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Al-Hurra Producer: My Successful Career Began With a Tour of the World - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Fran Mires is a bilingual television producer who has worked in this field since 1990. She has produced dozens of television shows in English, Spanish and Arabic. She graduated from San Francisco State University and has a masters degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Mires is the mother of three children and has created and launched unique shows like Rayheen Ala Fein, Street Pulse, You and Nabila and Sit B’Mit Ragel.

1. Can you tell our readers about the main critical junctures that have shaped your successful career?

When I was 27, I stopped everything, packed my suitcase and travelled around the world for 10 months, going to Asia, North Africa and Europe. Times were completely different then, there were no cell phones or social media. I saw and experienced things that I didn’t know existed. Some of these areas had incredible poverty and racism was prominent in many different forms in all societies. I also learned how humans are all tied together no matter their race, beliefs or origin. As a young woman, this was very transformative of how I thought about the world. The next critical juncture was getting a masters degree in Journalism to learn how to tell these important stories showing people the truth about the world around them. Truth versus nonsense and I used that as my guiding light.

A critical moment came early in my career that has largely defined me. A Spanish-language global television network, Telemundo, wanted me to develop and run a news, information and entertainment show in Spanish, which is a language I did not speak. The show Ocurrio Asi became an instant hit, a signature show for the network and lasted 11 years on air. That taught me that I can do what is in my head and in my heart … and not be limited by language or geography. Then I had the chance to repeat this again years later with Al-Hurra TV. This time in Arabic, another language I do not speak. It was a similar challenge but at a much larger scale. That program is Al-Youm on Al-Hurra. It’s an enormous global program; three hours live daily from five countries. The program just celebrated its seventh successful year.

2. Why did you decide be part of Al-Hurra?

Nine years ago I was asked to create a big news and information show that is one area of my expertise and that became the super successful Al-Youm. From there I have been fortunate to create and launch such unique shows like Rayheen Ala Fein, Street Pulse, You and Nabila and now Sit B’Mit Ragel. I was interested in working with Al-Hurra because it is a network that had no restrictions, you can tell stories truthfully and objectively.

3. What demographic does Al-Hurra channel attract? How many viewers does it have roughly?

Al-Hurra has a weekly reach of approximately 17.5 million viewers. The viewers tend to more male than female.

4.What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in your career so far?

The single biggest professional achievement is the daily beast Al-Youm. You have to know the back-story to really understand what it took to conceive. It wasn’t just a concept, but the development of every aspect of the program. I spent a lot of time in the Middle East looking for the right staff and perfect on-air talent, creating sets and getting the technology correct to execute this daily live show originating from five countries.

It felt like we were defying gravity to get every piece in place and I had a great journey personally in the process. It was a WOW moment when it finally launched. May I add I am an American woman doing this in the Middle East with no Arabic skills?

5. What is your vision for your latest show?

The vision is to let these strong Sit B’Mit Ragel women tell their own stories. There are no scripts. It is truly a testament to their own amazing strengths to forge ahead in life. And they are willing to endure the difficult challenges they face to get there. The viewer witnesses how hard they work and what they have to go through to get there. Nothing in life is easy. This program shows you every step they take to achieve their dreams.

6. How does it relate to your own experiences?

I feel very similar to these women. Media and television production was primarily male dominated and I was able to have a very successful career as a woman. Any woman anywhere has to make a personal decision if you want to make your dreams come true. Yes, media has been and continues to be traditionally dominated by men. So you take that fact and work within it and around it. You calculate your moments and don’t waste them. And don’t become a victim of it, but rather be part of the necessary change. And guess what… it makes the whole journey more fun as power comes with the success. And with power comes change. Sit B’Mit Ragel…One woman is worth 100 men. I did not make up this old Egyptian saying, but it’s on the money.

7. Who is the target audience? And what is the message you are trying to relay?

The target audience is everyone; men, women and children. The message is simple: Women can do anything. They just need the chance.

8. How will this show escape female stereotypes?

The show escapes female stereotypes because when we cast the program we were not looking for stereotypes. We simply looked for real women who are changing their lives by starting their own businesses. And we looked for women who can translate this to the television screen.

9. What new “edge” does this specific show have over other shows from a similar genre?

The women we selected and that are profiled on the program give us the “edge.” We follow them with a pure journalistic integrity that is the core of the show. The amazing team in Cairo and I know exactly what we wanted, what we needed and we targeted this. We didn’t want any shallow stuff on air. The name Sit B’Mit Ragel demands truth and depth.

10. How does your cosmopolitan nature and diversified experience contribute to producing diversified shows for different cultures, especially in the Arab world?

I would say that my cosmopolitan nature and diversified experience is exactly why I can produce in Arabic for the Middle East, just like I have done extensively for the Latin Market. I am a Greek-American woman with grandparents who came from Turkey, so I was raised with Turkish, Greek and American culture. A global culture is my culture. I was taught as a child to respect all people and all religions. I know that my programming resonates in Arabic, Spanish, English or whatever, because I have a profound respect for other cultures and I take the time to learn and understand what makes them tick. If I don’t understand and respect them how could I possibly program for them?

11. What is in store for the audience? Any surprises or unusual material?

Each episode has its own surprises. The show builds show by show. It should be watched in order.

12. Was it difficult planning and executing a show that challenges gender stereotype?

Yes, it was very difficult. Finding the right women to represent female entrepreneurs is a big deal and my Cairo team and I spent months calling candidates. Very difficult.

13. What dream program do you still want to produce?

I want to go even deeper into the subject of empowering women. I would like to produce a show on empowering women across the Middle East from Saudi Arabia to Sudan. A show that is deep, real and will enlighten the women who are watching.

14. How do you produce a show in another language?

That is a part of who I am. I have been producing programs in Arabic for the last nine years. But I surround myself with a team of excellent Arabic journalists and production staff and we collaborate on it. This remarkable team is able to take my vision and we create the program together. Additionally, I have traveled and worked extensively in the Middle East for nearly a decade. As a veteran producer, this is a recipe that has worked my entire career.

15. What will be your next show?

Ideally, I would love to do a broader show about female empowerment focusing on the entire region and the Gulf. But right now I am working on the second season of Sit B’mit Ragel and it is something I am very excited about.