Phil Conserva ’95 succeeds on small screen as “CSI:” producer
Philip Conserva is well-equipped to answer the question, "What can you do with a liberal arts degree?"
An English major, Conserva is now producer of CBS's ground-breaking, award-winning show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." The forensic crime drama has become such an icon that its influence can be seen here at Roanoke College, where one of the core Intellectual Inquiry courses, "Chemistry and Crime," models itself after the show, complete with fingerprinting assignments.
"It's very cool to hear that the school is offering some of the fun involved in forensics," said Conserva, who has been with "CSI:" since its inception in 2000, after spending four years at the series "Chicago Hope" and one season with "Wasteland."
So how did the Suffield, Conn., native, who grew up on a farm, find himself headed straight for Los Angeles after graduation? To put it simply: a great internship. While at Roanoke, he signed up for a communications concentration because, "I wanted to leave the school with a skill set that would enable me to talk to anyone," he said. The concentration required that he complete an internship.
He credits his advisor, Dr. Anita Turpin, for encouraging him to try something new, and it was during his junior year that he decided he wanted to be a producer. His uncle, producer/director James C. Hart, helped him find a position alongside the production assistants on the medical drama "Chicago Hope" during the summer of 1994.
The internship was scheduled to last three weeks. Just a few days before it ended, Conserva was driving through the 20th Century Fox lot delivering scripts. Outside "The Simpsons" production office, he noticed a Ford Bronco that had both a Roanoke College alumni sticker and a lacrosse sticker. Conserva, who played lacrosse for Roanoke during his sophomore year, returned to "The Simpsons" office after making his deliveries. Unfortunately, the Bronco was gone.
Later that evening, a production coordinator noticed the Roanoke College logo on Conserva's sweatshirt and offered to introduce him to Joe Boucher '87, the Bronco owner, who was producing "The Simpsons" and working on a lacrosse film. (Boucher later went on to produce the Emmy Award-winning series "King of the Hill.") Boucher offered Conserva a three-week internship on "The Simpsons," which gave him the opportunity to work with a top-notch animated production.
Following his back-to-back internships, Conserva returned to Roanoke and began his senior year. By fall break he had already received a job offer from "Chicago Hope." Conserva moved to California as soon as he finished his degree requirements the next summer. The rest, as they say, is Hollywood history.
Conserva, who was very engaged in social activities at Roanoke, said that his social involvement and his communications minor have held him in good stead in the television production field. "You end up communicating with people and learn on the fly," he says.
"You need social skills and Roanoke has a lot of these opportunities. Communication is a big part of my career."