Melissa Leu Cares: Telling the Family Story

This summer I met some exceptional people, one of them being Melissa Leu. A fellow intern who unfortunately goes to the school across town (just kidding, USC’s Annenberg School of Journalism beats UCLA’s butt any day). After producing a short documentary about the ever-changing family structure, Melissa is now working on a full-length documentary following families regardless of their color, creed, or lifestyle. The film is meant to be unbiased: the facts of the families are presented and it is your choice as to how you’d like to interpret it.

Melissa would love your support with her documentary. Here is the link to find out more:

1. It’s amazing that at 22 years old, you are already directing and producing your first full length documentary. Tell us more!

My name is Melissa Leu and I am working on a documentary about love, family and how that may affect happiness in modern society. My film partner Jeff Haig and I met at the University of Southern California, where we completed our first short documentary, “A Family Portrait.” The film has gone to numerous film festivals throughout the country and has won multiple awards including one given to filmmakers Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and the Coen Brothers. (More about the short

Since last year, we’ve opened up our own production company in the hopes of building on our success. Like the hit TV show, Modern Family, we will showcase families of all sorts. Our families, however, won’t be actors. They’ll be REAL people going through very REAL problems. We’ll open a window into a world of families you know of, but don’t know much about. Hopefully by the end, we can educate them on what it means to be a family, how far we’ve come since the “traditional” nuclear family and the importance of love in modern family structures.

Although we’ve already started filming, we need more funds to begin post-production, cover travel costs to interview more families, and pay for marketing materials/film festival entries when we’re done. We have less than 30 days until our fundraising campaign is over and we would love your support! Ultimately, we hope that our film can open people’s minds to new possibilities and foster a little bit more understanding.

2. The traditional family is no longer traditional. What misconceptions do you think exist about “non-traditional families?” And what can we do to change these misconceptions?

The paint is starting to peel...

Misconceptions you hear about depends on the kind of “non-traditional” family you’re talking about. Concerning same-sex couples, religious and conservative groups believe that the only “right” kind of family must include a mom and a dad. If you’re talking about a single mom, some people think that the woman didn’t make responsible life decisions and is now suffering the consequences. I think a lot of these beliefs stem from people not really being exposed to anyone who has actually experienced these kinds of situations. To combat any kind of misconception, you have to be willing to reach out and have an open mind about a topic that you don’t understand.

3. What makes for a happy family?

Love. The bottom line we hear from all the families we’ve interviewed — whether gay, straight, interracial, single, etc. — is that all you need to get through the toughest of situations is love. It’s that warm, fuzzy feeling that brings people together and keeps a family from falling apart even in the worst of circumstances.

4. What are some of your happiest memories from filming the project?

My happiest memory from creating our short documentary, “A Family Portrait,” didn’t come from filming. It came from seeing the impact our completed film made on those who watched it. I’ll never forget the look of appreciation from the first family we followed. They were so grateful that we were sharing their story with the world and showing others the possibilities of what a family could be.

5. What are your hopes for your film?

I hope our feature film will be able to make people think about their own beliefs. We’re laying it all out there with the hopes that people can make their own conclusions. From the political, social, legal to the  personal and even economic angles, our goal is to show you what families mean from all perspectives. So many people cite family as a source of happiness, but how are we as a nation coping with the changes that we’ve seen?

6. Why should people support your project?

People should support our project because it’s a way to get involved and make a difference in the world. By supporting our project, you are telling the world that you care about an important issue that no one else has really covered. You will be helping us share personal stories of what it means to be a family without having to paint a completely “black and white” picture. Film is one of the most effective ways to reach people, because it brings them into a world they wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. Every dollar counts in helping the film reach more people!

7. Is there anything else you would like to add?

If you want to learn more about what we’ve done and what we will be doing, please visit our website: Those who are really interested can contact me at to watch the short film. Thank you for your support!

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

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