About the Filmmakers

Michael Wood

Michael Wood – Writer and Presenter

Historian, filmmaker and writer Michael Wood is well known to PBS viewers as the author of films which the New York Times has described as 'among the best history documentaries ever shown on TV'. These include his epic journey In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, and more recently The Story of India, which the Wall Street Journal called 'still the gold standard' of documentary history making. He has been passionate about history since his childhood in Manchester, where he is now Professor of Public History, a fantastic appointment as he is a lifelong supporter of Manchester United!

As a postgraduate at Oxford he studied medieval history, acted in plays - even performing off Broadway - and indulged the travel bug that had hit him in his late teens. Greece and India are among his special places. Now after thirty years of filmmaking, he is 'still on the road', as his hero Bob Dylan puts it, doing what he calls 'Travel, Adventure, History'. He first visited China in the early 1980s and was very pleased to return to tell The Story of China over 4,000 years, as it gave him a chance to reacquaint himself with the warmth, wonderful cooking and love of history of the Chinese people.

Michael is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and recently received the British Academy President's Medal for services to history and public outreach.

Rebecca Dobbs

Rebecca Dobbs – Producer

Producer/Director Rebecca Dobbs co-founded Maya Vision in the 1980s and immediately began working with David Bowie – two years later they had completed a cinema-length documentary covering his Southeast Asian tour.

After that extraordinary adventure, Rebecca and Maya Vision went on to work on a range of ground-breaking projects across the globe, telling powerful stories and bringing diverse peoples, places and stories to television audiences on every continent. Focusing often on issues close to her heart - social justice, feminism, LGBT and human rights, Rebecca has produced drama for cinema and TV, as well as arts, history, politics, music, current affairs and children's programming.

She has worked closely with historian Michael Wood on many award-winning projects, from In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great, to The Story of China, which she produced and directed, whilst also finding time to raise two children, and follow her passion for theater, travel, soccer and cricket.

Susanna Thornton

Susanna Thornton – Researcher and Academic Consultant

Susanna grew up in Manchester, England. She first came into contact with China when her father's Chinese textile industry contacts became family friends. As a ten-year-old, she already knew that she didn't like Chinese tea or preserved ginger (presents) or crab eggs (a rather shocking experience - first meal in Manchester Chinatown, as guests of Chinese friends) but she was determined to try and understand more about China and its people. She has an Oxford PhD in Chinese history, an MBA and an Oxford BA in Oriental Studies, and speaks, reads and writes Chinese. She worked at the BBC World Service on China news, and spent 15 years in business management, in mainly Asia-related roles, running innovation projects with Asian corporates for a technology incubator, and living for a number of years in Hong Kong managing IT and data products for the financial markets. She joined the Maya Vision team to work on The Story of China. She has done various rather wild expeditions, including a solo journey from Hong Kong to England by bicycle. She is writing a book centred around her exploration by bike of China's borderlands.

Tina Sijiao Li

Tina Sijiao Li – Associate Producer

Hailing from the province in China known for the spiciness of its food, its entertaining TV, and the birthplace of Mao Zedong, Tina graduated with a degree in English and quickly gravitated towards a career in film and TV production.

After moving to the UK in 2013, she has since focused her efforts on factual documentaries of a historical or cultural nature, including those that have been broadcast on the BBC, Disney Channel, and CNBC. She currently lives in London.

Mandy Bueschlen Li

Mandy Bueschlen Li - Line Producer China

Mandy Bueschlen Li is an award-winning senior producer and aspiring director who has a decade of experience in documentary, TV, and corporate film production in China. She has produced for BBC, PBS, Discovery, National Geographic, Starbucks, and Google among many others.

Mandy has a talent for recognizing characters and unearthing great stories, extensive experience shooting in a vast array of locations, and up-to-date knowledge of equipment and technology.

In addition to her work as a producer, Mandy is a rising star among China's young directors, having won a place in Discovery Channel Asia's Nanjing Calling: First Time Filmmakers 2014. Mandy speaks English, Mandarin Chinese, and business Spanish.

Gerry Branigan - Editor

Gerry Branigan is Maya Vision's senior editor of choice. A brilliant and imaginative interpreter, and multi award winner, Gerry has worked closely with Michael, Rebecca and musician Howard Davidson since their first collaboration for PBS on Conquistadors, back in 2000. Since then he has worked on Myths and Heroes, In Search of Shakespeare, The Story of India, Story of England and many other Michael hosted films.

'Working with Michael I've learnt so much history that it would take an age or even ages to tell the full story, but after a little editing down .... it's always worth it'.

Aleksandar Nikolic

Aleksandar Nikolic - Editor

Aleksandar always wanted to make computer games. Or so he thought. After seeing Apocalypse Now, he decided that what he really wanted to do is make movies. With his background in computer graphics, he figured that editing would be the easiest way to break into the industry and he set about training himself to use Avid. He has been editing TV and cinema documentaries ever since.

Always looking for a new challenge, he has also written and directed a number of successful short films and two feature documentaries. The first of these is The Serbian Lawyer, a film which explores the moral dilemmas of the lawyer defending Radovan Karadzic, which has screened in over 20 countries including an acclaimed cinema run in Germany. The second film, a poetic study of immigration and loneliness, is entitled Guidance Through the Black Hole and is scheduled to premiere in 2017. He currently splits his time between working as a hired gun and developing his new projects.

Howard Davidson

Howard Davidson - Composer

Howard Davidson studied electro/acoustic music with Tristram Cary and clarinet (Colin Bradbury) at the Royal College of Music. Graduation led to a period of performer/composer with various orchestras and ensembles in London before being appointed Senior Lecturer in electro-acoustic composition and music technology at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music. Howard spent six years in Australia before returning to the UK. Subsequently, his focus has been directed towards scoring for documentary television, radio and the theatre. He has worked closely with Michael Wood and Rebecca Dobbs on all their major documentary series for PBS and BBC.

John Cranmer

John Cranmer - Graphic Designer

John started out wanting to be a comic artist like his idol, Jack (the King) Kirby, although he went on to study fine-art and film-making. His first job, uncredited, was making costumes for a feature film, Quest For Fire, under the award winning Janty Yates. After stints working for software training and print design companies he moved into multi-media journalism, writing for a variety of publications, contributing to various books and becoming Technology Editor for a UK magazine. However the creative and technical challenges of motion graphics ultimately enthralled him leading to a career in television, and over 20 years working within Maya Vision generating innovative graphics and titles for their numerous projects and TV series shown on the BBC and PBS.