Bertie Gregory is a wildlife filmmaker and photographer who splits his time producing/hosting for National Geographic and shooting behind the camera as a cinematographer for BBC. As the face of a new generation of aspiring adventurers and nature filmmakers, he is an inspiration to all, especially with his style of storytelling which takes viewers on a journey that follows real animal stories.
When describing his family, Bertie notes his parents and three brothers share a love of the ocean and water sports. A family trait that translated well for him as his filmmaking and photography experiences would often take him into the water for underwater shoots.
“I’ve been really lucky to be thrown in the ocean from a very young age,” Bertie says in an interview with Dorkaholics. “From when I was really, really small, I’ve always been surfing and sailing on the sea.”
The comfortability he has in the water has allowed him to scuba dive with the utmost ease, so that he can focus more on what he sees in the wildlife.
“The most important thing, with learning anything in filming is making it second nature and being comfortable so you can not focus on what your camera settings are or what you’re doing,” he explains. “You need to get so good at scuba diving that it’s like walking. You know you can’t be thinking about your breathing or your buoyancy.”
Having begun as a photographer, Bertie really mastered a key skill that would be undeniably important for when he transitioned to working with film and video: being able to get close to an animal without disturbing it.
“To get a good still of an animal, you need to get close to it without spooking it. And that’s exactly what you do for video. In terms of making the transition technically, your composition, your use of focus is similar. But with video there’s just a bigger range of things to think about, as well as needing your peak of the action, your amazing moment like you would with stills when [for example] a lion jumps on a buffalo,” Bertie explains.
However, with the video format, there are additional considerations such as getting viewers invested in characters before they are even introduced.
One of the things Bertie admires about filmmaking is that it is a much more collaborative experience compared to the more solitary process of taking photo stills.
“It’s so cool when you’re surrounded by loads of talented, excited people. It just makes the wildlife encounters that much sweeter,” he adds.
With quite a number of experiences traveling the world documenting animals in nature, Bertie notes that wildlife filmmaking requires both planning as well as flexibility.
“You got to do your homework. And that’s generally how you win, but you need to always be flexible because Mother Nature has a great way of playing her cards really close to her chest and then giving you things that you never expected, and they’re always the best.”
Putting oneself out in nature the way Bertie has proves to be a demanding and challenging experience. It’s just as much if not more mental as it is physical.
“Physical stamina is important, but more important is your mental stamina. You’ve just gotta keep going because the days are long and it’s hard and you’ve just got to stay in the game and stay concentrated because wildlife has this great way of just not cooperating,” he says. “And just when you’re about to give up that is when it gives you gold and so it’s just about staying in the game long enough.”
And while others may say patience is key, Bertie has something else in mind.
“Everyone says you need to be patient to be a wildlife filmmaker. I disagree. I’m not a patient person. You need to be persistent,” he says. “That’s what it’s about. It’s just about keeping your head in the game long enough for the action to come good.”
Bertie recalls a saying he learned from Scottish photographer Lorne Gill.
“The more you practice, the luckier you get. And when you’re out with wildlife, it’s just so true. The more time you spend out there, the more chance you have of being lucky when you know that split second bit of animal behavior that you were never expecting happens.”
With the topic of patience versus persistence brought up, it seemed only natural to ask if he has ever felt like he was racing against time.
“We’ve always got a limited amount of time to film stuff in the short term on a shoot. The bigger race against time with many of the animals we tried to film, is that the natural world is in big trouble and a lot of the species we’re filming are literally getting hunted to extinction.”
On Cocos Island off the coast of Costa Rica, Bertie worked with guides to look for hammerhead sharks.
“While what we saw was amazing, we were working with these guides that said, well, what you’ve seen is incredible, but you should have seen what it was like 20 years ago. There were way more sharks,” Bertie recalls. “We’re at a turning point. Like, what are we gonna do about it now? Are there gonna be no sharks left? Or can we turn this around and there’s more sharks?”
Bertie was incredibly humble in noting the importance and inspiration of wildlife conservationists he has been fortunate enough to meet and feature in his work, a sign that things may get better for Mother Nature.
“And I guess what’s been really inspiring is that we’ve shown the bad news, but we’ve also met loads of amazing heroes that are saving these species and there’s a lot of reasons to be hopeful because a lot of these animals have these amazing people working on conserving them,” he mentions. “In certain cases they’re on the comeback [which has] been really, really special to witness.”
Catch Bertie in his new series airing on Disney+ later this year, The Epic Adventures With Bertie Gregory, which has already been renewed for a second season. Stay tuned for more details.
About The Epic Adventures of Bertie Gregory: The face of a new generation of aspirational adventurers and natural history filmmakers, 27-year-old Bertie Gregory takes viewers on an epic and nail-biting journey that pushes into the most spectacular and secretive corners of our wild world. Armed with leading-edge film technology, Bertie breaks the mold of the traditional natural history program by telling extraordinary, real-life animal stories and taking viewers with him for every beat of the action. For weeks at a time, the charismatic BAFTA Award-winning cinematographer immerses himself into the animals’ lives to capture the untold stories of iconic creatures living in some of the harshest environments on our planet. This season will see Bertie braving the icy worlds of Antarctica in search of the biggest gathering of whales ever filmed and coming face-to-face with specialist buffalo-hunting lions in Zambia. In this multipart adventure series, he will take audiences on an ambitious odyssey across the globe, showcasing the natural world at a time when it faces its greatest challenges. Set to premiere later this year, the series has also been picked up for a second season, which is filming now. Executive producers for Wildstar Films are BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning Vanessa Berlowitz (“Planet Earth,” “Frozen Planet”), and Anwar Mamon (“Life at the Waterhole,” “Day on Earth”). The showrunner is James Brickell (“Planet Earth II,” “Welcome to Earth”).
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