Rain Management Group
Chip Warren is a screenwriter, transitioning from a career as a producer and director of social justice oriented documentaries. His most recent project, They Call Us Monsters, is an award-winning documentary directed by Ben Lear and has been distributed theatrically and on Netflix. Other films and series include Lake County Juvenile Justice, Young Kids Hard Time(MSNBC), What Do Artists Do All Day(BBC), 12-Year Old Lifer(Channel 4), as well as pieces for ABC News, National Geographic, Hulu, and A&E.
And here we’ll dispel with the third-person, because who’s kidding whom? We all know who’s writing this.
My experience with the American juvenile justice system began in 1986 at a juvenile detention center in Reno, Nevada, as an offender. The experience galvanized my interest in how we deal with at-risk youth and incarceration. There’s nothing like the feeling of someone ushering you into a cold concrete box and locking the door to alter your worldview.
I went on to graduate from the University of Arizona with a degree in Classical Archaeology, which perfectly situated me as an outcast of the mainstream job market. Therefore, I spent over a decade working and traveling in places far flung from Alaska to Virginia to Budapest. In that span of time, I worked as a commercial fisherman, a construction surveyor, an airport ramp worker, a winemaker, a band manager, an IT Consultant, an erotic photographer, bartender, and freelance writer before landing squarely in production in 2006. These diverse experiences and relationships have shaped me as a storyteller.
My immersion in urban cultures began during my tenure with New York City’s welfare agency, working in job centers throughout the five boroughs, helping to bring the massive agency’s services into the digital age. After witnessing the events of 9/11 from a sidewalk in Lower Manhattan, I helped the city bring several emergency service centers online. Six months later, my firm was poised to hoist me into middle management, but I jumped ship, unable to bear the corporate culture any longer. I sold everything and bought a one-way ticket to Budapest with the intent of working solely on my writing for as long as it took to deepen my grasp of the craft.
In 2006, I began working with a documentary producer who had remarkably deep access inside juvenile and family court systems in Indiana and Florida. We produced a catalog of crime and justice-oriented material for several news and broadcast networks, eschewing sensationalism in favor of the human interest stories you find in these environments. Between productions, I repurposed our raw footage into a 32-DVD catalog of educational media used in universities and law schools around the world, and as professional development material for state corrections and social services agencies nationwide.
Shortly after that work began, I took on a mentoring relationship through Big Brothers, Big Sisters that ended when my 13-year-old Little Brother graduated to adulthood. Once I landed in California, my documentary work continued, but I also became involved in legislative reforms as the media consultant on the campaigns led by Human Rights Watch and the Fair Sentencing for Youth. My work was one small part of the effort to move several groundbreaking criminal justice reforms through the state legislature, specifically, five laws that have paved the way for deserving individuals to escape the Draconian sentencing laws of the 1990s.
That work led me to participate in personal development workshops in many prisons around the state, some of the most gratifying work I’ve done. To date, I’ve spent time in close to 30 different prisons and detention facilities as a filmmaker, advocate, and teacher. Getting to know the human potential hidden in this overlooked community led me to cofound ManifestWorks, an organization that helps people coming home from prison (or emerging from foster care and homelessness) pursue meaningful and upwardly mobile careers in the entertainment industry.
ManifestWorks is hands down my proudest accomplishment. We’re about to launch our tenth class and the outcomes our alum have achieved is nothing short of extraordinary. Because they are extraordinary.
All the while, I’ve been writing. In 2012 I had the opportunity to meet one of the cast members of The Wireand we collaborated on a project that gave me my first real exposure to industry feedback and mentoring. All signs directed me to keep going, to keep writing, which I did. After penning my first feature script in 1997, I’ve written six pilots, eleven features, and three shorts. I began working with a manager in 2016 and she also had a strong impact on my growth as a writer.
I met Alonzo Van Wilson in 2013 and we had a sense from early in our friendship that our creative voices and our storytelling sensibilities blended well. We had no way of knowing then that five years later we would be forming a fruitful partnership developing not only our own work, but also the work of a collective of emerging writers, but now we’re a year in on Spirit Medicine and the organization has taken on a life of its own.
I look forward to whatever the future holds because I know it will be a continuation of what has been quite the professional adventure thus far.