, which, in some cases, is an inherently feminist/boundary pushing act. In 80 for Brady our goal was to depict these woman as great friends and passionate sports fans who also happen to be eighty years old. Their age is a significant part of their story and contributes to some of their challenges in getting to the Super Bowl, but it’s not the only important thing about who they are.

Q: How did you two become writing partners? What’s the secret to a good co-worker writing dynamic?

We’d been friendly in college, but didn’t know each other very well. When Sarah moved out to LA, we got dinner one night and started talking about how we both wanted to write a teen movie with overachieving girls at the center of the story. We loved the teen movie genre, but had only seen those movies with teen boys as the stars, and their goal was always to get laid. We wanted to write a teen comedy with young, smart women as the leads, and tell a story about their high school experience. We decided to try and write it together, mostly because we figured we’d be more likely to get it done that way. That eventually became Booksmart.

Q: Which experiences do you think prepared you both most for what you do now?

We are in our early forties biologically, but in our souls we are eighty. After college we took different paths before we ended up writing together. Emily moved out to LA, worked as an assistant for a while, and eventually got her first writing job on a military drama created by Shawn Ryan and David Mamet called The Unit. Sarah moved to Chicago and spent several years doing improv at Second City and other theaters there. It’s probably the amalgamation of our work and life experiences, and our respect for each other’s experiences, that enables us to stare at each other for hours a day on Zoom talking about imaginary people and what is happening to them.

Q: What do you see as the difference between writing for TV and writing for film?

In TV, the writer/creator tends to have the most creative authority over what eventually winds up on screen. Film is still a director’s medium; at the end of the day, the director has more say over the final product.

Also in TV, you’re turning out scripts one after the next. This can be a good thing, and it’s certainly nice for the job security. But it does mean you’re with the same project for a long period of time, especially in success. In film, once the movie is shot, the writer’s job is pretty much done. This can be both terrifying and liberating.

Q: How has the industry (both TV and film) changed post-pandemic? Do you think it’s more
challenging for writers to get their work seen or get into writers rooms? Or do you think
the pandemic opened up more opportunities with more things being remote?

This is a tough question and we’d hate to generalize –our friends and acquaintances have had a variety of experiences. It certainly has changed and it’s hard to pin down how and whether it was just the pandemic that did the changing or the other seismic changes sweeping through the business: streaming wars, the end of packaging, the way rooms are staffed, etc.

We’ve heard anecdotes from people who’ve found great jobs they never could have done without the Zoom/internet angle and we have friends who are frustrated.

This has always been a tough industry to break into and it will be a minute before it’s totally clear what the new barriers and avenues to access are – and to what extent these are more fair or unfair than what’s come before them.

Q: And finally, what’s the key to making something funny?

We’re not sure – please tell us if you find out.

See Sarah and Emily's latest film, 80 for Brady, out in theaters starting February 3, 2023!


February 2023 | Gaude Paez AB ‘96

amanda_micheli_cropped.jpgby Laura Frustaci

Gaude Lydia Paez AB '96 serves as Senior Vice President & Head of Global Corporate Affairs at Riot Games, the game developer and publisher behind blockbuster PC games including League of Legends and Valorant, and operator of the League of Legends World Championship, the most popular esports tournament in the world. In this role, she leads Riot’s global Communications, Corporate Social Responsibility and Government Affairs practices and serves as a member of the company’s executive management team.

Paez is an accomplished leader with experience in the global media and entertainment, technology, and advertising industries.  Previously, she served as Senior Vice President & Head of Corporate Communications at streaming service Hulu, where she led the communications organization during a period of growth that saw the company more than triple its base of paid subscribers and integrate into The Walt Disney Company’s global streaming portfolio. Among their many successes, Paez and team architected the company’s multi-year communications strategy supporting Hulu’s entrance into the live TV streaming market and its rise to become the largest digital MVPD service in the U.S. 

Prior to Hulu, Paez held leadership roles at Fox Broadcasting Company and Yahoo! Inc., and began her career in New York at global agency BSMG Worldwide (now Weber Shandwick). She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard University, recently completed her Masters in Business Administration at Oxford’s Said Business School and sits on the Board of Women in Film Los Angeles.

Gaude Paez AB ‘96 has had a long and incredible career as an executive and Senior Vice President at companies like Hulu, Fox, and currently, Riot Games. We sat down with Gaude to talk about all things exec: her career journey from start to finish, along with some of her best pieces of advice for those interested in the biz.

