A CSI writer investigates her own career| From BU Today | By Art Jahnke. Videos by Alan Wong.
Corinne Marrinan (CFA'95) talks about her Oscar-winning work as a documentary producer. Watch part one on BUniverse.
A party girl, the daughter of a drug lord, is found near death from an overdose. In a desperate and ill-considered effort to save her, two of her father’s henchmen replace the girl’s toxic blood with their own. The bad news is the transfusion fails, and the girl dies. The good news is the fictional story of the deadly transfusion is sufficiently intriguing to persuade producers at CBS’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation that Corinne Marrinan, the young promotional department staffer who wrote the script, should be given a shot at writing for the show.
Marrinan (CFA’95) breathes a well-earned sigh of relief as she relates the story.
“I remember there were lot of tropical fish in the story, and there were blood transfusions and cocaine,” says Marrinan, now two years into her writer’s job. “We draw a lot of inspiration from the insane things that happen every day, and there is no lack of hellacious crime out there.”
In another role, Marrinan draws enormous personal inspiration from real-world events that have nothing to do with crime. She is the winner of an Oscar for her 2005 documentary A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin, about Corwin’s radio masterpiece marking the end of World War II in Europe. An earlier documentary she coproduced, On Tiptoe: Gentle Steps to Freedom, a profile of the South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, was also nominated for an Oscar.
Marrinan’s career in theater began—she says she had wanted to be a stage manager since she was 13 years old—working summers during high school at a small theater in the Catskills. At BU, she studied stage management and worked with the Huntington Theatre Company, BU’s resident theater company. After graduation, she followed a friend to Chicago, where she helped start the small theater company Remy Bumppo, which is still going strong. She also worked for the highly regarded Goodman Theatre, where she met an ambitious actor named William Petersen, who would film a pilot for a TV show called CSI, a drama about a team of forensic investigators.
It was Petersen who invited her to LA, assuring her that she would soon be back in Chicago, because his show was unlikely to survive more than two or three episodes.
“That was a decade ago,” says Marrinan, who in those 10 years has worked her way up from assistant associate producer to one of 10 staff writers. The television show became a ratings hit and led to two spin-offs.
“I never intended to be here,” she says. “I know that in that way, I am incredibly fortunate. At the same time, I know that if you don’t work hard enough and aren’t good enough, you don’t stay in this business.”