Using film, technology, entertainment and new media as a catalyst for social change, Melissa C. Potter is at the forefront of impact innovation. As Head of Social Impact and Communications for Odyssey Impact and Transform Films, she has engaged communities across the nation in dialogue around today’s most pressing social justice issues, uplifting the voices and lived experiences of our nation’s diverse and oft-underrepresented populations. Take, for example, her 2018 NAACP Image Award nomination as Impact Producer for the film “The Rape of Recy Taylor.”
Through her work, Melissa creates a platform for diverse voices to be heard in traditional media spaces. Melissa has been an Impact Producer on several documentary and short-form pieces that focus specifically on the issues of criminal justice, sexual and gender-based violence, and urban gun violence. These films and videos have gone on to much acclaim worldwide, including: winner of Best Documentary Short 2018 at the Tribeca Film Festival; winner of the Peabody Award 2018; and winner of Prize for Human Rights at the Venice Film Festival.
In addition to creating inclusive spaces in digital and new media, Melissa is focused on using technology to foster sustainable social impact in underserved communities nationwide. In the past year, she has coordinated over 200 screenings of “Milwaukee 53206,” a documentary which tells the story of the ZIP code in America with the highest rate of incarcerated African American males. These screenings have served as the catalyst for national campaigns, as well as the formation of prison ministries, community coalitions and reentry and support programs. Melissa believes that diverse storytelling can inspire empathy, awareness and action nationwide.
Prior to her work with Odyssey, she focused on entertainment and advocacy. Potter has worked in public relations with chart-topping entertainment figures such as The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, and Grandmaster Flash as a freelance publicist, with Catalyst Group, and Coolhunters and partnered with Amazon, Audible, Scholastic, and Netflix with Think Big… Think You!, always building a philanthropic dimension into her work, an outgrowth of her own interests in bettering the world around her.
She built lasting awareness of issues while at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and ACLU. But it was not until she joined Odyssey Impact that she was able to combine these fields with the new dimension of follow-up among the public as well as policy-makers in the type of long-term social impact campaigns which she now coordinates, going beyond simply releasing media to actually introducing those with various roles to play in discussion. “I hope that we can now build a community of engaged supporters, including those in the entertainment space,” she says, ever making connections.