Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?
Hi, my name is Melissa Vitello and I am a producer, screenwriter and director.
I have been writing stories since before I can remember and as long as I could spell. I always dreamed of making big movies one day. I grew up loving movies like Jurassic Park, Twister, The Never Ending Story and Waterworld. To me, movies were magic and I loved living in world where anything could be possible. So, I fell in love with writing my own worlds where I could create my own magic.
I still love the magic of movies and the imagination you get to live in for those 90 minutes. I am so proud to say that, for a living, I get to be part of creating that magic still. Even though it doesn’t always feel like magic as a grown up. I love the excitement of starting a project, bringing together my team and watching people just be in love with creating and leading that team across the finish line. Stories have so much potential to have an emotional impact on people when told right and what a better way to start conversations than to first entertain and find common ground. This is why I am still a filmmaker today.
I am a producer and have worked on five feature films now, directed and wrote three of them all of which won awards like Best Feature Film, Best leading actress and Best Screenplay in numerous film festivals such as Austin Revolution, The Pasadena International Film Fest, Noho Cinfest, Reel Hollywood Independent and FilmQuest.
I recently won Best Screenplay at the Pasadena International Film Festival for a feature script that was also a top 50 finalist for the ISA Fellowship. I have a viking horror script that also was recently a top 20 finalist for FilmQuest, which has been a catalyst for me to slide into the next genre of my career: Horror.
My next project I am attached to direct is a feature thriller/horror entitled Abigail written by Gunnar Garrett, starring Warner Bros. film Lights Out Ava Cantrell. I am so thrilled to be attached to this project, we have a lot of exciting things in development for it and I can’t wait to tell this story to people!
In the bigger scheme of things, besides Abigail, I have several exciting projects in the horror and thriller genre on my plate and in development. 2022 is definitely turning into a promising year I can’t wait to talk more about as things progress!
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I really won’t give up or think anything is impossible. In a way, I think I still see my dreams and goals through the lens of child-like wonder and believing that magic is real in my world. I also think I’m kind of a set-matchmaker. I pride myself in choosing the right team of people, not just for myself, but as a team that works well together. I have always had an eye for putting the right director with the right DOP or the right 1st AD with the right producer..etc… It’s fun and exciting for me to bring teams and personalities together.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.
I always felt like I knew that I wanted to tell stories and make movies. I can’t really say when or where it began, but I can remember always feeling this powerful pull towards something that felt so big and unattainable, especially as a kid. I can remember having some kind of conversation about my dreams and what I wanted to be when I grew up with my dad. We were driving somewhere into town – because where we lived we had to journey through the woods and over the hills to get to the local town, so it was always a good time for long chats with my dad… I was probably eight or nine years old and my dad parked the car, looked at me and just said “You just do what your heart tells you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and don’t take no for an answer.” At that moment I felt like I had the permission to do anything. I still won’t take ‘no’ for an answer! So, that was that and I decided my dreams were valid.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?
I really didn’t do things the traditional way. In a way, I feel like I really had to claw my way to where I am now and even still work hard towards my goals still. I moved from a very conservative home in Northern California to Los Angeles when I was twenty-years-old and really just dove in head first without any connections or guidance as to where to start. I knew I wanted to write, I knew I wanted to be on sets and direct and make movies, I had no idea how to get there. I tried to go to film school, I couldn’t afford it, so I just started my own film company with friends and we started making things. I had to learn a lot on my own and it was really challenging for me to build my network from scratch with no prior training and get people to trust me. I felt really lost, especially in a city where literally everyone is trying to be a filmmaker. But, I just picked myself up every time I fell, I told myself there was something to learn from every mistake, I took every opportunity I could and really understood that this was a long game and I was ready to play it. Still in the game, going strong!
If you had to pick the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could take your career (or business) to the next level…who would those 3 people be?
Kathleen Kennedy is a dream coffee date of mine. I just want to follow in her footsteps and understand everything about how she got to where she is and how she runs business. I think she’s such a bad ass in the industry.
Jason Blum. Another one I just want to learn from. I love his business model, I LOVE horror and his story of success. If I could land an opportunity to work with or for Blumhouse I would just die happy.
Brit Marling. The artist in me sees the artist in her. I’ve loved everything she’s created and have always been so inspired by her. I feel like I could just grow so much from understanding her process and living in her world for a minute.
Follow Melissa’s social media profiles:
That’s where I live!