Interview with MMU alumnus and Television Producer, Anna Manton.
Words and photograph by Neil Harrison
MMU alumnus Anna Manton – All Saints campus.
MMU graduate AND SUCCESSFUL TELEVISION PRODUCER has returned to the All Saints campus to discuss her time at the university and her subsequent career. Anna Manton gained her degree in English Studies at MMU before going on to work as a producer/director on the flagship ITV current affairs programme, Tonight with Trevor McDonald. Originally hailing from Oxford, Anna says, “I just think Manchester is such a brilliant place to be.”
With designs on a career in television during her time at MMU, she set about exploiting the considerable media opportunities presented by the region’s links with the BBC and ITV. For any current students looking to follow in her footsteps, Anna says, “With Media City the opportunities are just enormous.”
Not that getting her foot in the door proved easy. After a chance opportunity to work with a series producer at BBC Manchester whilst still a student, Anna made her impression. But a year later when seeking work experience from this same contact, it was her sheer tenacity which acheived results in the end: “I just kept ‘harassing’ her! I phoned her and phoned her and phoned her! She did say to me eventually, when I had got the job, that my persistence had paid off. A lot of people think; ‘oh, I don’t want to harass them,’ but you have to. It’s a confidence thing.”
Anna believes that studying for a degree helped prepare her for a career in journalism in numerous ways. Principally, however, she cites the sense of self-discipline she developed during her time at MMU as being key, explaining: “In my final year I really got my head down. That has definitely helped having that work ethic. Just knowing that if you work hard you will get something at the end of it.”
For Anna, the long-term reward—through much work experience, including a researcher’s role at the BBC—came in the shape of an assistant producer’s job on the current affairs programme, Tonight with Trevor McDonald. “It was a fantastic job, but it was nerve-racking. I was absolutely terrified for the first few weeks.”
Recalling an early experience Anna says, “There was some dreadful flooding and they sent me out one evening with a veteran ITN reporter and I was in charge of a great big cherry-picker, but I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! I have never felt so terrified in my life!” In spite of early nerves, it seems she grew to relish the intrepid and demanding nature of the job, which she speaks of enthusiastically. Her journalistic range is substantial, from covering Angela Cannings’ landmark cot-death court case, which saw Anna, ‘in the court of appeal for weeks, listening to all the testimonies’, to reporting on the MMR vaccine controversy, to making, ‘a really good film’ about the effects of food additives consumed by children, a film that piqued Jamie Oliver’s interest enough to inspire him to start his hugely influential school meals campaign. The job also saw Anna work with Martin Bashir on his now legendary Michael Jackson documentary. She shares her experience, saying: “When 9/11 happened there were eight of us straight on a plane to New York to cover the story. I travelled all over the world.”
Listen to what Anna had to say about what she learnt at MMU, here.
Anna is currently taking a break from her career to be with her family and is studying for a diploma in psychotherapy, something that has always interested her. It is clear from speaking to Anna that she revelled in her role on the Tonight programme, and it is equally clear that she also remembers her time at MMU fondly, saying: “I loved being here; I absolutely loved the course and I just think that MMU feels edgier than other universities. There was loads going on and I really, really enjoyed my three years here. I would definitely recommend MMU to anybody.”