Conolly-Smith, Peter 1964-
CONOLLY-SMITH, Peter 1964-
PERSONAL: Born September 3, 1964, in Munich, Germany; son of David (a book dealer and sports journalist/writer) and Elizabeth (a teacher). Ethnicity: "White/Caucasian." Education: Free University (Berlin, Germany), B.A., 1988; Yale University, M.A., 1992, Ph.D., 1996. Politics: "Decidedly liberal." Religion: "Thinking Christian." Hobbies and other interests: Collecting rare books, films, and videos.
CAREER: Stefan Loose Travel Publications, Berlin, Germany, translator and travel writer, 1983-88; Doane Productions, New Haven, CT, producer of The Nature of the Beast, 1994; Paradise Productions, New York, NY, research coordinator/writer, 1995-96; Vanguard Films, New York, NY, researcher/script consultant/script doctor, 1996-97; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Longfellow Institute, postdoctorate fellow, 1997; Columbia University, New York, NY, visiting adjunct assistant professor, 1997; DeVry Institute, New Brunswick, NJ, associate professor of humanities, 1996—.
MEMBER: American Studies Association, American Historical Association, Modern Language Association, New York Council for the Humanities.
AWARDS, HONORS: German Academic Exchange Service fellowship, 1988-89; AAA Commendation, National Association for Visual Anthropology, 1995 and Grand Jury Prize and first prize in Student Film category, Bettina Russell Film Festival, 1996, both for The Nature of the Beast; John D. Sawyer fellowship, Longfellow Institute, Harvard University, 1997; "Best Keeper" first prize, DeVry National Faculty Symposia, 1998, 2000; Bambi (German Emmy Award) for Best Series Character, 1999, for "Nie wieder Oper" installment of Tatort; National President's Award, Devry, 2001.
(And research coordinator) American Families (five-part television screenplay), PBS, 1996-1997.
Also author of scripts for Tatort Austrian television series, including (with Robert Pejo) "Nie wieder Oper," 1999, and "Feine Herrschaften," 2001; and Next of Kin, a three-part series for PBS. Contributor to books, including Multilingual America, edited by Werner Sollors, New York University Press, 1998; New York: Kultur und Geschichte, edited by Stefan Loose, Loose Travel Publications (Berlin, Germany), 1998; Young Americanists, edited by Werner Sollors, New York University Press, 2000.
WORK IN PROGRESS: "The Translated Community: An Ethnic Press Looks at Popular American Culture, 1890-1920," for "Smithsonian Institution Press series on American Studies," edited by Mark Hirsch; a screenplay based on the life and times of Felipe Carillo Puerto, socialist governor of the Yucatan, Mexico, who was assassinated in 1924; Cocaine, a screenplay adaptation of Romanza Cocaina by Pittigrilli.
SIDELIGHTS: Peter Conolly-Smith told CA: "I have been writing since earliest childhood. The son of a bookshop owner, I was (and remain) driven by the desire of seeing my name on the spine of a book—a good book. Though I wrote throughout grammar and high school and even completed three dismal novels upon graduation, nothing was published for years. Indeed, the second of my unpublished novels elicited what may be the unkindest rejection ever: a New York agent's hand-written note attached to a form letter, suggesting that I might want to learn to write English before submitting other works in the future.
"I took the advice to heart, enrolling in the English and Comparative Literature Departments (I later added American Studies as a third major) at the Free University of Berlin, Germany, my childhood home, in hopes of learning the craft of great writing through the study of literature. The creative result of this period was the last (and worst) of my three unpublished novels. My years of study did, however, yield the fortunate byproduct of a B.A., which, in turn, led to a one-year fellowship at Yale University.
"Falling in love with the academic environment of Yale, I remained there and earned my Ph.D. in American studies from 1988-96, a period during which the iron discipline internalized during my fruitless years as a would-be novelist stood me in good stead: my dissertation, on New York's German-American immigrant community during World War I, was over 600 pages in length and passed with distinction.
"The Yale Ph.D. opened many doors, including those that led to my current, modest but fulfilling academic career, as well as several doors into the world of film and television writing. Even as a graduate student, I and some of my undergraduate protégés had produced a PBS-documentary on the life and case of a victim of domestic abuse now serving a life-sentence for first-degree murder (the multiple, international award-winning The Nature of the Beast on the case of Bonnie Foreshaw, 1994). With my Ph.D. under my belt as of '96, I soon found ample employment as a writer, researcher, and script doctor in the New York documentary film scene.
"This career, in turn, led to opportunities in fiction film and TV, and with a newfound collaborator and fellow New York émigré, the Austrian-Romanian director Robert Pejo, I have written and developed a number of successful fiction projects for European TV. I have found that I have a particular knack for dialogue (in multiple languages; I write in English and German and also have a good ear for French and languages in general). Most of my published work is academic in nature, and for my creative efforts I have recently focused exclusively on screen and teleplays, as well as documentary work.
"I am currently completing a version of my dissertation for publication with the Smithsonian Institution Press, and plan to tackle a feature script on the Mexican revolution thereafter, which, I hope, will pay for my future children's college tuition. My companion, Ms. Fiona Lin, whom I met at Yale in 1993, is like myself a teacher with a social conscience, currently studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. A tireless reader and editor and an excellent writer herself, she is most supportive of my creative efforts, though she finds my sentence structure cumbersome and Germanic, and worries about whether my writing will ever suffice to pay the bills.
"When writing, I have, since childhood, devoted endless hours (as many as twelve a day and more) to the task. I like word processors but still feel that work written in longhand is best. I prefer to write at home, at my desk, or in silent company of strangers in the New York Public Library or research libraries such as those of Columbia University and NYU. I hope to eventually give up my day job as a history and humanities professor and devote myself entirely to pen and paper, at which point I will also return to my original ambition of becoming a novelist."