Tag Archive for alumni business

Homeless Services CEO Rosenblatt ’87 Develops Affordable Housing in NYC

Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87, president and CEO of the Bowery Residents Committee in New York City, was interviewed by Crains for the organizations new foray into developing affordable housing.

Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87, president and CEO of the Bowery Residents Committee in New York City, was interviewed by Crains for the organizations new foray into developing affordable housing.

Muzzy  Rosenblatt ’87, president and CEO of The Bowery Residents Committee (BRC), a nonprofit offering services to people who are homeless in New York City, caught the attention of Crain’s New York for his organization’s recent foray into affordable housing development.

In the article by Judy Messina, Rosenblatt explains the reason for this new focus: “In our workforce program, we were seeing more and more people finding jobs, but in the shelters that we run for the Department of Homeless Services, fewer people were moving out, and they were coming back at a higher rate. … We had to find a way to help.”

The shelter system, he explained, can only work if there is turnover. With recidivism so high, the organization realized they needed a new option. Calling it an “aha” moment, he explained to Messina: “We could build a 200-bed shelter, take the income that a private developer would have taken out as profit and use it to leverage low-income housing.”

The BRC sought a location near subway and bus routes to because “We don’t believe poor people should be shunted to the edges” and made it clear to current residents of Landing Road in South Bronx that BRC’s investment is a commitment to the community: the organization is both responsive and accessible to their neighbors.

Rosenblatt says that the model they are creating is not only replicable and affordable, but also saves money otherwise lost to third-party developers. Messina note that Rosenblatt is “upending traditional models.”

“We should expect nonprofits to be entrepreneurial, disruptive and problem-solving,” says Rosenblatt, who was profiled for his work at the Bowery Residents Committee in the Wesleyan magazine in 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Draper ’12, Celestin ’13, Khandros ’13 Create Film Festival on Greek Island

The Syros International Film Festival was founded in 2013 by a team of four—including Nathaniel Draper ’12, Casandra Celestin ’13, and Aaron Kahndros ’13—and will run this year for five days in July.

The Syros International Film Festival was founded in 2013 by a team of four—including Nathaniel Draper ’12, Casandra Celestin ’13 and Aaron Kahndros ’13—and will run this year for five days in July.

How does one convert a shipyard into a cinema? “With a lot of gumption and very little sleep,” reports Nathaniel Draper ’12, the technical director of the Syros International Film Festival (SIFF).

For five days in July, Draper and his colleagues Cassandra Celestin ’13, Aaron Khandros ’13 and Jacob Moe will transform the small Greek island of Syros into a multifaceted cinema space.

Projectors hauled over three hours by boat from Athens will be erected on Syros’s docks, beaches and quarries to screen a variety of films, from art house to Hollywood. Musicians and filmmakers will gather for all-night multimedia performances and, with the help of participants, will construct musical instruments and perform. These are just a few of the unconventional features of the Syros International Film Festival.

Initiated in 2013 by Celestin and Khandros, the festival began as a DIY project financed out of pocket. But it has grown rapidly. Today, their sponsors—the Onassis Foundation, the US Embassy of Athens, Institut Français and Huffington Post Greece, among others—cover much of the expenses.

This year, the festival roster will explore the comedic and psychotic implications of its thematic idiom, “Cracking Up.” As such, it will feature a mix of cinema and expanded cinema that will, according to Draper, break open “the traditional confines of the projection experience.” One of the selections is a 1926 silent film by Japanese director Teinosuke Kinugasais A Page of Madness, which depicts the lives of patients in a insane asylum through an expressionistic style.

These alternative cinematic performances inspired Draper and his team to engage with the shadow puppetry of Indonesian gamelan performance, which Draper was first introduced to through Wesleyan’s world music program. They hope to feature the experimental musician Mike Cooper, performing alongside Gods of Bali, a film that documents Gamelan music and dance. With the assistance of an expert from nearby Cyprus, volunteers and participants will also learn to perform in a Gamelan ensemble built from from items gathered on Syros.

Quite literally a product of its environment, the SIFF has also had to contend with the Greek economic crisis–ironically, the opening night of the 2015 festival coincided with Greece’s vote for austerity.

The SIFF is not Draper’s first experience curating film: As an undergrad, he helped create the “Cinema Sorcery Front,” a club that ran independent film screenings for students. A film major, he fondly remembers Associate Professor of Film Studies Steve Collins ’96, who supported his work and pushed the boundaries of his classroom education.

Latif ’97 Showcases Work in 2017 Culturemart Festival

Abdul Latif ’77

Abdul Latif ’77

Wesleyan alumnus Abdul Latif ’97 served as the choreographer for The Black History Museum According to the United States of America, which opened the weekend of March 24.

