Melis Birder graduated from St. Michel French High School and from Istanbul University with a BA degree. She worked as a junior copywriter in Istanbul for a while and then left Turkey for New York. From limousine dispatcher to waitress, from bike messenger to part-time teacher she worked in many different jobs while studying at the New School where she became interested in documentary filmmaking. Together with Berke Bas they founded inHouse projects at their Brooklyn kitchen table and directed and produced documentaries for NGO’s and libraries in NY.
She shot her first independent documentary TENTH PLANET: A Single Life in Baghdad in 2004 in Iraq. Among other festivals, the film was screened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and received the Jury Special Award at Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival in 2005. Her Sundance Documentary Film Program Fund supported and award winning film THE VISITORS was screened in many festivals but most importantly in various prisons in NY. She co-directed BAGLAR (again funded by Sundance Documentary Film Program) with her partner Berke Bas and received the Jury Special Awards at !F Istanbul Independent and Sarajevo Film Festivals as well as the Best Documentary of the Year Award by the Association of Turkish Film Critics SIYAD in 2016.
She lives with her daughter, cats and dog in the coastal town of Bodrum, Turkey.