The Backstage of John Bredar

John Bredar, Executive Producer and co-writer of the National Geographic Channels, sits on a black office chair surrounded by stacks of papers, a sofa, a brown wooden rocking chair, and two red small cushions. It’s eight in the morning and he turns on his computer while he starts taking off his sneakers, to put on his leather work shoes of his office and start working. Bredar wears a multicolor striped shirt, blue jeans and black sneakers, and a gold wedding band. On his left wrist he wears a watch with a worn out black leather band. Pictures of all his trips, press badges, a press vest, books, videos, and a flag from the Vatican convert his office in a complete own history museum.

“There have been countless phenomenal moments,” says Bredar, 50, who has produced more than 20 films in his 25 years at National Geographic, “I would use the American term, the juice, is the essence of the thing, so my measure of satisfaction is how often you feel that, when you are creating something, when you are doing your job.”

With a continuous smile, Bredar, six-feet one, blue eyes and blonde short hair, describes the path for his success through the years. He says it’s a combination of taking advantage of every single moment while receiving satisfaction with each one of them. Born in Colorado, the youngest of four siblings, he has always been involved in story telling from different evolving environments, from the dinner table of his house to “The President’s Photographer. Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office”, his latest book.

Nowadays Bredar, have to deal with administrative issues, such as budget, rise funding and people management, while he has to look for interesting stories and put them together so the ball can roll easily. “You have to be able to recognize what story is going to be able to be interesting to a broader audience. Even if they might not be interested initially, you have to show them that they need to be interested.”

Bredar lives in Washington D.C. His typical day consists on some days riding his bike from home to work, some days driving and dropping his two children’s at school and some days riding the metro, even though, 8 a.m. is his usual starting time at National Geographic head quarters.

“I usually have like 150-200 emails that I have to deal with, which demands a lot of time, mostly what I’m doing is pushing different projects along,” says Bredar. “Other times I’m putting the ball together so that it can roll, developing projects and coming up with ideas.” In terms of the projects he is working right now, Bredar says, while moving his short hair with his right hand, that he is in a position that let him check some different projects and be in charge of more than two or three at the time.

“John Bredar is hip, funny and brilliant, one of my personal favorites in my large speaker roster,” says Professor Iris Krasnow, who has been bringing students to National Geographic to meet this renowned documentary film producer for the past 12 years. “John is a true journalist; he does impeccable research, he has great story ideas and he is an excellent writer. My students, and their professor, have much to learn from this master.”

For Bredar, dealing with people is a very difficult concern. He believes respect should be the base of any relationship and letting people develop their own projects is sometimes better than been pushing all the way through them. Through his yeas of experience he has learned that sometimes is better to be from the outside and just supervise the tasks given to the crew, in terms of production. Sometimes people work better without pressure and the result is the best, try to explain Bredar while moving in his executive chair and fixing the black watch he wears in his left wrist.

“It’s really critical, you want to work with people you respect, that is the first step. Then out of that respect comes the ability to listen to them carefully if they have their perspectives. Part of that respect knows when to back off,” says Bredar, while he explains a moment in which he was pushing so hard into his cameraman and telling him everything he had to do, until his cameraman told him to let him do his own job, in that moment Bredar’s green eyes open as much as it was possible and his surprise face demonstrates that it was a learned lesson for the rest of his life.

He is actually not working on any specific project, but he knows everything regarding on the development of future films. During his professional lifetime Bredar has developed many characteristics of a great journalist. “I think there are lot’s of different ways to get where you want to get. I think you have to be able to do it in a way that allows you to have your integrity and dignity as a professional.”

The storytelling has always been present on Bredar’s life; he was born into a competitive family consisting of him and his four siblings.

“That was a competitive environment,” says Bredar, describing how he had to deal with his “kind of accomplished bright siblings same as my parents”. His story telling career begun “In 1963 when I was like two and a half, and President Kennedy was assassinated, my sibling were sent home from school early and I met them and told them, the President has been killed, I have no idea of what I was saying, but I loved the idea of being the one who told them; so I think that my inspiration was to be a storyteller.”

Bredar attended undergraduate school at Northwestern University were he studied radio, TV, film and U.S. history, which at a first glance were his initial steps into the journalistic world. Radio was the opening door for his extraordinary career, at the college radio, Bredar, had to handle the daily news and contributed to some stories.

John Hopkins University was his graduate school, where he got a degree on United States Diplomatic History, “I wanted to be a foreign correspondent, and then, I realized that I didn’t like daily journalism and foreign news either,” says Bredar, while he moved back and forward on his office chair to type on his computer. “I like foreign feature stories, cultural stories, and things like that, so I moved in that direction.”

That is the reason why he was looking for a place like National Geographic, where he can develop his cultural knowledge and his passion for filmmaking. Finally, at 1986 he arrived to National Geographic were he “did a three year internship, learning how, by working with other filmmakers,” says Bredar, while the coffee machine was brewing. “Then it wasn’t like I was done learning, one cool thing about making movies is that it is a very complicated process, and it requires that you continue learning.”

Kenneth Broad, Director of University of Miami’s Leonard and Jane Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy and an Associate Professor in the division of Marine Affairs and Policy, had worked with Bredar years ago on the documentary “Nova: Extreme Cave Diving” and is a long time friend with Bredar.

“I have worked with many producers in the past and John certainly is at the top of the list in terms of integrity.  He was straightforward, understanding in terms of dealing with the unforeseen issues that arise in field based exploration projects. He has a good aesthetic sense and was very responsive to requests for use of footage after the show had aired.”

His family, wife and two children’s are the reason why he moved to his actual administrative position based on the headquarters of National Geographic, in which he is able to spend more time as a father and a husband, after and event that he will never forget. “There was one time when I was out in the west for five weeks making a movie about air tankers,” says Bredar, while his facial expression changes from happiness to sadness and his eyes denote an uncomfortable situation. “I was coming down from the airplane and there was a long line of people in front of me and my wife was holding our daughter who was maybe three or four and she was looking for every face looking for me, and then she went to the next guy, and I went like, oh no,” Bredar throws his hands on the top of his head and had a complete shocked face, again his eyes show the excitement of the moment and his hair was completely out of order.

Bredar leans back into his chair while he talks about his passion for story telling and narrating from different points of a story. During his life he has had a lot of scaring moments but the one he remembers the most was when they were on the field filming the “shark movie when we were in a way too small ship and the weather came up and we have been working with sharks, and we had to get back to shore and the seas were very high and our boat was in danger of being swamped,” says Bredar, while pointing to the artifact he used to film the sharks. “I was scared, absolutely, it was too close.”

He regrets of a lot of things, even though, are just small ones, any of them not a matter of life or death, like small decisions in terms of a shooting or a question that was not asked in an interview. For the future he hopes to continue working at National Geographic, an organization that he believes has a mission and continues on his path of success, in which he has won prices like the Emmy Award for Combat Cameramen of World War I and most recently and most recently in 2006, the New York Film Festival’s Gold Medal for the National Geographic Channel production, Inside the Secret Service, which he executive produced and co-wrote Even though, that I not a measure of his success. “I think you have to measure the success by how you’re satisfied. When you get a feeling of satisfaction after when you have created something”

Mauro Mora

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