By: Chelsea Isabella Clark-James
A Colorado native, Chelsea Isabella Clark-James has lived, worked, and studied in multiple cities, from Honolulu, Hawaii to Portland, Oregon, Atlanta, Georgia, and Los Angeles, California before finally settling back home in Colorado. A cultural anthropologist at heart, she looks for the connections between humans, with a particular interest in identity. After a brief career in non-profit services, Chelsea worked on set for over a decade while writing/producing shorts and music videos on the side. In 2018 she chose to commit full time to writing for film/TV and has ventured into producing to get projects made.
The Young Writer
Chelsea’s love for writing began at a young age. Recently, she was going through items in her storage, and came across several items from elementary school, including several plays and a folder, written in her nine year-old handwriting To Be Published. “I don’t remember writing those things,” she laughs, “But I mean it’s definitely my stuff, and I am seeing how much writing I did as a child. Now finding all those things, I’m like – wow! I really wanted to be a writer for a long time” While she wrote several plays as a child, writing poetry was her first love.
And while Chelsea’s interest and love for writing grew as she became older, especially once she hit high school, she didn’t believe it was for her. “I didn’t actually believe that there was space for me to be a writer, honestly, until the last six years. I had this idea that there’s a limited number of resources for being a writer, and only so many people will get to be a writer. And if I’m a writer, I’m taking it away from somebody who is more deserving.”
What shifted her mindset? First, no matter where she went and what she did, Chelsea kept coming back to writing. A lover of the sciences as well, she went to college for chemistry, and after graduation began working in the non-profit industry, specifically in the direct service sector. But after getting burned out, she began looking for a new job, and the television industry was her next step.
Building Her Career
Her first job in television was for the show The Real World, which was shooting in Colorado. A friend whom she had grown up with was working in the art department for the show, and they connected her with a job on set. She enjoyed working on the show, and shortly after it wrapped she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she began her career as a grip on film and television sets. (What’s a grip you may ask? A Grip sets up, rigs, and strikes lighting equipment on sets!)
“It was wonderful. I’d never really known what it was. I just turned out to be good at it, and it turned into a 14 year career as a union grip.”- Chelsea Isabella Clark-James
But even as Chelsea built out a successful career as a grip, she never left writing behind. “I’d written a couple of little things, and did a short on the side. At my grip job, I was always reading everything I worked on. I was the person who would get every script, and everyone in the department would make fun of me. But then they come to me, and they’d be like, ‘Hey, what are we doing today?'”
By the time she moved to Los Angeles, she had already written two feature scripts. After a significant back injury took her out of the field of gripping, she once again considered the possibility of being a writer.