Media Parents

Monthly Archives: December 2014

5 minutes with preeya nair producer director


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.

Preeya Nair's work with Art for Change.

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.

Preeya Nair's work with charity Art for Change.

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!

Please join for great jobs, networking and events. The Media Parents Back to Work scheme is currently accepting more applicants, please email for details. Our next event will be a drinks party for members on January 21st.

December 23, 2014 @ 12:17 am Posted in News Comments Off

5 minutes with Katherine Eisner on funding from non-broadcast sources


Media Parents Networker and Cocaine Unwrapped Producer Katherine Eisner writes about funding from non-broadcast sources.

To contact Cocaine Unwrapped Producer Katherine Eisner please go here:

    Funding is often what stops a great idea in its tracks.

    Over the years I’ve solved this by using alternative sources to top up money from broadcasters or finance films from scratch.

    Who Will Finance Projects?

    A range of organisations will put money into the right kind of project.

    • Non- Governmental Organizations (NGO’s)
    • International Agencies like the UN
    • Private Foundations
    • Government Ministries


    I raised additional money from a Danish NGO for a film about the collapsing Chernobyl sarcophagus (commissioned by Swedish TV) and co-produced with Cicada Films. This enabled us to spend longer time filming at the Chernobyl site.

    Katherine Eisner raised funding for Collapsing Chernobyl, produced with Cicada Films.

    How much can be raised?

    • The amounts of money vary from £3,000 to £5,000 to one- off amounts of  £20,000.
    • Finance can mount up with clusters of funders attached to one project.


    • For the cinema documentary, Cocaine Unwrapped (Dartmouth Films) extra money was needed to film this ambitious story, about the impact of the drugs trade on communities in Latin America and the US. I raised production money from a Dutch NGO and funds for the outreach from the Boell Foundation.

    Still from Dartmouth Films' Cocaine Unwrapped


    • Outreach is important since funders want films to have impact and reach out beyond the TV, cinema screen or website.
    • Example:
    • A film about chemical pollution in the Arctic commissioned by NRK (Norway) and co-o financed by environmental groups was also used by Scandinavian educators in classrooms and by Arctic research institutes in their outreach.

    Is it only Documentaries that could be funded in this way?

    • This approach could also be used for dramas and drama docs.
    • It depends on the story, treatment and factors like timing.

    Katherine Eisner Bio

    Katherine has spent the last 15 years producing TV news features and short documentaries.

    • She has filmed stories from the collapsing Chernobyl sarcophagus to an interview with and profile of Oscar Niemeyer, the great architect.
    • Commissions include C4 News, BBC World, SVT, YLE; consultancies include the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.
    • Recent projects include the cinema feature Cocaine Unwrapped (co-producer) for Dartmouth Films.

    Katherine is known for getting projects off the ground and developing innovative approaches.

    • At Associated Press TV News – (Executive Producer) she developed a new market for APTN’s commercial arm bringing in over $1.2 million from organisations such as the Asian Development Bank and UNICEF.
    • She pioneered co-productions between TV broadcasters and organisations (charities, foundations) attracting new audiences beyond the TV screen.
    • A film about chemical contamination in the Arctic commissioned by Norwegian TV was also used by Scandinavian educators in classrooms and by Arctic research institutes in their outreach.
    • Katherine developed new sources of funds for the Panos Institute (media NGO and model for the BBC’s Media Action) of which she was a founder member and Development Director.
    • Over $1mliion was raised from other charities in the US and Europe for Panos projects (books, workshops, meetings).

    Making international stories relevant to domestic audiences in Europe and the USA (where she lived for seven years) is key to Katherine’s approach.

    • For the cinema documentary Cocaine Unwrapped she planned activities in New York, Washington DC, LA and Berlin with organisations from universities (Johns Hopkins) to grassroots groups, MOMS United Against the War on Drugs.
    • She also organised briefings for specialised media in Washington DC, San Francisco and Boston for the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) as Marketing Director.

    Katherine ‘s experience of international organisations includes:

    • UNICEF (UN- New York) co-ordinating global media campaigns
    • OXFAM (UK) managing a team of campaigners raising funds and awareness

    Katherine’s corporate experience includes:

    • Saatchi and Saatchi on the management side – where she began her career

    Please join for great jobs, networking and events. The Media Parents Back to Work scheme is currently accepting more applicants, please email for details.

    December 12, 2014 @ 1:14 pm Posted in News Comments Off

    5 minutes with…Anna Burns, Edit Producer


    Before I had my daughter I was a Producer/Director on all sorts of weird and wonderful shows, never quite knowing where my next adventure would be, writes Anna Burns.

    Anna Burns on the Shipwrecked team.

    From a desert island in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean (Shipwrecked) to an operating theatre filming, gulp, cosmetic surgery (10 Years Younger) or in Rio with a bunch of hot young things (Britain’s Next Top Model) to nudists in New York (What’s The Problem with Anne Robinson). Wherever my job took me I was sure to have an experience I would never forget.

    As a kid my Dad used to mock me ‘Anna if there were exams in TV you’d pass with flying colours.’ ‘Haha Dad!’ but maybe he was on to something. After leaving Uni I started out as runner at Granada TV.  There I worked my way up through the ranks, from junior researcher to researcher to Insert Director. And on some of the biggest entertainment shows at that time ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ (Matthew Kelly is genuinely THE nicest man in show business) ‘Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes (yes Rachel Hunter I will never forget your impersonation of Marilyn Monroe) and ‘You’ve Been Framed’ (nothing funnier than dogs and cats).

    After four unforgettable years at Granada and just days before Christmas I impulsively said yes to a job in London, starting the day after New Year’s Day. Was I mad? No place to live and just a handful of people I knew down there, I packed up my car and off I went. My Dad’s last words ‘The road goes both ways’. I never looked back.