The most pressing question, of course, was what exactly brought her to where she is today? “I’d love to say that I had some grand plan when I graduated from Harvard and that I’ve strategically engineered my career into what it is today, but that would be a huge lie!” Gaude laughs. “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life after college – I just knew that I enjoyed writing – so I moved to New York and took the first assistant job I could land that might allow me to make a living using my writing skills. That job happened to be at a communications/PR agency… and I’ve been in that field ever since.  So I feel very fortunate to have found a line of work that I was passionate about early on in my life.” You don’t hear that too often! 

From there, Gaude worked her way up with one very keen ideology: put yourself out there. “The most important moments throughout my career journey so far have been the ones in which I just put myself out there, even if I wasn’t sure I would succeed,” she explains. “For example, as an assistant, there was one afternoon when I’d overheard one of our account managers talking about how he had way too much work to do for one of his new clients. I decided to just take a stab at a few of the things he might need… I figured, “What do I have to lose?”  And it paid off – he liked my work and immediately made me a member of his core account team. That was my ‘graduation’ from administrative work.” Not many people would have been gutsy enough to do something like that– I hope readers are taking notes!

Now, a few years later, she’s pivoted over to the gaming industry, something she had little knowledge of before joining Riot Games. Gaude says, “Not only was the Corporate Affairs scope of the role broader than the oversight I’d had in the past, but it was at a video game company – an industry I didn’t know well at all… I worried, could I make an impact at a company even if I’m not a hard-core gamer? Two years in, I’m loving it and am really energized about the potential in this space. But if you’d asked me 20 years ago, I never would have predicted this is where I would be.”
Gaude joined Riot Games in the midst of the pandemic, and now, a little over two years later, there has definitely been a shift in industry trends and ideas. One thing Gaude hopes will continue on moving forward in the media space is the uptick in “really cool explorations with virtual entertainment and sporting events... Whether it’s concerts in Fortnite or a global premiere like the one we did for Arcane, there could emerge some pretty interesting ways of engaging fans really deeply on a global level that didn’t exist prior to the pandemic."

Snooping around Gaude’s LinkedIn profile, you’ll see that she astutely describes herself as a “strategic storyteller” -- I asked her what, exactly, that meant to her. “It’s the job of any communications pro to help tell a great story, whether that’s about a person, a company, a production, an industry, etc” she explains. “And if you work for a global company like I do, there are probably hundreds of really cool little stories you can tell about it… But for a story to have real impact and value to the company and brand, it must connect back to its core strategy. What is it trying to achieve? Who does it want to be to its customers? What, if anything, does it want to stand for? Those are the types of considerations I try to zone in on when crafting a narrative – so that each of the beats builds toward something much larger.”

The two mantras she brings with her to work every day that feed her success? Stay calm and be decisive. “As a communications practitioner, I am often dealing with PR crises or highly intense internal employee situations, and the best thing you can do to lead an executive team or a company through those instances is provide that sense of calm and steadiness amidst the chaos and have conviction in your recommended strategy.”

With such a history of great accomplishment, did Gaude feel like there’s ever been a time she made a mistake that taught her something valuable? “I don’t think there’s any one mistake I’d highlight, but in general, I think the times in my career when I’ve made the wrong call have been times when I’ve lost sight of the bigger picture… I’ve learned in those cases that it’s important to always take a few minutes to step back and try to objectively evaluate whether you’re actually addressing the goal.” On the flip side, something Gaude is proud of that she’s accomplished: “The moments in which I’ve been able to provide guidance or mentorship to younger professionals,” she reflects. “I was fortunate to have great mentors as I was coming up in my career, and I feel a sense of responsibility to pay that forward. Some of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a leader have been times when I’ve had the opportunity to counsel or coach team members or mentor folks outside of my team. I love meeting with younger colleagues and often learn a lot from those conversations myself.” Read on for more of Gaude’s advice below!

Jumping back to the very beginning of Gaude’s career, we asked how her time at Harvard may have had an impact. She had this to say in response: “Harvard was the place where I learned to think critically and understand through our coursework that there isn’t always a “correct” or “incorrect” answer to every problem. I also think that going through an experience like Harvard helped me dig deeper into figuring out who I am and what I’m good at. When you’re around so many brilliant people, you can no longer hang onto your old high school identity as ‘the smart one.’ You have to really get to know more about what you bring to the table and what your superpower is. And understanding that has really helped me make decisions about my career over the course of the past 20 years.”