Done in collaboration with HERE Arts Center’s Culturemart Festival 2017, the show examined “a number of struggles pertinent to the people of color community and the “modern millennial identity in response to incarceration and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.”

Latif, along with the rest of the production team, attempts to explore and explain the relationship between black Americans and the criminal justice system drawing from sentiments expressed after the fatal shootings of Black Americans. The experience and the occurrence of a second full house success humbled Latif, especially following the recent accomplishment of his other recent work, Bronx Museum, which opened this past January.

Since graduating from Wesleyan with a College of Social Studies and dance major, Latif has gone on to open his own performing arts center, Abdul Latif–D2D/T, where he now serves as the producing artistic director.

Hecht ’04 Finds the Irresistible Music for Commercial Clients

Jonathan Hecht ’04, whose company, Venn Art, finds the perfect music for commercial clients, was photographed at the premiere of a snowboarding documentary he worked on for Red Bull, The Art of Flight.

Jonathan Hecht ’04, whose company, Venn Arts, finds the perfect music for commercial clients, was photographed at the premiere of a snowboarding documentary, The Fourth Phase, which he worked on for Red Bull.

“Wait, turn that up! What is that song?”

If you’ve ever watched a commercial that became more significant the second you heard a song you just had to hear again, chances are Jonathan Hecht ’04—founder of Venn Arts—was behind its discovery.

His interest in pairing music with picture was inspired by the Paul Thomas Anderson film Boogie Nights: “I realized how different some of the musical selections were, but how they all fit together to create a sound and musical character for the film.”

He began to wonder if he could create a career out of this observation—which became Venn Arts, the music supervision company specializing in curating and procuring licensed music for commercial projects. Hecht took the name from a Venn diagram, with its “intersection or coming together of two things to make something unique,” he said. For Hecht, one of those “things” is always music: “There are so many nuanced emotions that can be inflected when you find the right music.”

Now, collaborating with brands such as Under Armour, Free People, Mercedes, and most recently, supervising the music for Subaru’s phenomenally effective “Love” ad campaign, he is gaining attention: Forbes recently wrote about his work as a music supervisor to Subaru’s marketing and rapid sales growth. “I’ve been working with Subaru’s ad agency, Carmichael Lynch, since 2011 and have placed more than 30 songs into national TV ads for the brand,” he says.  The campaign was also highlighted as “Ad of the Day” on Adweek.

O’Shaughnessy ’08, Springer ’13, Pasarow ’13 Offer Career Advice in Publishing

Three young alumni in the publishing industry Anabel Pasarow ’13, Danielle Spring ’16, and Caitlin O'Shaughnessy ’08, returned to campus to offer tips and answer questions at a panel discussion sponsored by the English Department.

Three alumnae in the publishing industry, Anabel Pasarow ’16, Danielle Springer ’13 and Caitlin O’Shaughnessy ’08, returned to campus on Feb. 24 to offer tips and answer questions at a panel discussion.

On Feb. 24, three recent Wesleyan alumnae returned to campus for a panel conversation on “Finding a Career Path in Publishing.” The event, held in Downey House, was co-sponsored by the Department of English, Writing Programs and the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing.

Caitlin O’Shaughnessy ’08, Anabel Pasarow ’16, and Danielle Springer ’13 traced their career history and offered encouragement and tips to undergraduate audience.

O’Shaughnessy, marketing manager at Penguin Press, a division of Penguin Random House, had previously worked as an editor at Viking, and in publicity at InStyle magazine. Currently, she is also part-time student in the MBA program at NYU Stern. “Anabel, Danielle, and I talk about Wesleyan all the time at Penguin,” said O’Shaughnessy, “It was really interesting to compare our paths and try to figure out the best advice to impart to future Wes grads who are looking to get into the business.”

Springer, an editorial and publisher’s assistant at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, previously worked in publicity at Dutton Books. In preparation for her career, she had attended the Denver Publishing Institute. Glad to return to campus and experiencing a certain degree of nostalgia, Springer says she found it “very rewarding being the ‘expert’ on a topic,” also commenting on the high turnout for the Friday afternoon event, “considering that it was a gorgeous warm day and Foss Hill was surely calling”—and by the questions that were asked.

Pasarow, an editorial assistant at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House, majored in English and math—and finds both useful in her career. “I was so happy to be a part of this panel,” she said, adding, “I haven’t been out of school for very long, so returning to campus sort of felt like returning home. It was great to see familiar faces in Downey, where I spent so much of my time at Wes.”

