5 Minutes With
Bryan Smith

A quick chat with the award-winning
National Geographic Channel filmmaker
and father of one.

words viona wang photos reel water productions
captions bryan at work; bryan's wife and son, lise-anne and nelson
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Hi Bryan!
Trained first as an adventurer before becoming a filmmaker,
what made you take the unconventional route?

I think to be an adventure filmmaker, the most essential skills are to be able to operate
in these environment—there is no real school for that. You have to get out and learn how to explore first.
I’m sure my learning curve would have been accelerated by film school, but I’m a very kinaesthetic learner.
I need to get my hands on things and try stuff to learn.

Was it your plan all along? Why?

It started with the idea of trying to share stories from places that people just typically never see or explore.
Deep river canyons were the early motivation. I never really thought I would be working for
National Geographic in the early days, but as I got better at filmmaking, I eventually set my goals pretty high.
Looking back though it was all about the baby steps along the way. One project leads to
the next and you keep setting your goals higher.

Tell us about your first break into the industry.

My first big break was a show called Nat Geo Amazing for National Geographic.
I had been very persistent with wanting to shoot for them and they finally gave me a chance.
The first shoot was a four-minute piece on kayaking. We hit it out of the park and got four more
additional adventure sport shoots for the series. It was a huge break and just keep leading to more
amazing stuff at National Geographic.

That’s great! What is most challenging about becoming
an accomplished filmmaker?

Being patient with success—this is not something you get good at overnight.
It has taken me a solid decade to get where I’m at right now. The first several years I had to
rely on passion and hope that it would all work out. So many people want instant success and this
is certainly not a career choice where it’s possible. You have to put in your time and develop skills
behind the camera and as a storyteller.

Tell us about your most memorable adventure and the highlight
of your career as a filmmaker.

One of the big ones was completing The Man Who Can Fly documentary for Nat Geo.
It was a six-month project with massive risks. When I got to the end and we filmed the final jump
scene with Dean it felt amazing. Then the project rated off the charts. If there was a single project
that propelled my career that was the one.

How often do you travel in a year and how much time
do you get to spend with your family?

It is a tricky balance. I’m on the road a lot for at least 150 days a year.
The only way it works is to try and carve out the time with my family and really be
focused on that when I can. Sometimes it means saying no to a project.

Was there a time when you had to decide between your work and family?

It is a constant thing. Projects come up and often times last minute and
I feel like that struggle is always there. Moving forward for me, I’m trying to step into
a producing and directing role in many projects so I can spend more time at home and
still create amazing films.

How important is it for parents to expose kids to
outdoor adventure at a young age?

It’s vital I think. We started my son, Nelson skiing at three (he’s now five) and
he was on a run bike before that. Kids are curious, and adventure and the outdoors are
a great place for them to explore their curiosity.

What is the first outdoor activity you like to do
with your son when he grows up?

We are already doing lots of skiing with him, but we’re looking forward to
introducing him to the river. He already spent a lot of time in the canoe,
but the kayak is next.

How challenging is being a Dad compared to
all your outdoor adventures?

I’m just glad I’m not a Mom. That is where the real work is!

What is your favourite family activity? Why?

Skiing for sure. It is a great sport for the family.
The terrain exists for one of the parents to bug off and have some fun for a couple runs and
then plug back in. For our family, it is an outing
that works and everyone has a great time.

What is one parenting advice you like to share with us?

Don’t be afraid to let your kids explore!

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Catch the award-winning filmmaker at
the first National Geographic Live series in Singapore!

National Geographic Live
Extreme Adventure on the Edge:
Vertical Feats and the Man Who Can Fly with Bryan Smith
9 October 2014, 7:30pm
Esplanade Concert

Purchase your tickets here