Tag Archive for alumni business

She Makes Comics: Award-Winning Film by Stotter ’13, Meaney ’07 Available on Netflix

When Patrick Meaney ’07 and Marisa Stotter ’13 wanted a logo for their award-winning documentary, She Makes Comics, they commissioned artist Courtney Wirth. “We wanted something that evoked Rosie the Riveter, which we loved and thought it would be both recognizable and resonate with our audience,” says Stotter. ”I have original hanging on my wall, and whenever I see that strong, confident pose it’s a wonderful boost, a surge of energy to my heart.”

She Makes Comics, a documentary directed by Marisa Stotter ’13, and produced by Patrick Meaney ’07 and Stotter, won Best Documentary at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International Film Festival, and was released on Netflix on Oct. 15.  Also available on iTunes and Amazon Prime, the film tells the story of the women—artists, writers, executives, as well as ardent fans—in the comic book industry. The documentary has played at film festivals around the world since its release in December 2014.

Both a thoroughly researched history—featuring luminaries such as Karen Green, the comic librarian at Columbia University, as well as women who wrote and drew comics in the 1950s and ’60s—and a lively story for a general-audience, She Makes Comics is a collaboration between two Wesleyan alumni, one a film major and one an English major—whose years as undergraduates had no overlap.

Zeitlin ’04, Janvey ’06, Quinn ’05 Produce Brimstone and Glory Documentary

The documentary Brimstone and Glory, captures a sense of both danger and exultation in the weeklong festival in Tultepec, Mexico, where pyrotechnics are the major industry. The film is produced by film studies alumni Benh Zeitlin ’04, Dan Janvey ’06, Kellen Quinn ’05 and others.

Brimstone and Glory is the feature-length documentary produced by Benh Zeitlin ’04, Dan Janvey ’06, Kellen Quinn ’05 and others, on the annual festival in Tultepec, Mexico, where pyrotechnics are the major industry. The weeklong celebration honors San Juan de Dios, patron saint of firework makers, and celebrates the artisans who dedicate themselves to pyrotechnics. Directed by Viktor Jakovleski, and edited by Affonso Gonçalves, the film is scored by Benh Zeitlin and Dan Romer, the two who collaborated on the Beasts of the Southern Wild score.

Dubbed “Best Documentary Feature” at the San Francisco Film Festival, Brimstone and Glory opens in theaters this fall. In preparation, Quinn spoke about this collaboration in this Q&A:

Q: What was the genesis of this project?
A: Viktor, the director, was shown some photographs of the festival by an artist who had recently been there. He was amazed but completely baffled by the images of people “raving in the fire”, as he puts it. Sometime later, during a Berlin techno party, the crowds and sensory experience reminded him of one of the images. He recognized a connection between the collective effervescence of the techno scene that is a big part of his life and the ritualistic elements of what he had seen in those pictures of Tultepec. His initial idea was a short film, but after doing an exploratory first shoot, it became clear that there was something bigger and more ambitious to be made. Ultimately, the film shot over three consecutive festivals.

Q: And what brought you in?
A: In 2014 I was just beginning to move into producing and I was eager to work with friends. Dan Janvey told me about the project and it was immediately intriguing. Also, my mother grew up in Mexico and I spent a lot of time there as a child visiting my grandmother. I felt that working on a documentary in Mexico would offer a really meaningful way of reconnecting with the country.

WNYC’s Walker ’79 P’21 at Werk It: ‘Lean In to Podcasting’

Speaking at the third annual Werk It Festival, Laura Walker ’79, president and CEO of New York Public Radio and creator of the festival, said, “What drives Werk It is the premise that more women can play bigger roles in the podcasting movement…. Women needed to be inspired and have the confidence to lean in. You’ve brought your superpowers and your vulnerabilities…”  Walker also will be a featured speaker at a WESeminar on campus for Homecoming/Family Weekend on Saturday, Nov. 4. (Photo by Gina Clyne)

Laura R. Walker ’79, P’21, president and CEO of New York Public Radio (NYPR), has an agenda: She wants at least half of the podcasts produced to be hosted or co-hosted by women. “We’re making progress,” she reported at Werk It 2017, an annual festival she helped to create in 2015 to give women the tools they need to become creative forces in podcasting.

Walker came up with the idea after she’d read a report on this new medium and discovered that of the top 100 podcasts on iTunes, only 20 percent were hosted or co-hosted by a woman.