Professor of English Stephanie Kuduk Weiner, who chairs the department, was also pleased to see “successful Wesleyan graduates returning to campus to give back to current students.” Grateful to the panelists, Weiner emphasized the importance of their visit: “Students today are inspired when they have the chance to meet alumni,” she said. “It helps them imagine themselves in the future.”

Jasper ’98 Writes/Directs Sundance Hit Patti Cake$

The cast of Patti Cake$: Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty, Siddharth Dhananjay, director Geremy Jasper, Danielle Macdonald, and Bridget Everett, which was a Sundance hit. (Photo by Daniel Bergeron)

The cast of Patti Cake$: Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty, Siddharth Dhananjay, director Geremy Jasper, Danielle Macdonald, and Bridget Everett, which was a Sundance hit. (Photo by Daniel Bergeron)

Patti Cake$, the debut film from writer-director Geremy Jasper ’98, has earned the second-highest deal of Sundance so far this year, with a bid of $9.5 million for distribution rights from Fox Searchlight. Producers are Dan Janvey ’06 and Michael Gottwald ’06; Matthew Greenfield ’90 is senior vice-president of production at Fox Searchlight—all Wesleyan film majors.

Jasper’s film tells the story of Patricia Dombrowski, (played by Danielle Macdonald)—also known as Killa P and Patti Cake$—an aspiring rapper in New Jersey. In his review, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn called the film the “best hip-hop movie since Hustle & Flow.”

The film premiered at Sundance’s Eccles Theater on Monday afternoon, receiving two standing ovations, rave reviews—and the Fox Searchlight deal.

Indiewire’s Chris O’Falt ’99, who was also a film major, interviewed Jasper for “How Patti Cake$ Director Geremy Jasper Went from Indie Rocker to Breakout Filmmaker” and Jasper told him, “It’s probably about as autobiographical a story as I’m capable of telling.” O’Falt described Patti Cake$ as “one of the most-anticipated films hitting Sundance this year, ” which” has put Jasper on Hollywood’s director watchlists.”

In tracing Jasper’s biography, from boyhood in a New Jersey suburb, O’Falt notes the similarity to that of the fictional Patricia Dombrowski.

Jasper, who was an American Studies major, had returned to his parents’ home after college. After touring with his band, Fever, Jasper was introduced to Benh Zeitlin ’06—a Wesleyan film major—through a mutual friend. Zeitlin, who was headed to New Orleans to make his first short film, Glory at Sea, invited Jasper to star in the 2008 project. (Zeitlin’s first feature film, four years later, was Beasts of the Southern Wild in 2012, which won the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, at that year’s Sundance Film Festival—among numerous other awards.)

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 again brought Jasper back to parents’ house—this time to help with cleanup—and he began writing rap lyrics, along with the initial version of the Patti Cake$ screenplay. Accepted into the Sundance Writing Lab, with Quentin Tarantino as his first advisor, Jasper wrote nearly a dozen more drafts of his screenplay and was invited back to their Directors Lab.

Reflecting on the process, Jasper told O’Falt, “This has been the most fun, intoxicating and rewarding year of my life making this film….I’m so thankful for the winding path that got me here, but there’s something about it that feels so right about it.”

Bissell ’88 Balances Social Impact, Scale in Ethnic Goods Retailer Fabindia

William Bissell is on the cover of Forbes Magazine in India.

William Bissell ’88 is on the cover of Forbes India.

William Bissell ’88, managing director of Fabindia, a retail enterprise begun by Bissell’s father, John, in 1960, is featured on the cover of Forbes India on Jan. 20, a special issue on social impact. “A Fab New World: Not Only is Ethnic Goods Retailer Fabinidia Spreading its Wings, It Continues to Shape the Lives of Thousands of Rural Artisans,” the cover line reads.

The article, by Forbes India staff writer Anshul Dhamija, details the beginnings of the company, as an exporter of hand-loomed fabrics and furnishings with only one initial retail store, which opened in New Delhi in 1976. The second opened in the same city in 1994. William Bissell took the helm in 1999, after his father’s death in 1998. The younger Bissell had returned to India after graduating from Wesleyan, establishing an artisans’ cooperative, the Bhadrajun Artisans Trust.

Forbes India charts the astronomic—yet socially conscious—growth of the company since the turn of the century. William Bissell, with a vision to redesign the stores as “retail experience centers” (more than tripling the size, offering cafes, “children’s zones,” and on-site tailoring), plans to open 40 of these centers across the country in the next year-and-half, many as franchise opportunities—all the while maintaining the company’s commitment to local artisans and traditional crafts. Of particular interest is the high percentage of women who are employed by Fabindia in a country not noted for providing financial opportunities for females.

