“The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel,” a biopic co-written by Camille Tucker, associate professor of writing for film and TV at Biola’s School of Cinema and Media Arts, premiered on Lifetime Television on April 11. Fifteen years in the making, Tucker’s co-written script tells the story of the Clark Sisters, their journey through the music industry and the legacy they left behind in American gospel music.
Since the start of their gospel music career in the 1960s, the Clark Sisters — Jacky Clark-Chisholm, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Twinkie Clark-Terrel and Karen Clark-Sheard — have been consistently honored with Grammys and other accolades. The Clark sisters’ legacy is a key part of the history of gospel music. Gospel music was legitimized and popularized first by the Clark sisters.
“For years, black music has set the trends — from jazz, to blues, to early rock and roll, to now hip hop and pop,” Tucker said. “But we don’t always talk about gospel and in particular black gospel music.”
Tucker, who grew up in Compton, California, where her father served as the mayor, attended an affluent, predominantly white private school in Palos Verdes. Because of this experience, Tucker quickly learned what it felt like to be treated as an “other.” Her childhood experiences inspired her to write the story of the Clark Sisters for film.
“It led me to search for a way to voice my unique experience,” Tucker said. “Very similarly, the music of the Clark Sisters expresses gospel in a way that is unique to the ‘black church.’ When I was teased for having ‘nappy hair’ and other things that happened to me at school, I grew a passion for telling stories in which the beauty of black culture and our unique experience could be honored, recognized and uplifted. Because this story is about six black women who broke barriers with their music, I was drawn to the story. It spoke to my story and so I was honored to write the first drafts of the script.”
Since beginning to write the script for “The Clark Sisters” in 2005, Tucker conducted several phone interviews with the sisters, and in the process gained a great respect for their stories and a deep personal connection to their struggles.
“[Their] story resonated with me in that I come from a high-profile family, and me and my three siblings were all raised to be high achievers,” Tucker said. “There's a lot of pressure that comes when you have a family in the spotlight. When I interviewed the Clark sisters, their stories were very much like some of mine, and they hit very close to home.”
Tucker spent years selling screenplays to A-list producers and studios, which taught her to practice perseverance when writing for TV and film.
“You must love writing and rewriting to work in features and TV,” Tucker said. “This is what I teach my students — how to listen to notes, how to step up to the challenge to make a script better, how to be a good business person in the entertainment industry.”
Tucker is proud to teach at Biola’s School of Cinema and Media Arts, and is thrilled to be able to help train future Christian screenwriters.
"I am grateful that my work as a professor at Biola also affords me the opportunity to keep writing professionally,” Tucker said. “And I love my students and colleagues. It’s a blessing every day when you come to work and you are happy! I’m so grateful God has brought me to Biola’s [School of Cinema and Media Arts] to nurture future generations of film and TV writers.”
Written by Marc DeJager, iBiola intern. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.