Monday, 29 October 2012

An interview with Richard Terry from Man v Monster (NatGeoWild)

So who is Richard Terry ?

Richard Terry has been passionate about making film and television ever since, as a little boy, he glimpsed a movie being made near his home. From that point the die was cast and at the first opportunity he began an apprenticeship as a lighting cameraman, gaining union status after a stint in a 35mm camera facilities house. At that point the BBC film unit was in its heyday and it became a burning ambition of Richards to make it in that institution. And so began a fruitful relationship which took Richard around the world and into many unique situations, from the middle of the Race Riots with Reverend Al Sharpton to the heart of a jazz festival in Havana, Cuba.

Upon leaving the BBC Richard embarked on a stint as a freelance cameraman working on a number of high profile British television drama series’ and independent films all of which pushed his skills as a lighting cameraman to new heights. This track seemed to lead to a pivotal moment in his career, shooting a behind-the-scenes documentary about a man who had been a personal inspiration, the film director Bernardo Bertolucci, on the set of his Paris movie, the Dreamers.
More recently Richard’s career has been focused on documentaries, enjoying the camaraderie of small crews and exotic locale’s. The size of the crew was to shrink unimaginably for Richard’s next project as he answered the call to shoot a documentary series about a man who lived with Black & Grizzly Bears. He had no idea that it would throw him into such extreme and dangerous situations. And in front of the camera.

The latest chapter in Richard’s career has seen him film, produce and host a couple of series gifting viewer’s privileged access into the lives of wild bears and the people who study them. In making these films Richard has had to endure living in harsh terrains and amongst dangerous animals, all invaluable experience as he embarks on his latest adventure, searching for the real creatures behind terrifying accounts from across the globe.

When he’s not battling monsters Richard lives in a remote house and beautiful woodland on Dartmoor National Park in the south west of England with his wife, 2 young sons, dogs, cat, swans and African guinea fowl. 
You have travelled a lot over the past 12 months - what has been your favourite adventure?

In order to film the latest 6 episodes of an adventure wildlife series for Nat Geo Wild called Man v Monster, as presenter, I and the team have travelled to India, Tanzania, Bali, Ceram Indonesia, North Eastern Thailand, Brazil twice and a month in Saudi Arabia thrown in to the mix as cameraman on a completely different project - all between February and August 2012. I have calculated that with the international, connecting and internal flights, I sat on over 36 flights - quite a few trees to plant this year.  

It's extremely hard to choose a favourite as they all have a unique charm, making them memorable and enjoyable for very different reasons. Brazil aside, as it makes me hunger for a Caipirinha and good music just at the thought of that wonderful country, I'd say that without a doubt, the NE coast of the spice Island of Ceram in Indonesia is one of the most remote places I have visited - the Arctic & deserts aside. To reach my platform in the rainforest canopy from the Island of Bali we had to take flights, cars, a ferry, another car, open longboats to 1st base camp on the coast, followed by longboats up the Salawai River with chainsaws to clear our path from fallen trees, a hike to forest base camp, a simple wooden ground platform and finally another uphill hike to a tall tree with a basic platform nestled 125 foot up in the canopy. It was built by poachers to catch rare & exotic birds for the pet trade - these were our guides, having previously been persuaded that eco-tourism is more sustainable than poaching. I then climbed during a lightning storm to spend the night up there looking for a creature locally know as the Orang Bati (Flying Man) - I didn't find it in the tree.

How do you prepare for these trips?

So much of the travelling is between different countries from one episode to the next. As the crews are rotated and the only person doing all of them is me, then much of my travelling is done alone. For this reason I try to pack as lightly as possible. I prefer to use smaller duffle style bags and split the loads rather than all in a giant 'Bag of Doom' so that I don't break my back and if one goes missing I still have something to wear by spreading out the clothes.

I need 4 of each shirts & trousers for filming each episode as I get covered in mud, blood, sweat and salt water. I usually do my washing myself the moment I finish filming. I use very lightweight breathable clothes made by a professional US fishing supplies company that dry really quickly including boxers & socks. These are impregnated with permethrin to help avoid getting bitten - however, I still end up getting massacred.TIP: I take digital pictures of each bag before flying to help identify them if lost. 

In order to leapfrog so many countries, I use 2 British passports to allow time for visas to be applied for by the production company whilst overseas.

How much luggage do you and your crew take with you ?

The crew have heaps of equipment with cameras, sound and provisions - far too much to list. Thankfully, as presenter rather than cameraman on these trips,  I only need to think of my clothes and protective clothing & boots and not have to deal with international customs forms. I still carry 3 bags and 2 items of hand luggage, made up of 2 x duffles, 1 x waterproof backpack, a haversack and a laptop bag. Apart from the 1st outbound trip, I try to send 1 duffle & the waterproof backpack with the American crew to lighten my load home alone to Dartmoor in between episodes. This also means I don't have to pick up a bill for excess luggage.

