I’ve had a great career working as a self-shooting documentary director making children’s documentaries for Channel 5. I set up my company, Flying Elephant Films, the week before my daughter was born, got our first commission to make a 26 part series the week after.
Breastfeeding made travelling all over the UK a possibility. The early years were amazing, I produced my husband’s first feature film which we made with money we earned from making children’s programmes. We bought a camera from an Italian director on the internet, filming on a remote island in India. It packed up as soon as the shoot was finished. The film won Camera D’Or at Cannes.
We made the decision a few years ago that we wanted our two daughters to experience life in India. Our commissioning editor was really understanding, since we travelled all over the world making programmes for him, it did not matter where we were based. All went fine, I got a BAFTA nomination for a film I made about a little girl who was forced to work for a living. It won many awards, but the most important thing was that I managed to get her back into school.
We went to the Himalayas, did a road trip across north India in a camper van. Then our commissioning editor at Five was given early retirement. We were in India with kids settled in school and no work from the UK. Fortunately we had the features as well, and Virgin Goat where I was a production designer, was purchased by Channel 4 and Arte.
We set up our own Charity, Art for Change, teaching film to people who don’t get access to the media, and worked with local NGOs. Over the last 3 years I have taught documentary to gypsy women, storytelling to orphan children from SOS and helped them make a short fiction film. Earlier this year I taught Muslim girls in a slum, who had never in their lives been further than their street, to make films. I followed a group of young Muslim women who had never stood up to domestic violence, going door-to-door to empower other women. I travelled to a remote village in the Terai in Nepal to teach a group of women how to use cameras. Their menfolk had all left to work abroad, the village was being run entirely by women. Ten years ago the women were veiled and not allowed to walk the streets alone. Now they were handling cameras and interviewing each other. It was exciting.
I grew a lot during my years in India. I learnt a lot about people and seeing things from different points of view. Six months ago we decided to come back to the UK to improve our chances of getting work. Now I’m back in the UK and I’ve been sending my cv around for 5 months. Things were pretty quiet, I made a little film about a children’s park we always went to with the kids by the Thames, which was going to be demolished, and helped win that campaign.
Nothing happened workwise ‘til the BAME event at the BBC where I met Amy, and Carrie Britton, a Talent manager at the BBC who has been helping me to re-write my cv and is sending it out for me. Its very scary sometimes, to realize we have two kids to support in this very expensive country. But I tell myself that if I have survived sixteen years as a film-maker, then I will find a way to carry on. I’ve had a fantastic life, brought up two girls who are very close to me and met many amazing people. I’ve seen people survive with practically nothing and learnt that one actually needs very little to be happy!