Conservation

Filming sharks

Cinematographer and Emmy Award winner Andy Brandy Casagrande has had a love for sharks from a young age. As a conservationist and great white shark specialist, Andy has helped produce, shoot and host numerous shows on Discovery’s Shark Week. He has contributed to countless research expeditions and continues to collaborate closely with the world’s top shark scientists and technologies. In this quick-fire Behind the Lens interview, we chat to him about the future of shark documentaries and more.

An interview with and photographs by Andy Brandy Casagrande
Additional photographs by Emma Casagrande

Oceanographic Magazine (OM): Why did you fall in love with the ocean? Was there a certain moment or event that springs to mind?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “My fascination with the ocean began in my early childhood when I stumbled upon the astonishing realisation that sharks were real creatures and not just a figment of imagination. This pivotal moment ignited a deep-seated love for the vast, mysterious waters that cover our planet. As I delved further into the thrilling world of marine life, each new discovery fuelled my passion for the ocean.” 

OM: How did you become a wildlife filmmaker? How did you end up in that profession?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “Becoming a wildlife filmmaker happened completely by accident. I was living in South Africa working for the White Shark Trust as a research cameraman when National Geographic came to make a documentary about our work. They offered me a staff job and the rest is history.”

OM: How did your passion for sharks develop? Did you always know that you wanted to work with sharks?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “My passion for sharks started when I was a child. I would watch documentaries, read books and learn everything I could about them. As I grew older, I knew that working with sharks was 100% what I was born to do.” 

OM: What do you try to achieve with your films? What’s the main aim behind them?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “With my films, I aim to inspire awe and respect for sharks and the ocean. My goal is to educate and raise awareness about these magnificent creatures and the need for their conservation.”

OM: How can formats like Shark Week promote shark conservation?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “Formats like Shark Week can play a crucial role inspiring empathy and promoting shark conservation by showcasing their incredible behaviours and the importance of their roles in the ecosystem. Shark Week can sometimes overdo the hype, but I strongly believe that it creates more fascination than fear and does way more good than bad.”

OM: How have shark documentaries changed in the past 10 years? Have topics and conservation angles changed?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “Shark documentaries have evolved in the past decade, with a stronger focus on conservation and the importance of preserving shark populations. There’s greater awareness of their ecological role and the threats they face.”

OM: Recently, Isla Guadalupe closed shark diving to tourism. What’s your stance on this? Can this news be viewed as positive? How can tourism advance shark conservation?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “Closing shark diving to tourism in Isla Guadalupe can be seen as a positive step to reduce human impact on the sharks’ habitat. However, responsible tourism can advance conservation efforts when done thoughtfully and also provide much needed protection and watchdogs for targeted species.”

OM: What would you say is the most important story you’ve ever told through your work?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “The most important story I’ve told is any story that reveals the true nature of sharks and their vulnerability, highlighting the urgent need to protect them from finning, overfishing and habitat destruction.”

OM: Tell us a bit more about your most memorable wildlife encounter to date?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “One of my most memorable wildlife encounters was diving uncaged with the Great White Shark Brothers in Western Australia.” 

OM: You’ve got two children; what do you try to teach them in regards to dealing with wildlife?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “With my children, I emphasise respect and understanding when dealing with wildlife. Teaching them hands on about wildlife conservation and our responsibility to protect the planet and our fragile natural world.” 

OM: On social media, you can see the best and the worst sides of promoting interactions with wildlife. How do you view this omnipresent topic?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “Social media can be a double-edged sword for promoting wildlife interactions. It’s essential to use these platforms responsibly, highlighting conservation and ethical practices.”

OM: With negative ocean news flooding our inboxes on a daily basis, how do you stay positive working in conservation?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “Despite the negative ocean news, I stay positive by focusing on the progress we’re making in conservation efforts. Small victories can have a significant impact when multiplied.”

OM: You’ve had a lifelong mission to inspire people to care about our planet. How do you go about doing that?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “I strive to inspire people to care about our planet by creating powerful and emotionally impactful films that foster a connection between the audience and the natural world.”

OM: What challenges do you face in the modern era of filmography?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “In the modern era of filmography, one challenge is capturing unique and never-before-seen footage to keep the audience engaged and invested in the story.”

OM: Why do you think community is important in terms of ocean conservation?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “Community plays a vital role in ocean conservation. By bringing people together with shared goals, we can amplify our efforts and drive positive change for the ocean and its inhabitants.”

OM: Have you had any close calls when filming sharks?

Andy Brandy Casagrande: “Yes, I’ve had a few close calls while filming sharks, but those experiences remind me of the respect we must always have for these apex predators. After 20 years in the water with sharks, I have never been bitten.”

OM: What’s your stance on shark fishing tournaments? How can this culture be changed?

Andy B. Casagrande: “Shark fishing tournaments can perpetuate extremely harmful attitudes and outcomes towards sharks. Changing this culture involves promoting catch-and-release practices and focusing on conservation instead of trophy hunting.”

OM: How do you continue to think outside the box?

Andy B. Casagrande: “Thinking outside the box is essential to keep pushing the boundaries of wildlife filmmaking and telling impactful stories that resonate with audiences.”

OM: You recently teamed up with PADI to design a sustainable, limited-edition collection of products, featuring a recycled plastic towel and a t-shirt amongst other products that showcase your iconic images. What do you hope to achieve with this collaboration? 

Andy Casagrande: “15% of the net proceeds of this collaboration will go towards funding shark conservation efforts around the world. This special collection with PADI has allowed me to fund their protection and change people’s perspectives about their role in the health of our shared blue planet.”

OM: What’s next for you? Anything exciting planned for 2023?

Andy B. Casagrande: “For 2024, I have exciting projects lined up, including multiple documentaries that aim to shed light on lesser-known shark species and their critical role in marine ecosystems. Stay tuned for more!” 

Meet Andy in this short film: 

 

Additional photographs by Emma Casagrande

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