You use a lot of different bags from The Luggage and BagShop. Which is your favourite bag and which has seen the most action?

The Batian backpack / haversack containing after-bite, repellent, sun cream, travel towel, compass, camera and 1st aid stuff never left my side and in one case horse's side, both on & off camera.

As my bags are all made by the same fantastic manufacturer from Kenya, the entire pile of bags is 'my luggage' and I love each and every item equally as a part of the whole. They are so well made, tough with heavy duty stitching, in a very cool desert tan coloured canvas with complementary leather trim and heavy brass zips. They really do look the business both on the roof of a rugged Landrover or Landcruiser as they do in the lobby of a smart hotel - in my opinion they improve with use. I am not exaggerating when I say that almost everyone I encounter whilst travelling comments on what great luggage I have. This may just be coincidence, but I've been upgraded to business class more often since arriving at the check-in desk with stylish baggage that looks like it belongs to an experienced and seasoned traveller.

To discover my bags, I actively searched on-line to find out if something like these existed after my old diving bags were finally beyond repair. I had decided that I wanted something really tough and tan coloured after filming in Tanzania and falling in love with an old beaten up desert coloured Landcruiser I used to travel across the Serengeti. It didn't take long to stumble upon yourselves and discovered exactly what I was looking for was being made in all shapes & sizes a company in Kenya who used to make tents for safari use - perfect!!!!! The next problem was that I needed my bags immediately as I was off again to Indonesia within days.

When the bags arrived literally the following day, my 1st impression was that I'd made a mistake and they were too small. I was stunned to see how much and how easily I could pack out my new duffles and in a really logical and methodical fashion. My greatest joy was to see how well the flat toiletries bag fitted into an already rammed case. I always used to hate trying to fit in the last minute black leather block which was an inevitable struggle. This Safari wash-bag opens up to make a small call it a 'portable bathroom cabinet' with mirror which I used everywhere including 125ft up in the canopy. 

TIP: I recommend covering the back of the mirror with heavy duty tape as they are vulnerable to cracking with the bags being tossed in the backs of vans, boats, canoes and planes - I've broken two already.

Luggage names are -  Duffles: Pioneer & International Ranger,  Tracker laptop soft case, Batian haversack & Safari washbag. My on-screen waterproof backpack is made for fishing guides by a fishing company from Montana USA.

I also loved using the most recent addition to my collection, a canvas messenger bag during the 2012 Wildscreen Film Festival for carrying around all the paperwork, business cards and dvd's one acquires at such events. Most delegates used the festival's own brightly coloured bags. Wanting to stand out as a 'hardened adventurer', I felt I needed my own understated version which was infinitely tougher and more in keeping .

You are on the Alan Titchmarsh show over the next few weeks with your camera. What is the secret to taking good photographs of animals?

One could write a book about this subject. I'd say having a good understanding and RESPECT for your subject and always being a step ahead in order to photograph them with a great background, good light and displaying interesting behaviour. Try not to get bitten - easier said than done!

Man v Monsters, your latest National Geographic documentary series is going to be aired from the 28th October 2012. Which was the Monster that really opened your eyes?

I had to be on my guard coming close to a young agile King Cobra. I needed to have 10 vials of anti-venom and a paramedic standing by in case I or anyone else were bitten. There's quite a good photo of a pack of Cobra anti-venom in my haversack on location. I did get a little too close to the gaping jaws of a gigantic Black caiman in the Brazilian Amazon at night and a few days later, bitten on the hand by a Green Anaconda.

You are a very brave man, do you have any phobias ?

No phobias apart from always being nervous before a new job or trying something different such as live t.v.  I couldn't sleep for the sound of my beating heart reverberating in my pillow the day before my 1st Alan Titchmarsh show a few weeks ago - far more scary to me than being surrounded by wild bears.

What is the next stamp on your passport? 

I just missed a job in Oman as I was busy co-hosting hosting the 2012 Wildscreen Panda Awards with Liz Bonnin.

Apart from potential press trips for my new Nat Geo Wild series, as far as I can forecast, my next trip would be to Cape Town for the biannual Wild Talk Africa Film festival - I co-hosted the awards ceremony there in 2011. The event is held in a winery in Stellenbosch, so you can imagine, the evenings are always great fun. 

Apart from this, I can find out about an overseas job with as little as a week's notice. In one case in 2008 I applied for a job to make a film about a recluse who lived with wild bears in Alaska. I won the commission and within a week I was on a plane with a return ticket for 6 months later. 

Wherever I go next, I know one thing for sure - that I don't need to worry about my luggage.

We have alot of great photos of Richard on our Facebook page:

You can follow Richard on Facebook: 

And you can follow Richard on Twitter: @RichardITerry


  1. Update: The series starts in the UK on Friday 7th December at 8pm Nat Geo Wild.

    And we are very much looking forward to watching!!

  2. And here is the trailer for the new series which starts this Friday.

    You can also check out @RichardITerry, talking about #ManvsMonster on Australian breakfast TV!


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