“What can you do with a classics degree?” said Amir Hussain, professor of theological studies. “Well, you can work for Morgan Freeman.”
Annelise Baer ’07 put her classics major to work as a researcher on the new National Geographic Channel mini-series, “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman,” along with Hussain who served on the advisory board.
“Regardless of age, belief, or where they live, everybody wants to know: why are we here? How did we get here? What happens when we die?” Baer said. “‘The Story of God’ explores all those big questions, and asks how people around the world and throughout history have explored those questions.”
As a member of the advisory board, Hussain watched rough cuts of each episode and offered feedback related to his areas of expertise in Islam and world religions.
In one draft episode, Hussain noticed Morgan Freeman say, “I’m going to Rome, which is the most important city for Christians.” He wrote back to the writers, explaining that Rome may be the most important city for Roman Catholic Christians, but not for all types of Christians. In the final cut, they changed the line to “All roads lead to Rome.”
Baer’s role as researcher on the show is her latest job in her career as a freelance researcher for production companies. She has previously researched and fact-checked for shows as diverse as the History Channel’s “America’s Book of Secrets” and the Travel Channel’s “America’s Hidden Swimming Holes.” “The Story of God” is her longest research project.
“We came, we saw, we researched,” Baer said. “If you needed information on anything, I got you that information, and usually in a well-organized Word document.” Her research helped the show’s writers “get into the mindset of an ancient Egyptian or someone living in the Roman empire in the first century AD,” she said.
Baer’s education uniquely positioned her to do well in the role. In addition to her Classics major, she minored in Archaeology at LMU and went on to earn a master’s degree in Archaeology for Screen Media at University of Bristol. “There was a lot of biblical archaeology and history involved, so it was all the places that I had classes on all over again,” Baer said. “Most people have not studied archaeology, have not studied history, so they’re not familiar with the hows and the whys of ancient cultures.”
Baer hopes that “The Story of God” offers audiences a glimpse into the lives and beliefs of people in other parts of the world and at other times in history. “I hope this show emphasizes our common humanity,” she said.
“The Story of God with Morgan Freeman” is airing this spring on the National Geographic Channel.