Deirdre Donnelly
Producer

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… I was bossy as a child. A little eccentric. When my sister and I played Opportunity Knocks, I took on the role of the performers and interviewers and my sister was allowed to clap.

I’m Producer at MakeMatic and it’s the first time that I’ve worked so closely and interdependently with a team of illustrators and editors. The thing I love most is the team. It’s amazing to watch what the animators can do. I’m very, very taken with the level of talent here.

I’ve always had the attitude that I have an enormous amount still to learn and I think that’s true of everyone, no matter what age you are or what stage you are at in your career. I have yet to arrive – I’ll always feel like that, even if I have built up vast experience of broadcast media over the years.

I was bossy as a child. A little eccentric. When my sister and I played Opportunity Knocks, I took on the role of the performers and interviewers and my sister was allowed to clap. I was always into music, performance and generally showing off. I watched a few too many Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals in my formative years and The Sound of Music fifteen times.

I was born and raised in Belfast, capital city of Northern Ireland, and fantasised about becoming a diplomat or an actor. But, enticed by the BBC’s North America correspondent Gavin Esler reporting from the rooftop of the White House, I determined to become a foreign correspondent instead.

I attended the University of Kent in Canterbury, where I studied languages (French and Italian) before switching to Politics and International Relations. I was happiest during those university years. It was my first time away from home and I enjoyed meeting people from other countries and cultures.

I also took the opportunity to spread my wings by working my way up the East Coast of America, working various jobs, until I arrived in Colorado, before turning right around again and travelling southward on a Greyhound bus to Mexico City. They were exciting times.

If I had to describe myself in three words, I would say I’m the “Queen of Reinvention”. My career has taken me down many paths, all of which have been linked to education. I’ve taught English as a foreign language and, after completing my Masters Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy, worked as a political analyst for the Swedish and Finnish defence forces.

Coaching army generals and other decision makers in the art of media management and negotiation made me realise that my true calling was in media. So I retrained as a broadcast journalist and began working as a researcher in London for BBC Radio 4, on programmes like Woman’s Hour.

After graduating from the BBC’s trainee producer fast track course, I found myself back home in Northern Ireland working as a producer for BBC Radio Foyle in Derry. I loved producing daily programmes there. The insanity of it all, the irreverence.

I learned how to make radio packages and features and how to design the shape of a good daily programme. It was hard work that became an addiction – to the point where I would volunteer to work on Christmas Eve.

From there, I began managing educational campaigns for BBC Learning, on series including The Romans and A History of the World in 100 Objects, and made the move into television by working as assistant producer for the independent production company 360, on their two-part series Dive World War II.

Since then, I’ve worked as producer on various documentaries and television series, including The World’s Oldest Family and Keeping ‘er Country. I haven’t got around to reporting the news from the rooftop of the White House just yet, but maybe at MakeMatic I’ll produce a video educating kids how to do that themselves.