Growing up in Laurel, Md., Dunning was a fan of 1990’s television shows and movies such as “Sister, Sister,” “Kenan and Kel,” “All That,” and other shows that displayed different perspectives and cultures as main characters. As reality television began to take over, her interest was lost due to the lack of positive African-American roles in television and movies.
“Everybody sees Tyler Perry films and they think that is black people,” says Dunning referring to “The Madea” series where she believes almost every African-American stereotype is represented. “I think Tyler Perry only sees things from one point of view. There are multiple African-American stories that need to be told."
“I really liked the technical aspects [of filming] and how you can capture emotions and you can capture the moment,” said Dunning. “That’s what I like to do.”
Dunning, a junior at North Carolina A&T studying broadcast production, came into her freshman year of college with the notion of starting a production company. She started a YouTube page with her friends where they did numerous improvised series that they entitled “Unwritten Scripts”. Dunning and her friends only made five videos, but received a large number of views. The first video called “InTuition Promo” are of her friends improvising with exaggerated personalities in several conversations within different scenarios. The video received over 100 views in its first week. Becoming more serious during her sophomore year, Dunning sat down with her now publicist, Cora Taft, and content advisor, Jerrell Leeper, and began to put plans into motion.
“Upon coming to college, I wanted to promote black students in college in a positive way, so I decided to get the best of the best and collaborate to make great things that people of our culture can relate to,” said Dunning.
“Our motto is Making Moves. Major Motives,” said Dunning.
She derived “Motives” from the word emotion. Dunning says she loves to capture people’s emotions and the organization likes to motivate people through emotion.
She said, “I really like people. I like to help people. That’s my main concern. I like to make people smile and make their day.”
Dunning’s focus for now is on college students and her age group. Major Motives has produced a scripted, comedic web series called “C.O.C.K.Y”, which stands for the Chronicles Of College Kids Yeah, that shows different college students with a range of personalities who are either friends or somehow encounter one another. Major Motives also produced rap cyphers, music videos, A&T’s “Harlem Shake” video, and the company is currently working on a new, video diary series called “Dear Professor” that covers different topics they feel college students do not learn in college, but need to know in the real world and vice versa. “Dear Professor” premiered October 14, 2013.
Major Motives is also in partnership with WNAA 90.1, an affiliate of A&T. Major Motives is in charge of filming all of their interviews and sending it out to the public, all for free.
Family is at the core of Dunning’s company. Wearing the same seven pieces of jewelry daily, with the addition of another set for the interview, each piece of jewelry came from a family member, reminds her of a family member, or is an extension of her personality which are all present in her film making.
Standing at 5 feet 8 inches, Dunning is the youngest and shortest of three children in her house making her a target for her family’s jokes. The jokes they make about her or each other is used as added material in her scripts.
There are times when Dunning will become more serious than playful. Major Motive’s publicist, Taft, says although Dunning is herself all day, as a boss she is very direct and she gets what she wants done.
“She is goofy, she laughs, but when it is time to film, it is time to film,” said Taft. “I feel like she is a very good person for this position because if it wasn’t for her and her being a leader it wouldn’t be where it [Major Motives] is at today.”
That mentality is in part the reason why rapper Ty Shoffner chose Dunning to produce his music video, “Gone.” Shoffner says that he likes her editing.
“Melanie is very creative. She pays attention to detail and she is very good at throwing hidden messages in her work,” says Shoffner.
He heard about Dunning from Major Motives YouTube page. It took a month to produce his video, but he says he was satisfied with her work and would work with her again.
“She is focused and good at thinking on her feet,” said Shoffner. “She is also very dedicated and very organized.”
Dunning shows her dedication and organization through her logo. While representing so many things from her initials and the direction she wants her company to go in, Dunning also made sure to leave a little gray area.
“We are bringing the center of attention to a gray area in the media that isn’t positively shown, so that’s our center focus,” said Dunning.
Within six years, Dunning hopes to have her team employed. Currently at 20 members made up entirely of A&T students, Dunning says a waiting list of 15 who would like to join. Major Motive’s work has been voluntary, but will begin to implement a rate plan for their services this fall. It does not have any financial support or contracts. The only thing that required money was the purchasing of a camera and software, all of which Dunning paid out of pocket for. Dunning also wants to produce feature length comedies and dramas in the future that will attract all comedy and drama buffs. She is undecided about film school at this time, but said her options would be between Florida State University or Southern California State University. Her hopes are that Major Motives becomes a national brand and a household name. Dunning aspires to accomplish this by networking, collaborating with other directors and producers, and getting Major Motives’ current productions exposed to a bigger audience in an attempt to encourage others to work with the company. She says that she will do whatever is necessary to accomplish her goals.
“The whole team is voluntary right now, but we are all going to the top,” says Dunning. “We all have the same major motive to uplift each other.”