“Podcasting was headed in the same direction as every other entertainment medium—flooded with men….the gender dynamics were the same old story,” she told the attendees at the this year’s festival, recounting its history. And after a conversation on those findings with Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Walker originated the first Werk It Festival, a gathering of women with the goal of creating a paradigm shift. The festival offers the tools of entrepreneurship, production, and broadcasting—and the confidence that comes with knowledge—in a women-helping-women model.

Now dubbed “The Woman Working to Make Podcasting More Diverse,” by Fast Company, Walker reported to this year’s festival that the most popular podcasts on iTunes are now nearly 35 percent women-hosted—and of those originating at her home station, WNYC, nine out of the 20 podcasts, or 45 percent, are created by women. “In podcasting, everyone in this room can create your own characters, tell your own stories. We don’t have to be relegated to fitting ourselves into the roles that a group of male decision makers deems to be appropriate, sellable or allowable,” she told the crowd.

Held this year in Los Angeles, at the Theatre at Ace Hotel with 600 attendees (last year’s festival in New York welcomed only 100), Werk It 2017 featured a number of notable participants including  Death, Sex & Money‘s Anna Sale, Note to Self’s Manoush Zomorodi, and Latino USA’s Maria Hinojosa, as well as Nina Jacobson (producer of The Hunger Games), EMMY award-winning actress Lena Waithe, Recode’s Kara Swisher, TV producer Ilene Chaiken, and podcasters Ester Perel, Nigel Poor, Nora McInerny, and Kelly Mcevers. Many of the sessions are available as podcasts at no cost on a site hosted by WNYC Studios.

Note: Walker will be on the Wesleyan campus for Homecoming/Family Weekend, speaking on “Journalism in The Trump Era: Public Media’s Role as a Trusted News Source and Convener of Public Discourse” at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4, in a WESeminar to celebrate Wesleyan’s Koeppel Journalism Fellows. Anne Greene, University Professor of English and director of Wesleyan’s Writing Certificate, will serve as moderator. Walker holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management and a BA in history, magna cum laude, from Wesleyan University, where she was an Olin Scholar.

Follow Laura Walker on Twitter: @lwalker; WNYC Studios: @WNYCStudios

And listen to her Careers by Design podcast interview, “Encore: Don’t be Scared by Ambiguity,” hosted by Sharon Belden Castonguay, director of Wesleyan’s Gordon Career Center.

In this 2016 conversation, Walker told Castonguay: “For me a lot of the fun of it, and the challenge of it, and the kind of stuff I love to do, is the mix of the creative and the business… I think that actually started at Wesleyan… There’s something about seeing connections and drawing them and reveling in them…and not being scared by the ambiguity, but being challenged by it.”

CNN’s Santana ’98 Reports from Puerto Rico: Desperate Shortages, Little Relief

CNN's Maria Santana interviews the mayor of a Puerto Rican city after the Hurricane. In the photo, a CNN cameraman points a video camera on the interview.

CNN’s Maria Santana ’98 interviews the mayor of the town of Aguadilla (pop. 60,000) in Puerto Rico. “To help his people, he’d set up three locations where people could gather water from the local aqueduct. Daily, he traveled the two hours to San Juan at 4 a.m., hoping to pick up FEMA aid. Other mayors were also making that same trip, because each town still lacked a way to communicate with the central government. The mayors would have to show up in person to find out if any aid was available.”

When CNN en Español journalist Maria Santana arrived on the island of Puerto Rico on Sept. 25, five days after category 4 Hurricane Maria tore over the land, she was eager to do her work—tell the stories of those in the center of the devastation and report on the efforts to support the victims and rebuild. But the situation was not what she expected, and—though her job has taken her to many places in the United States that had been ravaged by natural disasters—this was nothing like what she’d seen before.

While she and the crew stayed at a hotel in San Juan—with internet accessibility to transmit her reports—even short trips into the countryside showed massive devastation, but little aid reaching the people.

Garcia ’88 Joins NPR with Weekly Podcast: What’s Good with Stretch and Bobbito

Bobbito Garcia and DJ Stretch Armstrong are in animated discussion and laughter across a studio table on the air at NPR.

Bobbito Garcia ’88 (AKA Bob Kool Love) and DJ Stretch Armstrong, a legendary duo from late-night hip-hop radio in the ’90s, have reunited—reigniting their wit and wisdom in interviews with current cultural icons for the NPR podcast, What’s Good With Stretch and Bobbito.