McCarthy ’75 Produces ‘Star-Studded’ Documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First

Stephen McCarthy ’75 is producer of the new documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First, opening this weekend.

Stephen McCarthy ’75 is partner/executive producer of the new documentary Harry Benson: Shoot First, opening Dec. 9, 2016.

Stephen McCarthy ’75, managing director at KCG Capital Advisors, is also partner/executive producer with Matthew Miele’s Quixotic Endeavors (QE) film production company, featuring corporate/individual biopics, such as Crazy About Tiffany’s (starring Jessica Biel and Katie Couric, among others) and Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorfs (starring Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, among others). Their third film Harry Benson: Shoot First, will be in theaters—including New York City—and video on demand, starting Dec. 9, 2016.

Harry Benson: Shoot First is a 90-minute documentary on one of the most accomplished photojournalists of the past five decades. Benson’s work has captured cultural icons in defining moments of history—including Robert Kennedy’s assassination—as well as in moments of playful ease—the Beatles in the midst of a pillow fight—with compassion, elegance, and intimacy. His photographs have graced the covers of TIME, LIFE, and People more than 100 times, notes film critic Isaac Guzman in the Nov. 26, 2016, issue of TIME. In Guzman’s review, titled “A Star-Studded Tribute to a Lovable Lensman,” he warns viewers, “Don’t blink…Every flutter of an eyelid risks blocking out a wonder of the photographic world: Michael Jackson frolicking like the Pied Piper at Neverland Ranch with a retinue of children; Bill and Hillary Clinton on the precipice of a kiss on a hammock; Bobby Fisher being nuzzled by a wild Icelandic horse.”

McCarthy’s involvement in QE (“a wonderful sidelight at this stage of my career”) began almost six years ago when director Matthew Miele, one of the QE founders, approached him through a mutual friend about the Bergdorf project. “I immediately got in touch with my dear friend/late classmate Seth Gelbum ’75, a prominent Broadway lawyer from Loeb and Loeb and worked with his partners on the first two film projects.” In addition, after a Homecoming visit to campus, McCarthy brought Miele to meet Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger, “who was been interested in and supportive of their ventures,” he says.

“To date, I’m enjoying this industry from the business side, but given the breadth and depth of ‘the Wesleyan mafia’ in Hollywood, you never know whom you’ll meet to potentially collaborate on upcoming projects (like our Norman Rockwell film in the works)!” As for his thoughts on Harry Benson: Shoot First: “To my mind, the film is the equivalent of walking through a fantastic gallery and instead of just looking at the photos, you are having the entire experience curated by someone who had been there at the exact historical moment each photo was taken—it’s riveting.”

Barton ’01 Offers Serialized Fiction for Binge Readers

Molly Barton ’01, cofounder of Serial Box Publishing, was previously the Global Digital Director at Penguin Random House.

Molly Barton ’01, cofounder of Serial Box Publishing, was previously the Global Digital Director at Penguin Random House.

“Can Serialized Fiction Convert Binge Watchers into Binge Readers?” asked NPR reporter Lynn Neary in All Things Considered. “Serialized books have a long history in publishing—Charles Dickens famously released many his novels in serial form,” she observed.

Noting that television “episodic storytelling” is newly popular, Neary reported that Julian Yap and Molly Barton ’01 have entered the publishing industry with this in mind. Their start-up company, “Serial Box… aims to be ‘HBO for readers.’” Neary said, explaining, “Serial Box releases ‘episodes’ (not ‘books’) over a 10 to 16 week season.

Each season is written by a team of writers.

“’We’re not just chopping up novels and sending out chapters,’ Barton said.” A team of writers gathers to create the piece. They break down the plot, talk through the characters, and map out current and future seasons.”

The episodes are geared to be read (on any device—as e-books, podcasts, or both) in the time it takes to commute (about 40 minutes) and new episodes are released each week. The site also offers “Back of the Box”—guest articles, reviews, Q&As—for readers who want further material on their favorite new book and on the creative process.

Barton is not new to the business of e-Books. Previously she was global digital director at Penguin Random House where she lead the global e-book business, as well as digital product innovation and content strategy, in addition to building the community-curated publishing platform Book Country. An English major at Wesleyan, she was a Ford Fellow in Wesleyan’s Writing Program following her graduation and recently served as a visiting faculty member in the program.

Saint John ’99 Wows Crowd at Apple’s Developers Conference

Bozoma Saint John ’99, head of Apple Music, spoke at their Worldwide Design Conference. Photo by Justin Kaneps for Wired.