Gaude had some excellent advice for young, aspiring executives: “Work hard. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but I really do believe that working really hard to hone your craft is what can differentiate good from great. Bring a point of view. If you have been given a seat at the table, you’re there because someone believes you have a unique point of view. Don’t be afraid to share it! Ask questions: No matter how far along in your career you are, there are always going to be times when you feel lost or don’t understand something. Ask away! No one expects you to know everything just because you’re an exec. If you are excited about a job opportunity, just go for it: A lot of folks (especially us ladies) look at opportunities and focus on the experience and skills we DON’T have. If you believe you could be great at a role, throw your hat in the ring – even if you don’t check off every box in the job description. The worst thing that can happen is you won’t be chosen, and that’s okay.” 

In her free time, Gaude enjoys hiking with her husband and two German shepherds (named Sammy and Luna), spending time with family, reading, and doing yoga. She also tells us she’s just finished the latest season of Fauda. “So, if anyone wants to share thoughts on the season finale, hit me up!” Gaude concludes.


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.


Exclusive Q&A with Gerry Bryant AB '76

Gerry Bryant AB '76 wears many hats. Described by many as a renaissance man, multi-talented Gerry graduated cum laude from both Phillips Andover Academy and Harvard, and received his J.D. and M.B.A., simultaneously, from UCLA. His clients -- corporations, musicians, writers, and artists of all kinds -- know him to be a well-respected legal advisor with more than two decades of experience as an attorney in the arts and entertainment industries and as a writer of a syndicated weekly newspaper column on business and legal issues in entertainment and the arts. His musician colleagues and music fans know him to be an accomplished, classically trained professional pianist and composer for more than three decades, one who performs and records regularly, both solo (classical music and uniquely arranged popular music) and with his jazz group, PocketWatch®, in clubs and studios. At a young age very early in his career, Gerry was tutored by and performed with some jazz legends, and later on he did gigs accompanying Broadway musical stars. Many others know Gerry for his volunteer work with artists of all disciplines as a board member of several nonprofit arts and entertainment organizations, including California Lawyers for the Arts and Chalk Repertory Theatre, and as a regular volunteer piano player and entertainer for patients at UCLA Medical Center. Some people even remember him for the acting he briefly did on a television show and in commercials early on in his adult life. Whatever hat Gerry wears, he proudly wears it being of service to others.

Q: You have a new album, The Composers, coming out this month that features Black classical composers who have been overlooked throughout history. What was the research and selection process like for finding and choosing who would be included on the album?

I found it ironic that not only have many if not most people I’ve spoken to been unaware of the existence of immensely talented Black classical music composers in our nation’s history -- which not very favorably speaks to our country’s educational system in general and in particular to our society’s lack of recognition of the contributions of groups other than white males, i.e., minorities, women, and other groups – but neither had I, and I have been an aspiring concert pianist and composer since I was ten! And I’m Black as well! Go figure…

Q: The album features the works of Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins, a slave who was perhaps the first Black American classical music composer, and Florence Price, whom you’ve listed as one of your favorite composers. Are there any other composers on this album you’d like to highlight or talk about?

This album is intended to be the first volume of a series featuring Black classical composers. Indeed, I’m working on the second volume as we speak, but who knows when that will ever be
completed! My original intent was to have one or two compositions by up to a dozen amazing
composers on each album, but once I found out about “Blind Tom”, whose story is fascinating, I
knew I wanted to include more than just two of his compositions. Even more tellingly, once I
learned more about Florence Price and heard her music, I immediately fell in love with her work
and knew that there were many more works of hers than just one or two I wanted to record. So,
this first volume of The Composers consists of four selections by “Blind Tom” and eleven
selections by Florence Price. In fact, whilst the second volume of The Composers will most
likely include compositions by six or more other composers, I will also include an amazing string
arrangement by my violinist extraordinaire friend Mark Cargill of a major violin and piano
composition by Ms. Price that I was unable to include on this first album.

Q: You’ve recorded and independently distributed a dozen albums, each containing classical music, some of your original music, some jazz, and some reimagined pop cover tunes. What led to the release of this album on the Parma Recording’s Navona label?

I had participated in an online seminar on the long overdue but welcome efforts being made by
classical music radio stations to increase the diversity of their playlists by including composers
and performers, past and present, who are Black, Hispanic, women, etc., who have been sorely
underrepresented in such playlists. One of the online seminar participants, who is also part of
those efforts, was Bob Lord, CEO of Parma. I later contacted him directly, applauded him and
the others he has been partnering with for their efforts, and mentioned my The Composers
project. He expressed interest in my album, and one thing led to another, so they will be
releasing the album on their label this month.

