“My job is to help students find and craft their voice.”
Nelson Chipman has landed more than a few shots in Los Angeles as a feature film screenwriter, and has also lived the life of copywriter, playwright and teacher in New York. But when it came time to raise a family, neither coast could offer the combination of professional and artistic fulfillment, high quality of life and affordability that Pittsburgh does. “We were taken in by the natural beauty here, the strong underpinning and accessibility of the arts, and the cost of living.”
His professional journey in screenwriting and filmmaking began, in a sense, while watching a "Movie of the Week" 20 years ago with his girlfriend (now wife). Karin. "I can do a better job than that," he thought, so he wrote a script and had it optioned to a productions company within three weeks of moving to L.A. Even though the break led to another move, to San Francisco, other script options and screenings at venues such as the Austin Film Festival, the West Coast lifestyle was taking a toll on the couple. “The thing about L.A. is, no matter where you’re going, it takes you at least an hour.”
They ended up moving to New York where Nelson completed his master’s in dramatic writing, taught screenwriting at Queens College and wrote freelance for ad agencies while he and Karin began a family. Despite their professional salaries and love of the city, the couple was dismayed at the prospect buying a home only after of forking out $800,000+ for a small box next to an exit ramp off the Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. An earlier trip near Pittsburgh sparked intrigue and that, plus additional career opportunities at Point Park University, helped the family decide to make their home here.
Today, he is involved in screenwriting, filmmaking and playwriting -- in Pittsburgh and Hollywood -- and still teaching students how to find their voice. As the director of the Master of Fine Arts program in screenwriting and playwriting at Point Park University, and an associate professor of cinema arts, Nelson is immersed in the world visual storytelling, and finding a new voice by helping students pursue their dreams. “I have the opportunity to see and encourage undergraduate students to grow each year. And graduate students are here because the program has significant meaning for them, so they are really engaged. I feel honored to work with both groups of students.”
One of a list of notable film projects Nelson has worked on with his students is the production of The Chair, a documentary following two directors working independently from the same script, which debuted as a series on the Starz network in September 2014.
Nelson, Karin and their two children—Jack, 14, and Oskar, 11, enjoy the scenery in southwestern Pennsylvania, as well as camping in the Laurel Highlands, biking on the GAP Trail sometimes taking a break at the historic pump house trailhead in Homestead. Oskar attends the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park and Jack recently entered his freshman year at Taylor Allderdice in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Karin serves as the Study Abroad Coordinator at Chatham University.