From working in television and film to creating vehicles for YouTube and video streaming, many of Harker’s alumni thrive in the fast-paced, quickly evolving world of visual media. Their artistic outlets may differ, yet, at the end of the day, most are driven by the same internal force: the desire to communicate. Read on as three Harker graduates share the ins and outs of pursuing a career somewhat off the beaten path, but well on the road to providing a satisfying outlet for creativity and expressive pursuit.
Matt Wolf ’96
Documentary Filmmaker Matt Wolf was thrilled to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship for his recent film “Teenage,” a historical documentary about the pre-history of teenagers based on a book by the acclaimed British writer and cultural critic Jon Savage. The film, which looks at youth culture from the early 1900s to 1945, followed his previous work, “Wild Combination,” which aired on the Sundance Channel and is still available on DVD via Amazon, Netflix and iTunes.
“Wild Combination” is a feature-length documentary about the late Arthur Russell, a musician who mastered everything from the cello to the perfect disco beat in unimaginable ways. “Wild Combination” garnered positive critical attention and helped kick start Wolf’s career.
“It was a surprise. I wasn’t really tapped into the film industry. So I was fortunate to get positive critical attention and distribution for that film,” recalled Wolf, who grew up in San Jose and attended New York University’s film school, where he met many of his current key collaborators. He still resides in New York and credits Harker with helping prepare him for the rigors of both film school and filmmaking.
“Harker was really academically challenging, and prepared me for the kind of intensive research I do in my work today,” he said. While “Wild Combination” helped Wolf get his foot in the film industry’s door, it was his documentary “Teenage” that really took off and helped him gain a larger audience. “Teenage” is what Wolf calls “a different kind of historical film.
“I was struck by the unconventional way [Jon Savage’s book] treated the history of youth from the early 20th century. The film was much larger in scale than anything I had made before, so it was a growing experience for me as well,” he said. With his struggling artist days behind him, Wolf advises others interested in pursuing a career in film to finish what they start, especially when it’s a self-initiated or independent project.
“There are a lot of obstacles to completing these kinds of projects, but finishing is the key to having a creative career,” he advised. Wolf is currently making a documentary about children’s book illustrator and Eloise co-creator Hilary Knight, as well as a documentary project for the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Karan Lodha ’04
Creator at Human Hangouts Since graduating from Harvard College in 2008, Karan Lodha ’04 has forged a satisfying career as a digital media professional working for a variety of companies. He most recently stepped out on his own, as creator and producer of an innovative Web series called “Human Hangouts,” showcasing candid conversations with individuals from all walks of life.
The conversations seek to help viewers understand their own humanity by examining both life and career choices. Lodha creates his show using a technological program from Google+ called Hangouts, which allows users to start or join a video chat. He posts his guest interviews to YouTube, where viewers can subscribe to his channel. “All of us at one point or another question who we are and why we’ve chosen the paths we’re on, and these interviews illuminate that what can seem like a linear process is often a collection of adventurous accidents,” said Lodha, who for a time lived in Los Angeles and has since returned to the Bay Area.
He spent several months in Los Angeles consulting with production companies and learning from industry innovators to get a firm grasp on the emerging trends in media and entertainment. His previous experience in visual media includes serving as a development intern at Voltage Pictures; working as head of business development at Kamcord; being a creator at The Sports Odyssey; becoming a strategic partner/manager at Google TV Ads; and serving as a digital programming intern at MTV Networks.
When he was a student at Harvard, he was the sports chair for The Harvard Crimson, the school’s daily newspaper. “I’ve been fortunate to work in digital media in an era when every year brings radical changes to the industry,” he said. “Continuing to do business as usual is no longer an option for players in this space. My experience with various companies has taught me the importance of not just staying abreast of the latest trends but also of trying to predict the next wave of possibilities.”
Lodha said he will be eternally grateful to his teachers at Harker for instilling a lifelong love of learning. “I still try to treat each day as if I’m sitting at a desk at 500 Saratoga Ave.,” he said.
Sean Doherty, Jr. ’09, Co-Founder, Wurl
Sean Doherty, Jr. ’09 was an undergraduate at Boston College when he and his father launched Wurl, a successful company that helps users integrate the world’s best online videos into their own apps, video services and websites.
Doherty worked remotely to help craft the company’s product and marketing strategies, and helped create Wurl’s ranking algorithm, “ChannelsRank.” He graduated this year from Boston College with a degree in management (with concentrations in information systems and marketing) and a minor in history. He continues to work at Wurl as an advisor, providing valuable insight into the trends and innovations of technology and media companies involved in broadband video delivery.
“We spent a lot of time [while I was in college] figuring out what our product would be, given the technology we had created. I traveled to New York a few times to meet with media companies, but most of the work I could mold to fit my schedule,” he recalled.
He said part of the secret behind his success at combining working at Wurl with his college studies was that Harker prepared him so well academically. Now, having successfully launched Wurl and graduated from college, Doherty has decided to start a new chapter in his life by pursuing another passion: the television and film business. He soon will be relocating to Los Angeles to seek work in TV and movie distribution and production. “I think it’s really important to follow your passions career-wise,” advised Doherty, who is excited about moving forward yet looks back fondly on his time at Harker, college and working at Wurl.