Former Houghton resident makes good in television
HOUGHTON – Alicia Melton lives and works in Washington, D.C. and has worked in New York City, but she likes to get home to Houghton at least once a year.
Melton is a freelance story producer for various cable television programs. She just finished up work on the National Geographic channel program, Doomsday Preppers, which is about people preparing for what they think will be the collapse of civil society.
Melton said she was born at Portage View Hospital in Hancock and grew up in Houghton. She graduated from Houghton High School in 2000, and then attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she graduated in 2004.
“I studied television production,” she said.
However, television wasn’t her first career choice, Melton said.
“I actually wanted to start in radio,” she said. “That was my favorite thing to do.”
She worked at WMTU at Michigan Technological University, Melton said, but at Howard University she soon realized she had another interest.
“I liked combining images with sound,” she said. “I found that actually became more exciting than just playing music on the radio.”
Because of that interest of combining sound with images, Melton said she started learning television production.
“About two years in, I decided television was going to be the thing,” she said.
While studying television production, Melton said she decided she wanted to be involved with making documentaries. That decision came about after a brief unimpressive flirtation with doing television news.
“I didn’t want to be an in-front-of-the-camera person,” she said. “I wanted to cause change, and present other viewpoints that you might not otherwise get to hear in mainstream media.”
After graduating from Howard, Melton said she got a job with a social-issues documentary production company in Washington, D.C. called Spark Media. She worked there more than four years.
“I started out as a production associate,” she said. “I worked on four films over four or five years.”
Those four documentaries included “The Pact,” which is about three African American young men who made a pact to come back to work in Newark after becoming doctors. That program aired nationally on Public Broadcasting Service. About 420 hours of tape were shot for the documentary, and she had to look at all of it during the editing process. A copy of “The Pact” can be found at the Portage Lake District Library in Houghton.
“It was a great experience,” she said. “It was a small enough company that I got to do different aspects of the production.”
The other projects she worked on with Spark Media include “Prince Among Slaves,” which is about an heir to an African kingdom, who in 1788 became a slave in Mississippi, “Talking Through Walls,” a documentary about the efforts to build a mosque in a New Jersey town, and “World of Sound,” which is a documentary for the Smithsonian Institution about Folkways Records, which recorded folk and blues musicians starting in the middle 20th century. The Smithsonian Institution now owns it.
For “World of Sound,” Melton said she talked with folk music legend Pete Seeger, who did the narration and was in the documentary. Seeger died in January at 94 years old.
In 2010, Melton said she started to freelance in commercial television production.
“I could be working on a show for a year, I could be working on it for three months,” she said.
The company she works for, Sharp Entertainment, produces programs for such channels as Investigation Discovery, Discovery, the Food Network, the Travel Channel, and National Geographic.
Ironically, Melton said she doesn’t watch much television.
“My guilty pleasure is reality shows,” she said.
From April to July, Melton said she was working on the fourth season of “Doomsday Preppers” in New York City.
“This is the first time I worked on it,” she said.
For the program, Melton said she wrote narration and does some editing of the recordings.
Melton is also working on a program called “Who the Bleep Did I Marry.”
She is still working in television production, but Melton said she wants to change course for a bit.
“I want to move into fiction writing, eventually,” she said.
Melton she is also considering starting her own production company, and may even consider coming home to do it.
“If I could work here, and do all that, I would be here,” she said.