By Michael Solender
Melissa Salpietra is a creative problem solver.
The freelance video editor, animator and producer of science-based documentary films approaches her work as a storyteller in ways not dissimilar from how one assembles a complex puzzle. Carefully integrating imagery, text, dialog and soundtrack, Salpietra crafts storylines in her films to inform, educate and entertain viewers and connect with emotion and impact.
“Video editing as an art form is exactly who I am as a person,” Salpietra said. “Editing is a series of problems that need to be solved in order to tell a story. My job as an editor is to take a bunch of footage and put it together in a way that evokes an emotion, inspires or educates and do it in a way that a person watching can ride along.
“My favorite aspect about editing is being in a spot where I’m crafting stories and visuals and get stuck about what happens next. I love to think it through and put myself in the viewer’s shoes and then craft a solution.”
Her unique educational background – she has a Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Cincinnati and a Postgraduate Diploma from New Zealand’s University of Otago in Natural History Filmmaking and Communication – creates an ideal foundation for her science-oriented filmmaking career. She worked several years in Boston for NOVA/PBS.ORG as a managing editor where she developed scripts, produced and edited video shorts and multi-media interactives.
Since relocating to Charlotte in 2011, Salpietra has been involved in many creative projects supporting both corporate and nonprofit clients. One her most significant accomplishments won her an Emmy Award for creating and producing the animated web-based series, “Seasonal Science,” for UNC-TV.
“Filmmaking is a visual medium with a timeline,” said Salpietra, “Yet where you begin is not necessarily where you end. Part of my job is to arrange boxes with pictures, actors and other elements in ways that create emotion, tension, suspense – whatever I’m looking for – to guide viewers on a visual journey.”
As Salpietra advances in her career, she is hopeful to vacate the editor’s chair and move into the front-end of the story crafting process. She will use the 2017 Creative Renewal Fellowship she received from ASC to build upon her filmmaking and video-editing experience by studying and practicing the art of scriptwriting and narrative story creation.
“This fellowship will allow me to develop original ideas, find my voice and passion as a female screenwriter, build emotion and character arc and translate all of that into a language that a director can interpret,” said Salpietra. “It is amazing opportunity to learn and explore other aspects of my craft.”