BIO

As a young girl, Melissa moved with her family from England to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she grew up watching admittedly far too much television-particularly shows like Charlie’s Angels and The Bionic Woman, which were action packed with strong, skillful female leads.

With two physically active older brothers, Melissa was drawn to pursue an array of competitive sports ranging from BMX racing and skateboarding to soccer and martial arts. At the age of eight, Melissa was taken by her father to see a live stunt show-an experience that awakened in her the desire to become a stunt woman.

As a resourceful adolescent determined to become a stunt performer and director, she started frequenting the sets of any TV show or film being shot in the Vancouver area, regardless of the time of day or the weather. She would simply show up and offer to help the stunt team, just to be there, watch, and learn as

Melissa’s first break as a stunt coordinator came in 1993. Legendary second unit director and stunt coordinator Glen Randall, Jr. (E.T., Star Wars, Zorro, Return of the Jedi, Romancing the Stone, The Fugitive, and three Indiana Jones films), took her under his wing and chose her to coordinate the stunts for Time Cop for Universal. That set her on the path to become the first successful female stunt coordinator and second unit director for feature films.

Since then, she has stunt coordinated many films and TV series: Terminator Genysis, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Interview, X-Men 2 & 3,  The Last Samurai, Double Jeopardy, Along Came a Spider, James Cameron’s Dark Angel, Mission to Mars, Eragon, The Bionic Woman, The X-Files, J. J. Abrams Fringe, Alcatraz, and Vampire Diaries.

In 2001 Melissa began working and training with Nick Powell, action director/ fight choreographer of Braveheart, Gladiator, and The Bourn Identity. With her martial arts background, working with Nick helped her become one of the only female fight choreographers in the business.

When not working on a project, Melissa spent her time training to master every aspect of her craft–motorcycle racing, stunt driving, horsemanship, martial arts, fight choreography, stunt rigging, high falls, and fire burns. To complement her physical skills and abilities as a stunt performer, she undertook formal training in film making, attending directing workshops, film editing programs, and, particularly, the secrets to great action and great films.

For over two decades Melissa has, literally risked life and limb for her dream. “If you don’t push your limits,” she said, “you will never find your boundaries or reach your ultimate potential.”  During that time, she discovered new ways to design and shoot innovative creative action, and that has become Melissa’s specialty.

She has worked on and been a key stunt team player on Suicide Squad, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, which earned a SAG award for best stunt ensemble, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, nominated for SAG award for best stunt ensemble, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, doubling for Angelina Jolie, Salt, Romeo & Juliet, Rumble in the Bronx, Legends of the Fall, Happy Gilmore, Jumanji. She has been nominated three times for the Taurus World Stunt Awards; she won “Best Stunt by a Woman” for Scooby Doo, Monsters Unleashed.

Melissa began directing 2nd Unit and joined the Directors Guild of America in 2003 for a Warner Brothers feature, New York Minute. In 2008, she was invited to join AMPAS, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, making her the only woman in her field ever to be invited into the prestigious association of film makers and Academy Award winners.

“Great action and big stunts don’t make a good film,” Melissa said, summarizing her approach to action. “A good story and characters you care about–that’s what makes a great film. The action should not upstage the script or its characters; it should be seamless and flow with the story. Every piece of action should have purpose, which helps drive the story or it can be a vehicle for a character. Action for action’s sake is only useful to cover up a hole in the story or cover up a bad film.”

Melissa has been hired to stunt coordinate for all the major studios–Warner Brothers, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, Focus Features, Universal, Skydance Productions, Sony, Village Roadshow,  DreamWorks, Lionsgate. She has stunt coordinated television series for major networks–ABC, Fox, NBC/Universal,  CBS, HBO, Bad Robot, and CW.  She has worked with some of the best directors in the world

–Stephan Spielberg, Brian De Palma, Christopher Nolan, Martin Campbell, Ed Zwick, Brain Singer, Roland Emmerich, Baz Luhrmann, Lee Tamahori, James Cameron. She has worked closely with and been mentored by the best action/2nd unit directors in the industry today.

Melissa’s background enabled her to become a successful stunt coordinator and action director. Her style is unique.  She is not just a stunt coordinator. She is a director and an experienced  film maker.

As well as  the conception, design and execution of the action,  she helps actors and actresses to create believable characters, then trains them to prepare for their action, from, fights, weapons, and horses to riding motorcycles  and vehicle stunts.

Melissa’s philosophy on action is to create impactful visuals that have not been seen before and bring the audience on an exciting roller coaster ride of emotions. So they walk out of the theatre feeling alive and inspired.

Born in the UK, with a career rooted in both Canada and Hollywood, her multiple citizenship is one of the many things that makes her invaluable to production. She uses what she learned from action directors, combines that knowledge with her experience, collaborates with studios and actors to bring out the best of both worlds so that the work can deliver unique, fresh, creative action in films with universal appeal.

When shooting an action sequence “it’s always a gamble, there are too many shots and never enough time, many people to please, your loosing the light,  the cars break down, there is a train coming, the horses are tired, the stunt guy or actor doesn’t show up, we only have the street for three minutes every hour—and yet we prevail! , no matter the circumstances. YOU JUST MAKE IT HAPPEN! It’s like no other feeling.”)