You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Neal Baer Keeps Busy in North Carolina with Docu, ‘Under the Dome’

'If You Build It' to premiere April 5 at Full Frame Documentary Festival in Durham

For Neal Baer, all roads lead through North Carolina these days.
The multi-hyphenate is busy serving as showrunner on CBS’ ambitious fantasy-thriller drama “Under the Dome,” which is lensing in Wilmington and thereabouts. He’ll take a break April 5 to attend the world preem of “If You Build It” (pictured above), his latest documentary project, at the Full Frame Documentary Festival, which unspools April 4-7 in Durham.
The pic, which Baer produced with Christine O’Malley and helmer Patrick Creadon, tells the story of activists Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller, who mounted a program in rural North Carolina to teach design skills to high school students in a struggling community. The filmmakers spent a year chronicling the innovative program and the impact it had on students who immersed themselves in Pilloton and Miller’s vision of “humanitarian design principals.”
Baer has been working with O’Malley and Creadon, the pair behind the praised 2006 docu “Wordplay,” for several years. He’s struck by the coincidence that his professional life in primetime would also take him to the Tar Heel state.
“The festival is only about an hour away from where we’re shooting the series,” Baer told Variety. “It’s nice for me to be there for both.”
The Full Frame screening is the start of a fest circuit tour for “If You Build It,” which Baer and his collaborators aim to push for awards attention. The preem at Full Frame was a natural fit because so many of the students who are in the film will be there.
Baer became a champion of “If You Build It” after reading an article about Pilloton’s work, which encompassed his interest in design and socially conscious entrepreneurial efforts.
The pic was initially supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the Sundance Institute. It also got a boost from Sundance’s Good Pitch program, which helps docu makers hone their pitches and meet with prospective financiers. “It’s a wonderful approach for documentary filmmakers,” Baer said.
“If You Build It” came out of the program with a blueprint for a social networking platform, ActionLab.org, that will encourage people to take action a la Pilloton in their communities. The goal is to have the site serve as a forum for connecting activists with foundations and other orgs that might provide funding for their proposals.
Meanwhile, “Under the Dome” marks another new approach to launching a series for Baer, who ran “Law & Order: SVU” for nearly a decade. The drama based on the Stephen King book of the same name earned a straight-to-series 13 episode order from CBS last November. There’s no sweating out a pilot pickup this time around, Baer said, but there’s also not as much feedback in the process between completing the first episode and diving in to the rest.
“It’s really just like being tossed in to the deep end,” Baer said.
He’s in good company with fellow exec producers and “Lost” alums Brian K. Vaughan, who wrote the pilot adaptation of King’s 1000-plus page book, and Jack Bender, who keeps production on track in the wilds of Wilmington just as he did in Hawaii for six seasons on “Lost.” Niels Arden Opley, helmer of the original Swedish “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” directed the first episode, to bow June 24.
“I’m having fun,” Baer said. “It haven’t done a writer’s room this intensive since ‘ER.’ ”

More TV

  • GREY'S ANATOMY - "Let's All Go

    'Grey's Anatomy': 5 Biggest Shockers From the Season 16 Midseason Finale

    Spoilers: Do not read the following unless you have watched the season 16 mid-season finale of “Grey’s Anatomy,” titled “Let’s All Go to the Bar.” The always-dramatic “Grey’s Anatomy” made sure to ramp up the action for its Season 16 mid-season finale. Not only has Meredith Grey’s love life just gotten potentially more complicated, but [...]

  • Imelda Staunton'Downton Abbey' photocall, Rome Film

    'The Crown' Has Not Cast Imelda Staunton for Seasons 5 and 6, Netflix Says

    Netflix is shooting down reports that Imelda Staunton is joining “The Crown.” “We are currently filming season 4 of ‘The Crown’ but have not commissioned any further seasons as yet, therefore any news on casting remains pure speculation,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. Staunton, known to many as the despicable Dolores Umbridge in [...]

  • Baby Yoda The Mandalorian

    Baby Yoda Merchandise to Debut Ahead of Holiday Shopping Season

    Purchase Baby Yoda toys, you will. Fans of the breakout character from the Disney Plus series “The Mandalorian” have been surprised that there was no merchandise pegged to the character available upon the launch of the show, given that the Christmas shopping season is rapidly approaching. But according to an individual with knowledge of the [...]

  • Sean "Diddy" Combs Revolt TV

    Sean Combs Slams 'Illusion of Economic Inclusion' at Comcast Amid Byron Allen Fight

    Sean Combs has come out swinging against Comcast in a lengthy statement prompted by the cable giant’s legal battle with Entertainment Studios chief Byron Allen. Combs accused Comcast of maintaining “the illusion of economic inclusion” in its handling of a carriage agreement with Combs’ Revolt TV channel. Combs was critical of Comcast for failing to [...]

  • Oprah Winfrey during a tribute to

    TV News Roundup: OWN Orders Celebrity Relationship Series '#LoveGoals'

    In today’s TV news roundup, OWN orders a new unscripted relationship series and Disney Channel orders new seasons of “The Owl House” and “Sydney to the Max.”  DATES ABC will live broadcast the “2020 NCAA Gymnastics Championship Final” on April 18. The semi finals will air the day before at 1 and 6 p.m. ET. [...]

  • Sissy book cover

    Showtime to Develop Series Based on Jacob Tobia Memoir 'Sissy' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Showtime is developing a half-hour dramedy based on Jacob Tobia’s memoir, Variety has learned exclusively. Tobia is a non-binary LGBTQ rights activist, actor, producer, and author. Their memoir, “Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story,” was published earlier this year by Putnam Books at Penguin Random House. The series, currently titled “Sissy,” would follow Tobi Gibran, a non-binary college [...]

  • Invisible Stories from HBO Asia

    Singapore Festival: HBO Asia Tells ‘Invisible Stories’

    HBO Asia has expanded its burgeoning production slate with six-episode half-hour series “Invisible Stories.” The first two episodes of the show, “Lian” and “Chuan,” play at the Singapore International Film Festival on Nov. 28. The series is by writer and director Ler Jiyuan, who previously directed part of HBO Asia Original series “Grisse.” “Like 80% [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content