Bobbito Garcia ’88 and DJ Stretch Armstrong are back broadcasting—just like they were in the ’90s. Except:

It’s not student radio WKCR at Columbia University; it’s National Public Radio.

It’s not in the 1 until 5 a.m. timeslot; it’s an audio-on-demand podcast.

And the guests are not the as-yet-undiscovered hip-hop artists.

In What’s Good with Stretch and Bobbito, the listener will find Garcia and Armstrong offering smart, lively conversation with trendsetters and cultural icons ranging from Chance The Rapper, to activists Linda Sarsour, to Stevie Wonder. (“The standout interview of my career,” says Garcia, “with the legend of legends.”)

“Your Pillow”: Starbucks Selects Single by Rhodes ’90

J.R. Rhodes ’90 has a new album coming out Nov. 3, and a single from it has already been picked up for play in Starbucks. (Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis)

Next time you’re seeking a caffeine fix in Starbucks, keep your ears open for a song by J.R. Rhodes ’90. Hers is a haunting alto voice—with a throatiness and rich, emotional depth reminiscent of Joan Armatrading—and the song, in a minor key, “Your Pillow,” was the first single released from her album I Am, due out Nov. 3.

A music major at Wesleyan and a singer/songwriter since then, Rhodes had released three albums previously: Elixir (2011), Afriqueen Stare (2003) and Songs of Angels (1999).

The high-profile single placement, however, is something entirely new.

“A career in music can definitely be a winding road,” she says. “You have your days when you want to give up. And then you get a little help. And sometimes—you get a lot of help.”

Sung ’90 Reflects on Fighting Injustice in New Documentary

Jill Sung ’90, center, with her sister Vera and father, the founder of Abacus Federal Savings Bank, in a still from the new documentary by Steven James, which will air on PBS Frontline Sept. 12. The film chronicles the saga of the only U.S. bank indicted for mortgage fraud related to the 2008 financial crisis.

On Sept.12 (check local listings), Public Broadcasting Service’s Frontline will broadcast Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, a new documentary by Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) that tells the story of the only U.S. bank to be criminally charged in connection with the 2008 financial crisis. That bank is Abacus Federal Savings Bank, located in New York City’s Chinatown and founded in 1984 by Thomas Sung, an immigration lawyer and an immigrant himself, who saw the need for this within the insular community. Sung and his wife are the parents of four daughters—three lawyers and one medical doctor—including two affiliated with the bank: Jill Sung ’90, president and CEO of Abacus, and her elder sister Vera, who sits on the board.

The events that are chronicled were set in motion when the Sungs discovered that one of their loan officers was taking money from borrowers in order to create false loan documents. The Sungs immediately fired him, referred the matter to their regulator, and reported the incident to the police. Yet instead of prosecuting that individual, the district attorney’s office turned their scrutiny on the bank’s officers and employees. In an unprecedented turn of events, 18 Abacus employees were placed under arrest and the press was offered a shocking photo-op: 10 of these employees were “handcuffed to a chain and paraded down the hallway in the Criminal Court building in a staged perp-walk before the national news media like a herd of slaves being led to the auction block,” as Thomas Sung later described that event in his statement to the public after Abacus was found innocent of wrongdoing.

Before that day of vindication, however, the legal proceedings, machinations, and trial sprawled over five long, intense years. James was there to film key moments and conduct interviews, including one with New York City District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who led the prosecution.

Roberts ’77 Makes AdWeek’s ‘Most Powerful Women In Sports’ List

Michele A. Roberts ’77, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, appeared in AdWeek‘s list of its “30 Most Powerful Women in Sports.”

Adweek named Michele Roberts ’77, executive director—and first female leader—of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), to its “30 Most Powerful Women in Sports” list, which features outstanding executives, athletes and journalists, among others.

Previously an attorney with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Roberts began her career as a public defender in Washington, D.C. In the June 26 article, Adweek’s Tim Baysinger noted that Roberts would be negotiating across the table from league commissioner Adam Silver when the two worked on a new collective bargaining agreement—and Roberts would be trying to avoid a lockout, something her two predecessors were not able to do. A government major at Wesleyan, Roberts earned her JD from the University of California at Berkeley.

The negotiations now completed, Roberts noted, “The deal we worked out with the league contained a number of favorable provisions for our players, including a 45 percent across-the-board salary increase for those players whose salaries are pre-set. And, no lockout!”

