MEMBER OF THE MONTH – AMIR TAJIK, PRESS TV
In this monthly interview series EDN focuses on one of its many members to show both members in the spotlight and the diversity of the EDN membership group. Our EDN member of the month for March 2014 is Amir Tajik, Production Manager, Press TV, Tehran, Iran.
EDN has talked to Amir Tajik about the documentary profile of Press TV and how they work with independent producers.
EDN: Can you start by telling about your own background and your road to Press TV and role as Production Manager?
AT: I started very humble and moved up the ladder rung by rung. I studied in the renowned university of Tehran. I started my work with the AP Television News and later when PRESS TV was hiring at the onset of its launch, I joined the network. Though the job proved to be very demanding I was mesmerized by the world of TV production and found documentary movie making to be my true calling. I started learning the ropes from seasoned directors and producers and all the while tried to educate myself on the technical aspects as well. Few years later when I was trusted with the position of Production Manager, I felt confident enough to rise to the challenge. Still the task proves to be an ongoing learning process that demands your dedication as well as love.
EDN: When was Press TV launched and what was the idea behind the channel?
AT: PRESS TV was launched in 2005 and inaugurated officially in 2006 with the mindset of providing a platform for news and stories, which more often than not fell off the radar of the existing corporate media and news corporations. While being sanctioned and misrepresented by the corporate media, Iran needed to make its voice reach a wider international audience; hence PRESS TV came to life.
EDN: How would you characterize the profile and objectives of Press TV?
AT: As its aptly chosen motto “Voice of the Voiceless” suggests, PRESS TV tries to report on matters and events systematically ignored by certain news agencies. It also tries to bring to viewers alternative angles of current affairs and newsworthy incidents. Moreover, PRESS TV tries to depict the true colours of Iran, its natural beauties and its peace loving people. The channel is extensively networked with numerous bureaus in all continents.
EDN: In which countries are Press TV aired and what is your target audience?
AT: PRESS TV has a truly global reach. PRESS TV today reaches its fans through different means such as internet as well as satellite and it has retained its true international nature. In general, our audience is whomsoever who wants to hear the latest news. But in particular, we are proud to claim that we cater those who either seek news on neglected global issues or want to hear unbiased alternative news reporting.
EDN: Press TV is the first international news network in Iran. How will you describe the Iranian broadcasting landscape?
AT: Yes, as the first truly international news network, PRESS TV spearheaded Iran’s mission to enter the world stage of media. Following the success of our network, some other sister channels –mainly entertainment- were also set up in different languages. IFilm Arabic, IFilm English and Hispan TV are such channels. Therefore, Iranian broadcasting landscape is burgeoning and encompasses a growing range of TV networks.
EDN: How does the documentary department function within Press TV? Do you both produce in-house, commission, co-produce and acquire documentaries?
AT: In addition to its up to the minute news reporting, what bring adds to the reputation of a news network is the breadth and quality of its documentaries. Being well aware of this fact, PRESS TV from the outset tasked its documentary department to bring to its viewers documentaries that are not only well made but informative and insightful as well. To this end, this department produces many in-house movies and documentary series. With the help of this department many Iranian and foreign documentary filmmakers have had their dreams come true and reached global audience through commission or coproduction agreements. PRESS TV Documentary also has a very active acquisition branch that has the responsibility of screening and vetting suitable documentaries made on intriguing topics.
EDN: What type of documentaries is Press TV looking for?
AT: As a News Network our main focus is on current affair documentaries, which mostly shed light on the unseen sides of the issues through investigative filmmaking. But this by no means translates into a disregard of other topics. High on our priorities are documentaries with topics revolving around environment, globalization, poverty, cultural diversity, and not to forget Iran’s tourism, art, wildlife and environment.
EDN: Are there any topics / programmes you are specifically looking for this year?
AT: Something that has always been of interest to us is investigative documentaries produced with vast pre-production research and eventually reveals a hidden truth or raise public awareness about an interesting topic.
EDN: Which lengths / formats are you looking for and what does Press TV pay for e.g. a commission or acquisition?
AT: As a news channel we have news bulletins every half an hour, therefore, we have to divide the documentary movies into episodes of 26 minute length. We do acquire feature length and documentary series as well. As for the payment, depending on the topic and the shooting location the budget would differ between 10,000 to 50,000 Euros per hour. It should be mentioned that this budget can be augmented for exclusive and extraordinary topics.
EDN: How does Press TV work with international producers?
AT: After finding in international festivals, pitching sessions, awards, etc and very recently through the potential provided by EDN, the two parties would negotiate their proposals for documentary movies and would reach a final agreement which would be drafted and signed by the two parties.
EDN: What do you do if you have a project fitting Press TV’s profile or if you are generally interested in producing for Press TV?
AT: Many a times, we are approached by producers. They pitch their ideas and in case they are approved, a contract would be signed, the needed budget would be assessed and then the procedure of budget allocation is defined. Then the production commences.
EDN: Which rights does Press TV acquire for documentaries produced with the channel?
AT: All rights! But we also do favour co-productions.
EDN: What lies next for you and Press TV?
AT: PRESS TV is expanding the width and the scope of its activities. The Documentary Department follows suit. We are establishing contacts with numerous producers and directors from all over the world and with each twist in current affairs of the world, arises a need for documenting the incident by capturing it in a movie and unraveling the issue for the viewers to help them decide for themselves. Our next big step which we believe is also very daring and less tried, is launching a completely online and interactive channel that is not only a documentary channel but also a channel on documentary filmmaking. The upcoming web-based channel would offer workshops and educational opportunities for everyone interested in learning the ins and outs of the documentary filmmaking career.
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