    Have Format Will Travel session at Salford with Cat Lewis.

    I got to work on all types of shows – T4′s Popworld, The Frank Skinner Show, The Patrick Kielty Show (lucky Cat Deeley)… I even tried my hand at a quiz show ‘Soap Addicts’. Never seen it? No, nor did many others. But then I got a great opportunity to AP on Wife Swap USA for ABC Television. Wow that is one show that will stay with me forever. A home schooling, vegan, bible bashing family from Florida Vs. an extremely loud, meat eating, cursing family from Virginia. Fireworks. On that I learnt how to make the best telly from a great director, Tayte Simpson. AND how to talk someone back into agreeing to be filmed when they are about to call time on the whole programme. Disaster averted.
    Soon after I was directing programmes of my own and I took everything I had learnt in all those years to create the best TV I could. But then whilst stood in four inches of snow, in the middle of nowhere filming for The Biggest Loser, I was battling morning sickness and I knew this would be my last chance to direct. Having a child would mean I could no longer pack a bag at a moments notice and disappear around the country or the world for what could be months, nor would I want to.

    "…Loads of our Edit Producers are Mums." Sorted.

    So in the later stages of my pregnancy I edit produced. I had stepped into this role before on Supersize V Superskinny and How To Look Good Naked. And sometimes as a director I think we can become too close to our rushes. When you edit produce you bring another way of looking at it, fresh eyes I guess. Then the Exec of Masterchef, David Ambler, bumped into me when I was about to drop and said ‘…just let me know when you’re ready to come back to work, loads of our Edit Producers are Mums’. Sorted.

    However, what I didn’t plan for was soon after having my daughter I became a single parent. I was left with no choice but to relocate back to the north for the support of my family. If life is like a game of snakes and ladders that was one big snake I went down. Right back to where I started at my Mum and Dad’s. I felt like the cards were stacked against me now, all my contacts were in London and I was not just a parent trying to figure a way back into TV but a single parent. If I’m not at home to put my daughter to bed who is? She’d be like orphan Annie.

    I have edit produced a few programmes since I’ve been back in Manchester – CBBC’s Marrying Mum & Dad, BBC3′s Young Tailor of the Year, Channel 4′s Baggage – all thanks to the support of the BBC’s Talent Manager, Victoria Roye.  And I’ve made it work for the job and my daughter. But the contracts have been few and far between. And although my experience may get me an interview, the fact I can’t pull long hours at the drop of the hat won’t always work for a programme, especially if it’s a new series. I get it though, sometimes a show can face difficulties in the edit and the only way to fix it is to put your nose to the grindstone.

    Anna Burns at Salford Media Festival with Back to Work Content Producer Shamaila Khan.

    I recently went for dinner with a couple of old telly friends, an Exec and a Director. When I explained I felt TV had turned its back on me because I could no longer give my life to the job, they looked at me and said ‘Well yes, what did you expect?’ So just when I was starting to feel invisible and like ‘Is this it? Do I go and get a boring job and live out the rest of my boring life?’ I heard about the Media Parents Back To Work Scheme. And more excitingly a chance to attend the Nations & Regions Conference at Media City. Amy Walker looked at my CV, said I had great credits and she’d love to invite me. Right there and then, with just those words, I felt excited about TV again.

    The two days I spent at the festival gave me the boost I needed.  To just be in the same room as Peter Fincham, the Director of ITV, the CEO of Nine Lives, Cat Lewis and Nell Butler, the brains behind Come Dine With Me, was great. Some interesting discussions were had, should the BBC still have the licence fee? That debate will rage on. How our viewing habits have changed and the future is more and more we like to select our own nights entertainment through IPlayer, Netflix, Sky On Demand…But still roughly over 90% of us want to be a part of live TV.  And it’s partly Twitter, Facebook we have to thank for that. Rather than waiting to discuss what went down on Corrie over a coffee at work, we can discuss it with friends or strangers online there and then. There was a discussion on the rise and possibly fall of TV formats and I learnt a new buzz word, ‘fixed rig’ as in One Born Every Minute. But the big news for me is it’s the YouTubers who could be stealing our attention soon and already have followings bigger than Gaga’s ‘Monsters’. We’ll see, I personally hadn’t heard of half the YouTube names banded about. Guess I’m out of touch and need to watch something other than CBeebies.

    What I did take away from everything said was that the TV industry is more exciting than ever, with endless possibilities given the imaginations we have, the technology now there for us to keep telling those stories. But as someone who is not a huge fan of politicians, I was happy to duck out of Harriet Harman’s address to instead meet with ITV’s Talent Exec, Tracy Walker thanks to Media Parents.  I had a great meeting with Tracy, also a Mum, discussing all sorts of avenues of work for me. So I don’t think Harriet would feel too snubbed.
    Overall it was fantastic to be part of such an amazing TV festival and mostly because it reminded me that I do want to work in TV, it’s all I’ve known, it’s what I love and I’m good at it. And why should being a parent stop me in my tracks?

    I think my ‘networking’ skills were a little rusty and maybe I was grinning inanely at everyone. But as there was no alcohol involved I think it’s safe to say I didn’t embarrass myself, too much. Let’s hope this is the start of a new chapter in my career, and in mine and my daughter’s life.

    "Right there and then, with just those words, I felt excited about TV again…Let's hope this is the start of a new chapter in my career and in mine and my daughter's life." Please contact Anna to book her via

    Please join for great jobs, networking and events. The Media Parents Back to Work scheme is currently accepting more applicants, please email for details. Christmas drinks for freelancers TONIGHT December 4th are detailed on the watercooler at

    December 4, 2014 @ 7:47 am Posted in News Comments Off