Issue 28 | May 2007

  • Message from the Membership Directors
  • Message from Mia
  • Member Profile: Neal Baer GSE '79, GSA '82, HMS 96
  • Harvardwood Screenplay Competition
  • Industry Successes
  • Pencil Me In

Message from the Membership Directors

Hope everyone had a relaxing Memorial Day Weekend and enjoyed the unofficial start of summer!

Look out for a Harvardwood get-together in Boston during Reunion Weekend, as we're aiming to re-invigorate our local chapters over the next few months (oh, we know you're out there!). Remember, if you ever want to spearhead or host an event, feel free to email us or contact your Chapter Heads directly via the website: The more you are involved, the better Harvardwood will be!

In the meantime, enjoy this month's profile on Neal Baer, and thanks to everyone who contributed to this issue. Please continue to share your stories, as your participation is what Harvardwood is all about. And oh yes, a special shout-out to our alums who shared their gems of advice during Arts First Weekend - Baratunde Thurston, Erin Mackey, Gabrielle Dockterman, and Paul Cabana - thank you, thank you, thank you!

Angela and Kibi

Message from Mia

It's been another fun-filled month with Harvardwood activities all around the globe...we had our second Salon in LA with alum and Media Rights Capital founder Modi Wiczyk, an on-campus career panel in Cambridge during Arts First weekend, a panel with Film France at the Cannes Film Festival, and more... Thanks to everyone who participated!

Please join us this evening (Wed., May 30th) in LA as we announce the winners of the 2007 Harvardwood Screenplay Competition, sponsored by Circle of Confusion. Those of you who haven't yet met my fiance (David Alpert '97) can get a good look at him there and let me know your opinion before we tie the knot in August! ;)


Member Profile: Neal Baer (GSE '79, GSA '82, HMS '96)

by Amit Samuel

The Wizard of Awes.

Downed power lines. Great. I am already late to the first Harvardwood Salon. Now, if I were Dr. Doug Ross (played by some actor named George Clooney) from "ER" in a Neal Baer-penned script, I would be in a tuxedo, suavely saving the day and making it to the Salon in the nick of time. Instead, I am stuck in traffic wearing a crummy pair of jeans and a dark t-shirt that hides the stains of last night's dinner.

Before "ER" – heck, before puberty – Neal Baer spent his time in elementary school like every other kid: networking. As luck would have it, one of his schoolyard buddies grew up to be the producer of "China Beach." Perhaps remembering Neal's prodigious gift for cursive handwriting, John Wells gave Neal a job writing for "China Beach". Neal's first episode was promptly nominated for a Writer's Guild award for Best Drama.

According to Neal, "it all went downhill after that". He went so far down that he landed at Harvard Medical School. Far away from the klieg lights of Hollywood, Neal scoped and sutured for three years. Then the call came. John Wells had a new pilot, a pilot written by HMS alum Michael Crichton.

Before he knew it, Neal was spending his days doing rounds and his nights spinning yarns. One of his classmates found Neal's off-hour activities so interesting that he began helping Neal on his short films. Eventually this classmate, David Foster, went to work on the show "Gideon's Crossing" and is now the executive producer of "House, MD".

Neal is currently the showrunner of the highest rated drama on NBC, "Law & Order: SVU". The brightest star in the "Law & Order" constellation, "SVU" is a weekly exercise in thoughtful scripting. Each episode explores difficult social and moral questions that transcend easy answers. Especially with medical topics, just like when he was writing for "ER", Neal works hard on getting the facts right. Each episode is not just entertainment; for many it's an education about issues that carry some social stigma and, consequently, some level of misinformation. From AIDS to underground (on the "down-low") gay black sex, "SVU" addresses issues with facts and without judgment.

In addition to his TV gig, Neal is currently working on a narrative adaptation of the documentary "The Education of Shelby Knox". The movie follows a teen's transformation from conservative Southern Baptist to staunch liberal feminist, fighting for the sexual rights of women and homosexuals.

In his spare time, Neal works on an art project in Africa. Providing cameras to African youths, the project, "The House is Small but the Welcome is Big" (, is already in its third year. It gives the youths an artistic outlet, an opportunity to photograph their life.

Closer to home, and in addition to leading the inaugural Harvardwood Salon, Neal has guest lectured at USC, Stanford Business School, and the Graduation School of Education at Harvard. Next winter, Neal will teach an entire class on Social Documentary at Colorado College.

Neal's first love, though, is still TV. He is a self- professed "confector" who loves the pace of television. For writers just getting started, he advises having two spec scripts of shows that you really like. Neal didn't actually have a spec script for his first job. If you spent more time networking in the 4th grade, maybe you wouldn't need one either.

I did finally make it to the Salon. As the sun went down, the participants sat and listened, enthralled by a man doing what he does best: telling stories that provoke and inspire.

Harvardwood Screenplay Competition

We are pleased to announce the six finalists for the 2007 Harvardwood Screenplay Competition, sponsored by Circle of Confusion:

  • THE INNOCENCE LIST by Danny Passman & Ben Sahl
  • IRON HORSES by Daniel Martin
  • ORIGIN by John Unger Zussman & Patricia Zussman
  • ROANOKE by Lane Shadgett


It was a very competitive pool, so congratulations to all of the participants! Join us tonight as we announce the winner(s) of the competition at Red Pearl Kitchen in Hollywood -- details:

Industry Successes...

Best of luck to Sid Holmes MPA '92, one of five finalists in the ninth annual San Francisco Black Film Festival screenplay competition. The winner will be announced at the SFBFF awards ceremony on June 15.

Producer Kibi Anderson '00 won a Northern California Emmy for her documentary "The Mighty Warriors of Comedy", in the category "Arts/Entertainment - Program Special." The project focuses on the struggles of long-time Asian American Comedy Troupe The 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors. The Awards ceremony was in San Francisco on May 12, 2007. The DVD of the project is available for purchase on line at .

Jason Holzman '93 just been hired by USA Network as their Vice President, Creative Services, based in New York.

Pencil Me In...

Sunday, June 10: Harvardwood Boston Event - Details TBA!

September 8, 15, 22, 29: Harvardwood Seminar Series - Have a topic in mind? A speaker you'd like to invite? Let us know!

Calendar Programs Jobs & Career Development