TV Exec visits, hosted by Critical Writing Seminar in TV Criticism
The article below is from the Daily Pennsylvanian and can be found here.
TV exec discusses trip from the ER to 'ER'
Neal Baer highlights the role of storytelling in medicine, television
Making private stories public is what Neal Baer has been trying to do for the last 18 years in the entertainment business.
Media Credit: Taylor Howard[Click to enlarge]
Baer - who helped to write and produce television hits such as ER and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - spoke candidly about his career in television yesterday to lecturer Gail Shister's television-criticism class in the Fireside Lounge of the ARCH Building.
Baer is a Renaissance man in his own right - besides being a successful television producer, he is a graduate of Harvard Medical School who also obtained Master's degrees in sociology and education after majoring in political science at Colorado College.
"My point is that, really, I think college is a testing place. ? You write from what you know or what you learn," Baer said. "Everything bad that happened to me in medical school at Harvard happened to Noah Wyle. ? I came on the first day of ER with a hundred horrible stories, ? and I had an endless fountain to draw on."
When asked whether it was hard to transition from being a physician to writing about one, he was quick to answer that he found it not difficult at all.
"It really wasn't a transition, because being a good doctor is being a good storyteller," Baer said. "And the best doctors I've met are excellent storytellers - they know how to get at your story, and they know through their empathy and their interest how to get things that might go unsaid."
Baer also talked about the difference between private and public storytelling.
"I take the stories that have affected me and I put them into action on SVU," Baer said. "Case and point was a show I did last year on violence as an infectious disease; ? I've seen what happens when kids get shot, but how can I make this private story of mine and make it public - ? I'm very lucky that I have the conduit of SVU to make it public."
Though he is very much involved in the world of television, as a writer, Baer is very interested in finding new formats, such as the Internet and photography, to tell stories.
He is now undertaking a documentary-photo project called "The House is Small," which gave cameras to HIV-positive mothers in Cape Town, South Africa, to chronicle their lives through pictures.