Some Harvard students accept that people they meet will assume they are introverted workaholics who stay in and study all night. Others, like Abel Acuna ’11, take action. Producer of the early viral video “Facebook.com Song” in high school—which today has nearly 700,000 hits on YouTube—Abel has filmed and starred in videos like “Harvard Bros” and “Four Broko” to combat popular perceptions of Harvard students. “A lot of my work at Harvard has been to kind of poke fun at the Harvard name, because when people think of Harvard they automatically think of nerdy kids who study all day,” he says. “I wanted to share a different perspective with my friends at home and people on YouTube.”
The government concentrator, however, appreciates the respect that the Harvard name garners in the outside world. When looking for an internship after his sophomore year, Acuna noticed that “a lot of these entertainment companies don’t see a lot of applicants from the Harvard and Ivy communities, so they do give us a second glance when looking at our resume or calling us for a phone interview.” Why the shortage of Ivy League applicants for entertainment industry jobs and internships? “Some of the qualities they’re looking for might not … come from a Harvard applicant,” Acuna says. “A lot of these opportunities—especially not the more creative ones—are a lot more clerical.” In Acuna’s case, the Harvard name and his own resume obviously paid off, because that summer he went on to work for Home Box Office (HBO), the creator of shows like “Entourage” and “True Blood.”
The summer internship marked a turning point for Acuna. “Being there, being involved in something creative, being involved in an industry that ... provides entertainment to people seemed a lot more satisfying than writing papers or anything like that,” he recalls.
That experience spurred Acuna to consider going into the entertainment business himself. “My videos had always been well received and I never tried transferring that to a career,” he says, “but after my summer in L.A., I saw that there was an industry for it and I decided to come back and really finish my requirements ... so that I could spend my entire senior year working on projects.” Those projects included creating a video production service for Harvard Student Agencies and working as the assistant director on Harvard University Television’s J-Term film. Acuna also earned a secondary in visual and environmental studies.
Although he has indulged his artistic side at Harvard, Acuna says, “I see myself going after college into the world of entrepreneurship. My plan is to after college help build a number of startups that I’m working on to gain some business skills, and then perhaps eventually move over to the entertainment side of things.”
In fact, Acuna’s work in the entrepreneurial and advertising realm has taught him much about the utility of film while allowing him to hone his craft. “On one side [video production] is a fundamental business task like advertising, but I like to add my own piece of creative touch to these things,” he says.
Acuna has been less involved with the film scene on Harvard’s campus, which he finds somewhat lacking, even as he stresses its steady improvement. “There haven’t been that many on-campus groups that really facilitate artistic growth in the realm of film or video. It’s something I think is being worked on now and will improve in the next few years,” Acuna says. “Now it’s really about finding groups of your own peers on campus and improving your skills with them.” He characterizes the Harvard film scene in words that easily describe his own budding career: “in development.”