SOURCING rare and unseen photographs, footage and visuals for use in documentaries is something that Miriam Walsh has been doing since she first moved over to London to work for the BBC in 1989.
From working on numerous history documentaries to working with renowned filmmakers like Julien Temple, it has been a truly interesting career for the freelance archive producer, who went to school in Newcestown.
Miriam was part of the team that recently picked up a Virgin Media Bafta award for their series Once Upon A Time in Iraq.
The team, led by director James Bluemel from KEO Films, won the ‘Best Factual Series’ for the series which aired on BBC last year.
The documentary was also honoured at several other major awards ceremonies. including the Royal Television Society award.
Miriam – who is looking forward to a summer visiting family at home in Killowen in Enniskeane as she hasn’t been home since February of last year – said it has been fantastic for all the team to be recognised for their work.
‘This series has picked up a lot of factual awards but to win the overall Bafta is a big deal and it was really great for the team as we completed two years of incredible research on it and that’s why we were so thrilled with it,’ said Miriam.
‘It was also one of the things that I’ve worked on that actually made a difference to the people we made it about, and that’s always very gratifying.’
The five-part series captures the experiences of ordinary Iraqis like civilians, soldiers and journalists who lived through the 2003 invasion and the years of chaos that followed.
Miriam and her colleague Miriam Koloyan were responsible for sourcing never-before-seen personal archive footage which brings the viewer closer to the realities of this invasion and this series was defined by the archive they found.
From news reports to mini tapes stashed in lofts and garages, the duo unearthed a hidden treasure trove of unseen archive.
And the awards are still flooding in, as Miriam picked up two more at the recent international film archives awards, the Focal International Awards 2021.
Miriam accepted the awards for ‘Best use of footage in a history production’ and the Student Jury Award for ‘Most inspiring use of archive’.
Accepting the awards, Miriam said it was particularly nice that they won the Student Jury award.
Having studied history and sociology at UCC, Miriam went on to undertake a post graduate diploma in information science and archive studies at Queens University in Belfast.
She then went on to work in the BBC archive following her graduation.
Her background in history and sociology also stood to her and they asked her to work specifically on their documentaries and that’s how she came to work as an archive producer.
‘The beauty of this is that I can pick and choose my projects and I can go from working on a history series to working on a music series and it’s never boring then.’
Julien Temple is another film maker who Miriam has huge respect for and she worked on London: Modern Babylon and picked up the Archive Researcher of the year in 2012 for that particular project.
‘I have been doing this work a long time but I have been lucky and from day one I’ve worked with really good directors which makes all the difference.
‘Finding the footage is the real fun part but securing licensing and permissions to use this footage can be a real problem. You have to organise the contracts and make sure that they are the owners of the footage too. The prices for even a few minutes of footage can be expensive too.’
Her other music documentary credits include a series of documentaries focusing of five years in different periods of David Bowie’s life, one on Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones and Wilko Johnson of Dr Feelgood.