MELISSACOSTELLO.COM is a team of expert storytellers – strategists, image makers, and marketers all at the top of their trade.

And at your service.

Melissa Costello

CEO + Creative Director

Melissa Costello is the creative lead and chief storyteller for MELISSACOSTELLO.COM’s video-centric take on branding and marketing. Telling stories and building brands that impact people’s businesses and people’s lives is her passion. Her upbringing engaged her in a lively mix of both the fine arts and the marketing arts, joint passions shared by numerous members of the extended family. It’s in the blood as is a restless curiosity. Costello has been awarded both domestic and international honors for the videos and television commercials she has produced for more than 30 years through her companies in Chicago and Los Angeles, and in collaboration with former political media consultant, David Axelrod for clients such as President Barack Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Melissa Costello

CEO + Creative Director

National brand clients and personalities directed include:
Placido Domingo, Barack Obama, Magic Johnson, John Edwards, Joe Montana, Deval Patrick, Tom Vilsack, Rev. Desmond Tutu, Catholic Charities USA, United Negro College Fund, Planned Parenthood, Kimberly Clark, Johnson & Johnson, Mattel, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, Procter & Gamble, Jenny Craig, Takeda, Sprint, Uniform Law Commission, Vicks, Kroger, Quaker Oats, Ulta, Hallmark, AFL-CIO, Allstate

Three elements are present in every story we create: authenticity, shared humanity, and surprise. That combination makes you feel something. And when we feel something it becomes memorable. The story sticks.



Director of Photography


PR Strategist


Digital Marketer

ALAN THATCHER is a versatile veteran Director of Photography and Camera Operator based in Chicago whose work has taken him across the country and around the world. In his 30+ year career he has shot dozens of features and tv shows, as well as numerous music videos, documentaries, live concerts, and hundreds of television commercials. Many of those commercials were political in nature, shot with Melissa Costello and David Axelrod for some of the greatest Democratic leaders of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Among Thatcher’s cinematographic obsessions are the changing light on a landscape, choreographing camera movement to follow body movement and capture surprise, the subtraction theory of lighting, and the infinite expressiveness of the human face.

KELLEE JOHNSON has been thinking about standing out in a crowd for years. “As an identical twin I spent half my life learning to differentiate. Today, Ballast Group does the same for clients using our inverted pyramid methodology and P.E.S.O. model for developing campaigns that help leaders articulate their value and their uniqueness. My philosophy for third party storytelling means engaging others to help tell your story so you don’t have to. Hearing your story from someone else adds more credibility. Telling your story in paid, earned, shared and owned media campaigns puts you in front of your audiences no matter where one turns. Your uniqueness shows up. We build communities, increase valuations, create magnetism for potential M&A partners, and attract the brightest to work for you.”

SONNY SULTANI is a Digital Marketing Strategist with nearly two decades of experience in search, ABM and marketing automation. He takes great pleasure in adapting all he has learned in digital marketing to authentically tell brand narratives, and is constantly searching for newer, more creative, more effective ways to impact clients’ businesses. His efforts have been consistently recognized earning him over 60 awards in strategy, communication and design. Among Sonny’s proudest achievements is mentoring former employees to become thought leaders in marketing and creativity.

Sonny has sat on the boards of several charities and academic institutions. He is also an avid speaker and participant in more than 30 panel discussions on analytics and creativity.


Still Photographer


Hair & Makeup Artist


Project Producer

NATHANAEL FILBERT is a commercial advertising photographer based in Chicago who specializes in narrative portraiture.
Growing up in Indonesia, he developed an avid passion for world travel and global storytelling in all its forms. Influenced by his penchant for meeting new people in new countries and learning about new cultures, Nathanael has come to view photography as an ethnographic expression of an individual within his or her own cultural context and he endeavors to capture a rich, nuanced, dimensional portrait of each – a picture that paints a thousand words at the very least. His love of culture, of humanity, of societal customs and folklore constantly push him to explore new ways of telling visual stories, sometimes minimal, sometimes maximal.

KAREN KOENIG discovered her passion for transforming people via hair and makeup techniques as a young artist in theater, eventually making her way to Los Angeles for in-depth training. Upon returning to Chicago, she launched her career as a hair and makeup artist, gaining extensive experience in TV, video, print, film, theater, and live events.

One of Karen’s greatest joys is creating a signature look reflecting the personality of the individual or character they’re playing, and bringing the inner beauty of each and every person who sits in her chair to the surface. An often overlooked aspect of her work is helping talent feel their best as they transition from off-camera to on-camera. And in the process, getting to learn a little bit about a little bit of everything!

SUNDOWN HODGES is a true Type A creative who believes in being logically free-spirited. Her modus operandi is: always start with ‘Yes’ and know that everything can be figured out from there. A producer and problem solver by nature, she has over ten years experience between the event, music, photography and film industries. After graduating from Indiana University / Bloomington with a major in Event Production and a minor in Ethnomusicology, she moved to New York City to work as a producer for a London-based record label.

Since relocating to Chicago, the tremendous variety of productions she has managed has organically grown her combined ability to envision the big picture and deliver the critical details, all with an eye towards aesthetic composition and ease.

“You should not be considering anyone else. This team has such a vast talent. Being able to tap into that talent is an honor. It’s one of those unforgettable experiences.”



All curious, creative, seasoned professionals who love to work together, love growing things, and don’t like to do the same thing twice.

It’s deep and multi-faceted allowing us to bring unexpected solutions, intelligence, and artistry to everything we produce.

We’re type A creatives who care too much about our work product and our clients to ever phone it in.

Add clients who are as passionate about serving their clients as we are about serving ours and beautiful things happen!

Why Video-Centric Branding & Marketing?

It’s the most potent service we offer and also the best value. It deploys the most powerfully persuasive medium – video – to capture the discovery process all in one day. And the unforgettable stories and images captured that day are shared on all channels for a flawlessly consistent brand and brand voice – on your website, in your social media, blogs, collateral materials, landing pages, etc.

“The work product is first rate, delivering an outcome that is wonderfully human, emotional, caring and persuasive. You’ll be extremely impressed with what they can do to help your business.”

Pictured on left


In brief…

We help individuals, for-profits and nonprofits make an unforgettable impact. Whether you’re hoping to tweak an existing brand or starting from scratch, can help.

We enjoy working with and shooting for companies across the country and are headquartered in easy reach of anywhere – in Chicago.
Storytelling is as indispensable in marketing as it is in every other aspect of life – it makes abstract ideas and values concrete by illustrating how they’re applied, it makes the subject of the story memorable, and it connects people. It’s irresistible. Deployed skillfully, storytelling stirs emotion and moves people to take action.
While MELISSACOSTELLO.COM primarily helps clients develop video-centric content, we also offer a variety of other services, ranging from developing a brand voice to website design, photo art direction, comprehensive marketing campaigns and more. Additional information can be found on our Services page. The price of services varies depending on the scope of each project. We are a premium firm that offers a bonus to our clients: unlike most marketing firms, we communicate the emotional value that a nonprofit or for-profit business provides in addition to what they provide and why they provide it.

Want to meet the team?