29 October 2023
Melanie Bridge spills on her love of the acclaimed HBO series, how she grasped the basics of design in university, & her ‘worst-ever’ shoot in Egypt.
How did you end up being a creative?
I took art at school because I was a typically lazy teenager, and the perception was that art was an ‘easy’ subject.
What's your favourite piece of work in your portfolio?
The first piece of work that ever got me noticed was ‘Xencial' for Roche. It’s still my favourite because it symbolises the start of everything for me, my success as a director, and the start of our company, Sweetshop.
What's your favourite piece of work created by someone else?
One of my favourite films The Favourite starring Olivia Coleman and Emma Stone. That film is the sum of everything I aspire to as a director.
What kind of student were you?
I started off at design school at the bottom of the class. I didn’t even know what design was. I looked at everyone else’s entrance portfolios on that first day and was completely humbled and embarrassed by my own amateur efforts. I spent the first-year stumbling about trying to figure out what good design actually meant, I just couldn't see it. I’m honestly not sure what happened, but about halfway through the four years, something clicked in my brain, and there it was. The thing that had been so difficult for me now became something that everyone thought I was gifted at.. and I graduated with distinction.
Who’s on your dream dinner guest list (alive or dead)?
I would love a dinner date with my dad and my four grandparents, who are all dead now. There are so many questions I would love to ask them, and things I would love to discuss. But most of all I would just really love to hang out with them again.
What career did you think you'd have when you were a kid?
Doctor, nurse, dental nurse. I was fascinated with the medical world, I still am. If I had thought of it way back then, I would probably would have become a plastic surgeon, I think I would have been really good at that.
Do you work best under pressure, or when things are calm?
I’m not sure if I’ve ever worked on a ‘calm’ job. As a director I always feel the pressure, the first day when you arrive on set and there’s about a huge crew waiting for you to make all the right decisions. It never gets any less overwhelming, but I do realise it's a good thing, as the pressure is only there because I care so deeply about doing a great job for everyone.
Tell us about the worst job you ever had.
Well, it would have to be the one and only time I shot in Egypt. The ad itself turned out great despite all odds. Looking back, it was naive to think that a female director/producer duo could waltz into a vastly misogynistic environment like that and expect things to go smoothly. I was so shocked when I asked our production manager (a huge burly man that we were personally paying) to carry my bag for me as I was struggling to take location photos. He refused! And that was just the beginning. I location-scouted around the pyramids on a horse with gaping wounds on its hips and protruding ribs, while other trekking horses lay dead, discarded. It was horrible, there was nothing we could do. My husband and small son got ‘kidnapped’ on their camels 'Bill Clinton' and 'Michael Jackson’ and were forced to pay a ransom of US$350 or threatened being left in the middle of the desert. At times, we feared for the safety of ourselves and our crew. I could write a book about it.
What’s your favourite music/film/TV show/book of the past year?
The TV series Succession. The direction, casting, acting, and that piano track for the title sequence. Love it all so much.
What's your guilty pleasure?
My noise-cancelling Bose headphones by myself under my puffy feather duvet, watching a gripping TV series.
Cat person or dog person?
We have two dogs currently; they are the best. Norton our rescue dog (Bull Mastiff x German pointer) who used to be owned by a drug-dealing murderer (true). Norton has this hilarious ‘smile’ that he does every time he sees you, and his favourite place is under the covers of the bed with you. And then we have beautiful Yuki who is a white German Shepherd, full of boundless energy and a total show pony. They are hilarious together and give us joy every day of our lives, total opposites, but the best of friends.
This article was originally published on Campaign Asia, May 5, 2022.