Honoring Nan Melville
Just a few weeks ago, my team and I (along with so many around the world) were devastated by the unexpected passing of our friend and colleague Nan Melville, a fellow dance videographer and photographer.
Nan’s body of work spans decades and she crossed paths with nearly everyone in the dance and performing arts world. A woman of humility, exuberance, and grace.
(Read her obituary in The New York Times.)
Nan and I were introduced not through the dance world but through our Christian Science teacher. He told her to call me, because we shared the same profession: we film dance. It turns out we both lived on West 110th Street in New York at that time and shared a favorite coffee shop in the neighborhood (Cafe Amrita). That was 20 years ago when our friendship began over coffee dates and phone calls.
Nan would call me to check in often over the years. She might ask me what gear I’d recommend or ask a question about a client. Nan filmed and photographed in the performing arts with her own unique magic, and I filmed with mine. Sometimes, we would end up at the same show… Nan was everywhere — so generous in spirit, so thoughtful, so full of smiles. Her small frame felt large in spirit.
In 2020 Nan called me as we all pivoted our work and we talked for a while about her pivot and how she could keep herself working during the pandemic. Believe it or not, we had never worked together just shared the same profession and supported each other over the years.
The pandemic brought us together and I began to rely on Nan to film with myself and my team on many film shoots. We spent a lot of time at The Joyce Theater and Lincoln Center over the past two years. Nan kept me going with her positive attitude and humble spirit. Always ready for anything.
One day in the past year, I was in a pinch for a film shoot and she happened to not be on the gig, so I called her, she answered her phone and said, “Why of course, Nel, I can help you!” She then asked, “When do you need me?” I said, “Well, in 30 minutes!!” And she replied, “I’m putting on my coat now. See you soon.”
Writing this makes me cry. I admire that spirit so deeply.
If you are reading this and you know Nan, you can probably not even count how many times you turn around at any show or event and there is Nan, camera in hand and ready with a big smile.
Many members of my team got to know her, and of course, fell in love with her. She was always making photos of us and bringing so much lightness and joy to every video shoot. We laughed so much with her.
Nan always answered her phone — rarely would I call her and she did not pick up. No matter what she was doing, she would make time to talk. That alone taught me a lot about being in the moment. I spoke to her only a few weeks before she left us, and I am so grateful for that.
Nan was generous with her praise, always writing me the sweetest emails full of gratitude. The light and joy that exudes from her teaches us all to be better humans.
Members of the Nel Shelby Productions team wanted to share their own messages and memories about our beloved friend and colleague. Find them below:
“I feel so grateful to have met Nan and worked with her over the last few years. She was a one-of-a-kind soul – I know we were all touched by her so much. Nan and I loved talking about gear together. She was always asking me about camera specs and ideas for her next investment! It gave us really great opportunities to connect. What a special human who will be so sorely missed ❤️ “
– Ashli Bickford, Assistant Producer, Videographer & Editor
“I am devastated that Nan isn’t with us now. I still can’t help but smile through tears because even thinking of Nan just makes me smile. She had that incredible positivity. I really cherish memories of our Lincoln Center shoots this summer… Nan was always the life of the party and brought us together as a group. I hope I am as adventurous and as positive as Nan when I get older. She learned how to put together a C300 like it was nothing and carried tripods that were almost as tall as her in 80 degree weather. She’s a real MVP that I will always look up to.”
– Ellen Maynard, Videographer
“Nan’s spirit was so light and cheerful and kind. She will be missed.”
– Christopher Duggan, Photographer & Videographer
“Nan was a wonderful, one-of-a-kind person.”
– Nate Reininga, Videographer
“The most vivid memory that has come to my mind is her opening my bag and stuffing it full of treats for later… ❤️ Her colorful eyeshadow, smile, and joyful demeanor… I helped her with her new DJI Pocket gimbal and she taught me about bringing two pairs of shoes to set. I will miss her. It was such a joy to get to know her and work with her this last summer.”
– Victoria Sendra, Videographer
“One day at City Center, Nan asked me to take an up-to-date photo of her to send to a friend. During our lunch break, we tried out different angles and positions to get the right shot. I must’ve taken 30 photos (you know how it is!) I kept this one. She’s glowing. I miss her so much.”
– Caroline Haidet, In-House Videographer & Editor