In 2015, Roberts spoke at Wesleyan’s Dwight L. Greene Symposium about her role with the players union and her deep commitment to the men she was representing: “Maybe it is okay for a professional athlete to be as politically apathetic as anyone else; they have the right not to care,” Roberts said. “But when I saw my guys wearing those ‘I can’t breathe’ t-shirts, I could not have been more proud.… We will defend to the death the right of our players to comment on political issues as they see fit as long as they don’t violate any laws.”

Walker ’79, P’21, WNYC CEO, Named to Crain’s Most Powerful Women List

Laura Walker ’79, P’21, president and CEO of New York Public Radio, has been named to Crain’s list of Most Powerful Women in 2017. (Photo by Janice Yi)

Laura Walker ’79, P’21, president and CEO of New York Public Radio, was named to Crain’s Most Powerful Women list for 2017.

“Presiding over the largest public radio station group in the U.S., Laura Walker reaches 26 million listeners every month through the eight stations in her WNYC portfolio,” Crain’s Matthew Flamm wrote. “Dependent on grants and listener contributions—Walker has grown revenue by 68% over the past decade—WNYC has the freedom to explore sensitive issues on air and on demand.”

Wesleyan Presence Celebrates BRC Success at The Way Home Gala; Swanson ’77 Honored

Richard Swanson ’77, a board member of The Bowery Residents’ Committee, was honored at The Way Home Gala, amidst a turnout of Wesleyan alumni also affiliated with the New York organization (see more photos below)

On June 12, Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC), one of New York City’s largest providers of housing and services for homeless adults, honored longtime BRC board member Richard Swanson ’77 at the organization’s seventh annual gala. Swanson, a trustee of BRC, is managing director and the general counsel of York Capital Management, as well as a member of the firm’s executive, operating and valuation committees.

On the BRC website, Swanson explains his decision to join the board as his effort “to be able to give something back to the City of New York, which has treated me so well over my legal career.… We all have a responsibility to our fellow citizens who are less fortunate than ourselves.”

Berk ’72 Puts Rare Comic and Art Collection Up for Auction

Jon Berk ’72 holds a recreation of cover art by Bob Fujimoto, which he commissioned from the artist 2002 and originally published during World War II>

Jon Berk ’72 holds a recreation of cover art by Bob Fujitani, which Berk commissioned from the artist in 2002. Fujitani asked Berk if he could embellish on the original, which had been published during World War II—and Berk was delighted to agree. He notes that a common trope of that era was a “damsel in distress” surrounded by demonic creatures, like the one above in a Nazi uniform. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

This March, Jon Berk ’72 began selling off his collection of comicbooks and comic art. It is no ordinary collection: The Jon Berk Art and Comic Collection, as it is known, consists of more than 18,000  items that span the history of comics in America. And it is no ordinary sale—ComicConnect is handing the sale, with the auction preview at the  Metropolis Gallery in New York City until June 2nd, with online auctions offered in five sessions from June 12 though 16.

Asked how he began collecting comics, Berk notes that “collecting” is much different from “reading and acquiring,” which is what he did as a boy, buying DC comics from the local five-and-dime, He also notes his preference for “comicbook” as one word, much as one would write “notebook” or “casebook.”

Away at Hotchkiss for boarding school, Berk got interested in Marvel comics—new characters he’d never heard of, with stories that left the reader dangling until the next issue—from the boys who lived on the second floor of his dorm. His Wesleyan years followed, then law school at Boston University, and somewhere along the way, his parents jettisoned those childhood boxes of comicbooks.

During a law school summer in Boston, Berk saw “one of those old spinner-racks of comics”—with Spiderman books, his favorite. “They still make these?” he thought. There in the back pages, he saw an ad for collectors—an opportunity to buy vintage comicbooks. “They sell old comicbooks?” He was hooked and became a student of the genre—of the major publishing houses, the artists and their superheroes, and the social and cultural forces that shaped the stories that unfolded in those colorful pages.

He began with the urge to collect a complete set of the Marvel Comics Silver Age, in the early 1960s. “That would be the Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain American, the Hulk,” he says. “And once I collected those, I saw, that someone had a Human Torch, a comicbook from the 1940s, by Timely.

“Then I discovered Golden Age books, and even Pre-Golden Age—that was before Superman came out in June of 1938, when forces coalesced and we were given a superhero universe not known before this time.

“It opened up a whole new world for me; I was very interested in tracking down the early publishers like Everett Arnold and Harry Chesler,” he explains. “I’d always been interested in where did things come from? Where did things start? So I got into those Superheroes and looked for their predecessors. I was interested in the history of this American mythology.”

