5 Minutes with... MELANIE Bridge

22 June 2024

Written by

LBB Online

The co-CEO & Founding Partner of The Sweetshop speaks to LBB's Casey Martin about being drawn to creativity in all forms.

The Sweetshop

The Sweetshop started its journey when fate decided to bring together three enthusiastic Auckland filmmakers. All masters of their own fields, Melanie Bridge, Paul Prince, and Sharlene George joined forces and now, over two decades later The Sweetshop has offices all across the globe. 

Melanie’s passion for filmmaking has seen her work with some of the industry's biggest clients. She has honed her craft and today, continues to work with and foster the craft of up-and-coming directors. 

She is constantly looking for new ways to push the envelope and explore the endless creativity that the production world has to offer. With new technologies on the rise, Melanie is consistently learning new ways to embellish her craft. 

Melanie spoke with LBB’s Casey Martin about studying AI filmmaking, and the project that forced her to loosen her control and go with the flow. 

LBB > First and foremost, what gravitated you towards this world?

Melanie > I’ve always been deeply drawn to creativity in all its forms. My journey began with learning art in school, then graphic design, which led me to photography, directing, and finally to being a co-CEO. Surprisingly, I find my role as co-CEO just as creative as all of my previous roles.

Whether it’s problem-solving, strategic thinking, nurturing our brand, or supporting our directors, I find so much joy in constantly looking at ways we can push boundaries and improve our craft from every angle. It’s a journey that fuels my passion for creativity in all its diverse forms. 

LBB > What has been the proudest moment in your career? 

Melanie > My proudest moment would undoubtedly be the inception of The Sweetshop with my partners Sharlene George and Paul Prince. That moment started us on an incredible journey. Growing to co-CEO alongside my business partner, Sharlene George, has been the cherry on top. 

Together, we’ve not only reached significant milestones, but we’re also in the process of steering our fully female-owned and led company towards full B-Corp certification. 

Despite the challenges facing our industry, our future feels incredibly positive. We’re crafting some of the best work in our history, from TV commercials to feature films, and even our very first A.I. projects. It's been an exhilarating voyage, and I couldn't be prouder of the collective achievements we've unlocked.

LBB > What is a secret about the industry that not everyone knows?

Melanie > Many people think that once you reach a certain level, you’ve mastered the industry. But the truth is, our field evolves so quickly that you need to be continuously learning.

You never really “arrive”; you have to keep seeking new knowledge and skills to stay relevant. I believe the secret to longevity in our industry is staying curious and being willing to adapt. 

LBB > What is a project that has stayed with you? Why has it stayed and what did you learn from it?

Melanie > One of the most rewarding experiences in my career was a TVC I directed in Budapest. In my early directing days, admittedly, I was a bit of a ‘control freak’. But this project taught me a valuable lesson; letting go and relinquishing control can lead to extraordinary outcomes, especially with the right team.

The artisans in Budapest brought unparalleled depth and expertise to the project, surpassing my initial vision in ways I hadn’t imagined. Their talent and warmth left a lasting impression on me, and I developed a deep admiration for the people and culture of Hungary. This project is etched in my memory as a reminder of the magic that happens when you trust the skills and creativity of others. 

LBB > What is a piece of advice that was given to you that you continue to carry?

Melanie > My parents taught me to believe I could achieve anything I set my mind to with determination and hard work. I’ve lived by that mantra, pouring myself wholeheartedly into every endeavour. I share this advice with my mentees, emphasising the power of persistence and seizing opportunities with an open mind. Choose something you love as a career, stick with it, and give it all you’ve got. That dedication will get you noticed and open up new opportunities, and you need to be open-minded enough to take them. Little by little, through hard work and passion, anyone can reach the top. 

LBB > How do you foster your own creativity?

Melanie >

I love learning and never stop being creative, it’s part of my DNA.

Currently, I'm enrolled in an AI filmmaking course. I disagree that AI is going to be the end of traditional filmmaking, instead I see it as an incredible tool to enhance creativity even further. I also study perfumery and am building a perfume lab at home so that I can indulge myself one day when work becomes a bit less hectic. Investing in personal growth and exploration fuels my creativity and keeps me fulfilled and happy.

LBB > How do you foster the creativity of the teams you work with everyday?

Melanie > I’m all about continuous improvement, and looking for ways to raise the bar higher. I love collaborating, brainstorming and pursuing new ways to innovate.

Procrastination is antithetical to my ethos; I’m all about acting on ideas quickly and embracing failures as stepping stones to success. Transparent communication is key in my leadership style.

My experience as a director gives me the ability to deeply empathise with our directors aspirations, I’m always looking for ways to nurture their talents and help them advance their careers. 

LBB > What has been the most challenging part of your career?

Melanie > Adapting to constant change has been a significant challenge. The industry evolves rapidly, requiring frequent pivots to stay relevant. While it can be daunting, it also fuels the drive to remain fresh and innovative, pushing us to embrace new challenges and opportunities for growth.