Q: Your career has been extremely multi-faceted; not only are you a classically trained
pianist and composer, but you also have your J.D. and an M.B.A, and you’ve done lots
of arts advocacy and volunteer work. If you could go back, is there anything you would
change or do differently in your career path?

Well, I never intended to do -- or even thought about doing – any of the things you’ve mentioned
other than to simply play the piano and compose! I did decide to become a lawyer in the
entertainment business – my own lawyer, mind you, not a lawyer for anyone else! – so that I
would learn and know the business of music well and not get ripped off, as many musicians and
artists do when they blindly enter into contracts without knowing better or consulting a trusted,
knowledgeable and experienced attorney. I’ve since learned that what I accomplished – getting
a J.D. and an M.B.A. simultaneously, working for a noted entertainment law firm, participating in
seminars and workshops on the industry, etc., was total overkill. I didn’t need to do all of that. I
really only needed to acquire a basic knowledge of how things work in the arts and
entertainment industry and then surround myself with a team of individuals – lawyers, agents,
managers, publicists -- who were deeply knowledgeable and believed in me and my music and
whom I trusted. The time I spent pursuing all of the industry-specific business education I
acquired, especially in the arduous J.D./M.B.A. program I went through, could have been more
productively spent specifically on my music, practicing, composing, gigging, etc. But as I look
back, and to answer your question whether there is anything I would change if I had to do it over
again, not really. All of my experiences contributed to what made me the person I am today and
to the music that I create.

Q: Classical music sometimes gets a reputation for being… well, archaic. How do you think we can generate excitement about classical works, particularly for younger audiences, when it comes to music education?

Appreciating and enjoying “serious” music like classical music and jazz first involves being
exposed to it. Ideally, that would come at an early age through our educational system, but arts
and music education programs and funding have decreased dramatically since I was a child.
The way to expose our youth to such artistic pursuits nowadays is to reach them where they
spend most of their time, which is on social media. Indeed, according to recent studies, young
people engage with orchestral and classical music more on social media than in the classroom,
especially on TikTok, which is helping to discover the next general of young classical talent and
is filled with classical music stars. TikTok creators have taken the medium and invented their
own ways of enjoying music, including classical music. So up next for me is to establish a
presence on TikTok!

Q: Who are your top five favorite composers to listen to and/or play?

That’s an easy question. I am a true romantic at heart -- musically and socially speaking -- and
my favorite composers are those of the Romantic Era, i.e., Chopin (who tops the list), Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, and now, though she wasn’t of that particular era,
Florence Price.

Q: Your last album, Besotted, contains a classical x swing jazz x gospel reimagining of
Katy Perry's “California Girls”. What do you think is the value or importance of
reimagining and infusing different musical styles together?

That’s a good question. For me, my music is a reflection of my overall life experiences and my
arts and musical educational upbringing, all of which are varied, eclectic, and broad ranging.
With my love for all genres of music, it is only natural that my music, whether my original
compositions or my recordings cover songs that end up being reimagined versions of the
versions by the original artists, speaks to me and is an honest reflection of how I envision the
piece. I couldn’t mimic or recreate any cover song if I tried, and not that I’d ever want to. I think
in general that is what all artists do. Artists take something that inspires them to create their art,
be it a landscape, a person, an event, a photo, an idea, whatever, and what they create reflects
all of the elements of their life experiences and training I just mentioned.  

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring young musicians and artists?

Two things. First, always keep working at your art, continue to learn from the art and approach
of other artists who came before you, and don’t get discouraged. Second, make it a point to
become educated about the legal and business aspects of your art. Most artists have little or no
knowledge or understanding of what is involved in having their art distributed, promoted,
exhibited, or “exploited” as lawyers say, leaving them vulnerable to being taken advantage of or
to entering into unfavorable business relationships. Knowledge is the key to everything and to
ensuring an artist’s ultimate success with their art. Joining and taking advantage of the legal,
educational and dispute resolution services of an organization such as California Lawyers for
the Arts, whose mission is to educate and empower artists of all disciplines, is a good way to
start. And of course, Harvardwood is also a valuable organization for assisting artists in
navigating the business components of their creative careers.

Q: What is your favorite piece on your new album?

I have two by Ms. Price: the second movement of her “Sonata in E Minor”, and “Andante Con Espressione”, a lovely violin and piano piece with violinist Mark Cargill. If our readers are so inclined and I can put in a plug for it, I encourage them to view the YouTube video of us performing the piece (here).

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

“Free time”?? LOL. What is that?

Jerry's album The Composers was released on June 1, 2022 and is available to stream now.