Chelsey Warner’s story—aspiring screenwriter to Emmy Award- winner in just three years—reads like a Hollywood plot. As a pre-med student at Washington and Jefferson College, Warner was loaded down with biology courses but really looked forward only to her writ- ing elective. “I thought 'If I’m not happy with pre-med now, I’m not going to be happy going to med school for eight years. Now is the time to make that change.’” She knew Denison had a cinema studies program and had visited her older sister Britni Warner ’09 often enough to know she liked the campus, so she transferred. After graduating, she made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles—starry-eyed but conscious that she was one of thousands of such hopefuls. She quickly beat the odds. “I kind of did the impossible,” Warner says. “It only took me four days to find an apartment and a casting job.”
That’s the first act, at least. Since she arrived in Hollywood, Warner has worked mainly in casting for reality TV shows. “I basically act as a liaison between the network and the potential talent,” says Warner. “It’s my job to go through the application process, the paperwork, and explain how the whole process works.” It’s the kind of role, Warner says, that requires her to employ her “gift of gab.” “I can talk to people from all walks of life—whether it is the executive at the network or the people applying for the show, who could be your average Joe from Kansas.”
Warner’s first job was with a dating show that didn’t make it too far past the pilot, but she has since worked on prime-time programs like the Amazing Race, Survivor, Top Chef, and Undercover Boss. The latter of these netted Warner an Emmy—which sits in certificate form on her wall—when the show won the award for “Outstanding Reality Show” last year.
So what’s Act Three? “I really want to get into screenwriting and development,” says Warner. That’s what drove her to L.A. in the first place, after all. And she’s always on the lookout for those kinds of gigs. But, in the meantime, she doesn’t see much value in taking the starving-artist route. “I see a lot of people come out here with a firm picture in their mind—they think, I want to do this, and I have to do this. And, as such, they don’t take other opportunities that come their way,” she says. Warner would rather work it from the inside. “It’s not like once you’re in, you’re in, but it’s a lot easier to find out where you want to go once you have your foot in the door.”