As part of our efforts to support Women in Production and Photography, we are spotlighting different women and how they have made their impact within the industry.
So who is Melia Sigmon?
Melia is the Founder and Executive Producer at Goldfish Theory, a post-production company. Throughout her career, she has worked with companies such as NASCAR, ESPN, Hulu, Adidas, and NBC. She feels fortunate to have a successful career that she is very passionate about.
Melia’s initial spark in the video/photo industry came about through pageants she did in high school. In order to compete, she had to have a headshot. She took matters into her own hands and set up a “studio” in her hallway at home to take the headshots on a point and shoot. She snagged a copy of Photoshop and learned how to edit her own photos. This helped her move towards some freelance work in the beauty retouching space.
She enjoyed editing so much that it led her to High Point University in North Carolina, where she earned a degree in Electronic Media Communication with a minor in Marketing.
Throughout her educational career, she gained valuable experience and skills through seven different internships. One of the most impactful internships she did was the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program.
Melia commented on her experience at NASCAR. She states “I was interning for the Digital Media department, primarily helping with the website’s change and release management process. This was my most corporate-leaning internship. The most valuable part was the time I spent with Devon Fox, my mentor there. She was the first woman who really took the time to mentor me on a professional level. I remember a day when we spent a couple of hours just going through my resume sentence-by-sentence and it meant a lot to me. I’ve been excited about editing resumes for myself and others ever since and even took a job at HPU helping my peers with their resumes, cover letters and emails. I gained a lot of corporate experience from this role.”
When Melia received the news that NASCAR wanted her as an intern, she was excited and told her boyfriend at the time about the opportunity. He responded that she “only got the job because she was pretty.” That was the first time someone implied “pretty privilege” to be the reason for the opportunities she earned. She knew that she had been selected for the internship because of her hard work and efforts, but it hurt nonetheless.
NASCAR’s internship program actively fostered diversity within the workforce. Her mentor advised her to really think about what it meant to be a woman in the workplace, which wasn’t something Melia had taken into consideration before and still thinks about it to this day. Over the years, she discovered the importance of “recognizing the differences but capitalizing on the opportunities.”
At ESPN, she was the first intern to fully produce and edit an event promo that got airtime on SportsCenter and managed to hit 60 solo hours editing for various shows. She wrote an article that got published internally to the entire production department and also a welcome letter that was sent to all of ESPN’s future interns.
Every internship Melia had allowed her to hone in on what she wanted to do “in the real world” while building her skill set through a variety of experiences and industries. This breadth and depth of experience is something she still benefits from today when it comes to finding and landing new opportunities.
Staying connected through previous internships has proved to be valuable in her professional career. Chris Do, the owner of Blind in Santa Monica, took an afternoon to sit down with her and her peers while they were on a school trip in Los Angeles and gave them advice on working in the production industry. The owner of T2 International, Todd Youngblood helped her make some connections for a physical product she was manufacturing – a full seven years after her summer internship with the company.
Overcoming Industry Stereotypes
At the beginning of her freelance career, she lost out on PA jobs because people didn’t believe she could carry 50 lbs of equipment – a common prerequisite for production work. “Don’t let this deter you,” Melia says, “there are other valuable ways to contribute on set besides lifting heavy objects.” She also noticed that her enthusiastic and inquisitive nature led people to not take her as seriously and she cautions to not change your personality to fit in, but instead to maximize your positive traits.
Melia said, “I think a lot of women in male-dominated industries struggle to be taken seriously, especially when they’re starting their career. But this gap in expectations really allows you to knock it out of the park, you know? I’ve found, that where there are challenges, there are also opportunities. I’ve seen a lot of companies and brands seek to hire a more diverse team, which makes it a great (yes, I mean great) time to be a woman in the industry.”
Melia noted that one of her obstacles to becoming the professional she is today was that she wasn’t as assertive as her male counterparts. She saw that men asked for more compensation in general and she didn’t feel she had the confidence to advocate for herself when she was new to the industry. However, Melia recognizes that her lower rates allowed her to land more work and gain more experience and confidence through the beginning of her career.
Melia also began to notice that a lot of opportunities are available simply because she is a woman. She advises other women to look for grants, internships, networking groups, jobs, and other opportunities available only to women. These avenues often provide invaluable insight and a leg up in the industry.
Melia’s first full-time job was at Impatient Cow Productions. She loved that the team there felt like a family and they really allowed her to get her hands into every step of the process that she was interested in. Melia feels fortunate that she was able to work on so many cool projects for them and experience a fun company culture. She learned a variety of things, from pre-production to project management to post-production and she still keeps in touch with some of her friends at “the ranch.” She is forever grateful to them for bringing her on and teaching her a baseline of skills that pushed her forward into a fulfilling career in post-production.
Melia liked the creativity and problem-solving involved with video editing. Working in production is very much a team sport, but she liked the personal ownership of post-production. She also enjoys that editing rarely has those early morning call times and can generally be done from the comfort of her home.
When her career shifted to the freelance arena, she started working with Brent Uberty at BW Productions. She notes that Brent has always been a champion for women in the production industry and is a valued mentor to her to this day. While working with BW, she had the opportunity to edit the Salt Lake Chamber’s Women In Business award videos, an annual series that honors women leaders who contribute to the advancement of other women and their communities. Melia considers this one of her favorite editing projects because all of the interviews were powerfully uplifting.
Every internship, job, and freelance gig helped guide her towards starting her own company, Goldfish Theory. She has perfected her skills in editing together interviews, corporate videos, and social media content. Melia loves weaving together a good story and successfully completing a project. She is a people-pleaser at heart and is happiest when her clients are happy.
We all know that attention is a significant part of marketing, but it’s difficult to get and maintain. The Goldfish Theory states that you have seconds to convert a viewer’s attention – and all of the content they create is designed with this idea in mind.
With each project, Melia focuses on understanding the target audience for the content as well as what the client wants the project to accomplish. Everything else creative and story-wise tends to align itself once she understands the problem she is solving. She always aims to be a team player and turn out work that speaks for itself. Her goal is to consistently challenge herself to grow into new spaces and move in a general onwards and upwards direction.
There is no doubt that the future is bright for her young company. She has known since college that she wanted to start a production company and was always inspired by entrepreneurs who bring their visions to life, curate thriving brands, and contribute back to society. Owning her own company has allowed her to chase new ideas and be flexible with her schedule, both factors of great importance to her. She loves the ambiguity and potential of what the future holds and is very much a dreamer. She would love to take Goldfish Theory in many different directions and feels grateful that she continued to create opportunities during the global pandemic.
She recommends following thought leaders like Tory Burch and Marie Forleo who share wholesome messages that elevate and inspire women individually and collectively. It is important to lift other women up as you pave your career path; there is always an opportunity to give back and support others.
She encourages women to reach out to HR if they are in any way feeling uncomfortable at work. If an environment feels toxic and won’t adapt to your requests for change, consider if it is a good idea to move on to other opportunities.
Advocating for yourself is an important skill that she recommends all women develop. She advises women to not gatekeep themselves from opportunities but to always put themselves out there. It is better to have other people tell you no versus telling yourself that you aren’t capable.
Melia’s best advice to up-and-coming women in the industry is to network with other women and use them as a guide. Creating professional relationships and staying connected with mentors propelled her forward.
She states, “to be honest, my main challenges don’t center around being a woman in a male-dominated industry. They center around being the best I can be and growing from there.”
We would love to thank Melia for her time and the insights she shared with us in her interview.
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Join us on April 20th to listen to our guest speaker Jen Hansen!