As funny as it sounds, it all started with rabbits. Lots of them. When Canyon Crest Academy senior Melanie Limas An was 12 years old, she volunteered at the San Diego House Rabbit Society as their in-house videographer.
“I would make short videos of homeless rabbits which were shown to families looking to adopt,” she recalls. “More than 200 bunnies have been rescued since I started there. That’s how I realized that the videos I create can have a big impact on others.”
Big impact, indeed. For the last six years, Melanie has created dramas, documentaries, music videos, comedies and much more. (You can check out all her videos on youtube under Melanie An.) Her favorite types of films are documentaries on environmental or social-justice issues. For example, she’s produced a documentary on the declining bee population called Bee Conscious. It was the first student film shown at an IMAX theater and won a Spotlight Award at the California Student Media Festival in Los Angeles. Another film, called An Inside Look at Planned Parenthood, focused on reproductive rights. Her latest, Man Up, a documentary about toxic masculinity, won Best Feature/Documentary Award at the inaugural North County High School Film Festival last year.
Melanie has received two top-level scholarships – the Dean’s List Scholarship from Chapman University’s Dodge School of Film, and the Arrupe Scholarship from Loyola Marymount University. She’s also been accepted into USC’s summer film program with Warner Brothers Studio. She’ll be on the studio’s lot learning new filmmaking skills under the guidance of USC cinema professors. She hasn’t decided which university she will attend yet.
Outside of film, Melanie has another passion. Since she was two years old she’s been tap dancing and has won national and regional awards in competitions across the country. Having been in the spotlight, Melanie says now she wants to pursue a career behind the scenes, hopefully as a film director.
Melanie’s dream is to create films that highlight environmental, social-justice or human-rights issues. She’s been highly influenced by her mother, a former news reporter.
“Since I was six,” she explains, “my family and I have headed to a Baja California colonia yearly to donate clothes and toys to families in need. My mom picks a different site every year based on the news stories she covered. We get to experience cultural Mexican roots while helping families. It’s always a humbling and fulfilling experience.”
Melanie says many other people have influenced her along the way.
“In the arts, I would have to say Janelle Monae because of her support of other female artists (especially people of color), her beautiful music videos and her respect for others.”
She’s also been inspired by Judith Pierce, former president of the San Diego House Rabbit Society, and her teachers at Canyon Crest Academy, Mark Raines and Brad Kester.
Melanie’s mother, Gloria, beams when she speaks of Melanie’s successes and her future endeavors.
“I see Melanie being a successful film director, focusing on topics in need of a spotlight and giving a voice to those who need to be heard,” she says. “She enjoys world travel and I envision her shooting in exotic locations around the globe -- especially Latin American countries where she can put her Spanish skills to use. I think travel is the best textbook for any child. Therefore, we made a trip to Tokyo, Japan last year to tour the famous Ghibli Studios to give Melanie an international film perspective. I tell my children I’ve given them the wings to fly; their passion will drive what direction they take in life.”
Melanie has some solid advice for any middle- or high-schooler thinking about pursuing an interest in film. “Know that a profession in film will always be an uphill battle, but never let the intimidation of a challenge stunt your growth or your passion or your dreams.” Words to live by.