Bozoma Saint John ’99, head of Apple Music, spoke at their Worldwide Design Conference. (Photo by Justin Kaneps for Wired)

Bozoma Saint John ’99 took the stage at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), held this year in San Francisco, and stole the show. “It’s not just that Saint John, head of marketing for Apple Music, was a black female executive appearing onstage at WWDC. It was the way she commanded the room—and the show—that blew everyone away,” wrote Davey Albey for Wired.

Saint John, who spoke about Apple’s streaming music service, which now has 15 million users, had led Apple Music’s marketing division since April 2014, when Apple acquired Beats, the company she had joined three months previously. Prior to that, she led the music and entertainment marketing group at Pepsi-Cola’s North America division,

Noted for her impressive career around connecting musicians and artists with brands, Saint John has received accolades and awards from numerous organizations, including induction into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Achievement. Her appearance at WWDC garnered articles in Fortune and Business Insider. Nevertheless, she does not let her success go to her head, notes Albey, and explores the ethos behind Saint John’s work with Tiffany Warren, chief diversity officer and  senior VP of Omnicon group, an advertising and marketing company.

“'[S]he turns around and gives it back immediately,’ says Warren. …’She’s an incredible sponsor and mentor to many.’” Saint John also returned to campus for WesFest, speaking to admitted students and their parents about her formative years at Wesleyan as the place where she began to think about a career in the music industry.

NYT: Carter ’88 Opens High-End Coffee Shop in South Bronx

Majora Carter ’88, center, marks a coffee cup, as she takes an order at the Birch coffee shop she and her husband recently opened in the South Bronx. Photo credit: Edwin J. Torres for The New York Times See the photo series>

Majora Carter ’88, center, marks a coffee cup, as she takes an order at Birch Coffee. She and her husband recently opened the coffee shop in the South Bronx. (Photo by Edwin J. Torres for The New York Times)

“Is gentrification next?” asks the New York Times in a May 31, 2016 article by Jeff Gordinier. Majora Carter ’88, who is from the South Bronx, and her husband and business partner, James Chase, teamed up with Jeremy Lyman and Paul Schlader, entrepreneurs who created Birch Coffee. The result: they have brought “exposed brick, reclaimed wood and $2.75 macchiatos” to “a stretch of Hunts Point Avenue dominated by dime stores, bodegas and auto shops.”

To those who say they feel as though they are in Manhattan by the vibe in the shop, Carter responds, “’You know what? You are in the Bronx, and we can have this here as well.’”

Additionally, Gordinier notes that the fact of Carter’s longtime advocacy for the community does alleviate neighborhood concerns that the shop signals a trend toward pricey gentrification. Beginning with Sustainable South Bronx, which she founded in 2001, Carter has used her entrepreneurial skills to provide services, employment, and programs for the community in which she was raised. She and her husband put up the funds to begin this venture, since an upscale cafe in the Bronx was not an attractive risk to financial institutions they’d approached.

“And why should Manhattan have a monopoly on macchiato?” Gordinier concludes rhetorically. “’We like to see the work that we do as self-gentrification,’ Carter said. ‘People in low-status communities like nice things, too.’”

 

Sprinkles Founder Nelson ’96 Highlights Frosting Demos at New Store

Candace Nelson ’96 has opened the 20th Sprinkles Cupcakes Store in Disney Springs.

Candace Nelson ’96 has opened the 20th Sprinkles Cupcakes Store at Disney Springs, in Orlando, Fla.

In a video interview with central Florida’s WESH to celebrate the opening of the newest location of Sprinkles Cupcakes at Disney Springs, the store’s founder Candace Nelson ’96 offered a brief frosting tutorial.

“All of our cupcakes at Sprinkles are hand-frosted,” she noted. “You can actually come to our store at Disney Springs and see those cupcakes being frosted in our frosting theater. All of our frosters are in a cute little window so you can see them do their magic at Sprinkles.”

Additionally, she said that cupcakes ATMs are open until 2 a.m. for those on the late-night prowl: “It’s technology and pleasure coming together in the form of a cupcake.”

“We had a line of 100 people deep when we opened on Sunday and it has been going strong ever since, and we are so grateful,” she said. The popularity of the store, she said, is based on the company’s “commitment to quality, freshness, wonderful flavors, with someone for everyone.” Sprinkles now offers gluten-free, vegan, and sugar-free treats in addition to the original signature cupcakes.

Nelson opened her first store in Beverly Hills with her husband Charles in 2005, a story that appeared in the Wesleyan magazine in 2010. It was one of the first cupcake-only bakeries, although has expanded its line to include cookies and ice cream, as well. The Disney Springs location is store No. 20.