Now, however, “I just feel the timing is right to sell them,” said Berk, 67, an attorney with Gordon, Muir and Foley. “I’ve had fun, I’ve met great people, I have no regrets.”

In this new stage, divesting himself of this collection, not only is he getting reconnecting with many people he had met earlier, he is offering a whole new level of excitement to those who continue in the hobby.

Cofounders and owners of the Metropolis Comics, speak on the importance of the Berk Collection (“It’s funny to hear myself addressed in the third person,” notes Berk”) in a video.

Stephen Fischler, co-founder and CEO of Metropolis Comics says: “Jon’s collection is particularly special because of the appreciation that he had for what he was putting together. He wasn’t looking for collecting the newest trend and the hottest books. He was a sort of visionary and a comic historian who wanted to put together the history of comic books. He had a broad selection; he had super hero books, he had science fiction books, he had things that appealed to him and things that he loved.”

Vincent Zurzola, co-founder and CPP of Metropolis Comics, notes,  “Between the comic books and the art, this is one of the best collections ever assembled. What makes the Jon Berk Collection so unique… is that it has incredible depth to it. To give you an idea—we had to process this to put it into our database, and often, when we entered a book, it was he first one we’ve ever had. Metropolis Collectibles has been the largest buyer of vintage comics in the world for over 30-40 years—so we’ve had pretty much everything. When I’m seeing, ‘Does not exist in database’ over and over again…I know we have a very, very special collection. It was incredibly educational and mind-boggling to see books that I’ve never seen before.”

“I’m selling off 99.5 percent of my collection,” says Berk, whose keys hang out of his pocket on a Spiderman keychain. “But there’s always that .5 percent. Maybe everyone will see those some time in the future.”

Note: To see a video of Jon Berk ’72 discussing his collection, click here.

Bay ’86 Honored with Prints in Cement at Theater in Hollywood

Director Michael Bay ’86 adds his prints to those of Hollywood icons outside TCL Chinese Theatre.

Director Michael Bay ’86 adds his prints to those of Hollywood icons outside TCL Chinese Theatre.

On May 23, Michael Bay ’86 added his hand- and footprints to the cement outside the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, signifying his status as a film icon. Bay’s 1995 debut film, Bad Boys, was only the first of Bay’s blockbusters, which include Armageddon and The Rock  as well as five “Transformers” movies, with an upcoming release of Transformers: The Last Knight slated for June 21.

A film major at Wesleyan whose senior project, My Brother Benjamin, won the Frank Capra prize for best film when he graduated, Bay recalled for Variety that it was at this theater, when he was seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark at age 15, that he decided he wanted to become a director. He had had a part-time job at filing storyboards for Raiders at Lucasfilm, and he had come to the conclusion that it would be terrible. But when he saw the movie, the transformation from concept to screen captured his imagination.

Bay’s excitement about film and talent for it were clear to Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and founder and curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives, when he arrived on campus in 1982 and showed her some of his photographic work. She told Variety, “I was actually quite taken aback that it was the work of a high school kid because it was dynamic, had great compositions and angles, showed a real control and mastery, but the work had life and energy in it.” Basinger became his advisor.

At Wesleyan he also started collaborating with Brad Fuller ’87—now co-founder of Platinum Dunes with partners Bay and Andrew Form in 2001. With Platinum Dunes, Bay has been involved in producing a series smaller-budget hits, as well as television shows and an upcoming Amazon series, Jack Ryan.

Fuller recalled his college connection with Bay for Variety: “All I can tell you is I sat next to the right guy in film class,” he says. “I knew that guy was going to be successful; he just saw things in a way that other people didn’t.”

Basinger concurs. “Michael has consistently, over a long period of time, proved himself as a filmmaker who can get it done and whose films appeal so much they make huge amounts of money,” she told Variety. Bay added: “It’s a great industry, but it can be very cynical…So people need to remember it’s a really, really, really fun job. And I love, love, love doing it.”

Note: This weekend, Brad Fuller ’87 was on campus for Reunion/Commencement 2017 events and spoke at a WESeminar, “Wesleyan in Hollywood,” with Documentary Producer Sasha Alpert ’82; Creator/Executive Producer of Will & Grace, David Kohan ’86, P’17; and former Co-Chairman of Creative Artists Agency Rick Nicita ’67. Jeanine Basinger, who originated Wesleyan’s Film Studies Program, moderated the panel, which was held in the Goldsmith Family Cinema at the Center for Film Studies.