Reel Women: Melissa Kennedy, media professional

Melissa Kennedy

Melissa Kennedy

From marketing
and development
to screenwriting,
Zacuto Studios’ leader
of business operations
offers a little
bit of everything

Melissa Kennedy leads the business operations for Zacuto Studios, which is owned by Zacuto USA.

Prior to joining Zacuto in early 2017, Kennedy was in broadcast marketing and worked with media companies based out of Chicago. She started her career at CBS Radio Chicago in the WBBM-AM marketing department and was the promotions manager for four years.

In 2009, she moved to television to oversee the marketing, public relations and special events for Weigel Broadcasting, which included the launch of four networks, including MeTV.

Melissa is also a screenwriter and has worked on several personal scripts and professional projects, including a TV series pilot that Zacuto produced in the summer 2017.



How did you get into the business? I got my wide-eyed start in the media industry with an internship in college. I originally wanted to be a journalist – this was in the early 2000s and I was already a freelance writer for a suburban newspaper. After getting my associates degree, I enrolled at Columbia College with every intention of studying in their journalism program but ended up majoring in Marketing/PR instead. This way I could still work in media, but set myself up for wider career options once I graduated. Almost as soon as I started my junior year, I was hired at WBBM-AM as a promotions intern. It was perfect because I’d get to learn marketing at a major news media company. At the end of my internship, I was promoted to a part time coordinator to do contests and many, many events. When I graduated two years later, I was promoted again as their promotions manager.

What obstacles have you faced specifically because of your gender? Many! But for now, I’ll focus on what comes to mind first. I think there are both internal and external challenges with my gender. Internally, I often need to remind myself to have more faith in my experience and confidence in my intuition. Externally, I’m challenged by men in almost all areas of my life who sometimes interrupt or talk over me. It’s behavior like this that perpetuate some of those internal struggles.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are a woman? Some of the best things to happen to me has been the relationships I’ve developed with other women in my career. They have been such an enormous source of inspiration, support, guidance and friendship. I’ve greatly enjoyed mentoring other young women who I’ve worked with over the years and hope to continue to meet and get to know more exceptional women as I move forward in my own life.

Work you are most proud of? The recent work I’ve been most proud of has been the launch of Zacuto Studios because it was something totally different and new, outside my comfort zone and it scared me to think of all the things I needed to learn but a giant source of pride in what I’ve built so far and the projects I got to produce for our clients.

Do you think the #metoo movement has created significant change? I think the #metoo movement created change but not significantly. It definitely brought awareness to a problem all women knew existed and helped clean house in places where men were able to get away with all sorts of misdeeds and in some cases, crimes. But there’s also a long way to go in terms of changing the landscape because it means people have to change their attitude and perspective, and those things can be totally baked in. I’m just glad that women can be more vocal about what they are facing in the workplace now.

How have professional attitudes towards women evolved during your career? I think the only true change in attitudes I’ve seen is the #metoo movement.

Trapped on an island what essentials must you have? If I were trapped on an island I’d want a copy of the best survival book ever written. That’s me being pragmatic!

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self? If I had a time machine to talk to my younger self – maybe right around 18 – I’d tell myself to listen to older, experienced people more often when they tried to offer advice. It would have saved me a lot of time, energy, money and stress.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? If I could have a one-on-one with anyone it would be Jane Austen because I’m going through her books again right now and just adore her work. I like how she writes about relationships, family challenges, decision-making and perseverance and I’d love to just dissect all that with her.