Famous Divers: Andy Brandy Casagrande

 

When you’re born with a name like Andy Brandy Casagrande IV, it could be argued that the extraordinary is expected of you. As one of the world’s most influential wildlife cinematographers, 37-year-old Andy has managed to fulfill these expectations — and then some. He lives a life that most people only ever dream of, one that involves traveling around the world to shoot footage for some of the world’s top television networks. With his wife Emma, Andy owns ABC4Films, a production company that specializes in award-winning wildlife documentaries, TV commercials and feature films. The two focus on filming predators in their natural environment, and are especially known for their work with great white sharks.

According to Andy, it is the white sharks to which he owes his incredible lifestyle. Born in New York City, his fascination with the ocean was sparked when he first saw sharks on television as a young boy. From there, he developed an obsession with all sharks, and spent his time finding out about them wherever he could. When he got older, a career in shark science seemed like an obvious choice, and so Andy enrolled in a marine biology course at the Florida Institute of Technology in 1996. A year into the degree, after seeing graduate students working on tiny fish species, he realized that becoming a marine biologist didn’t necessarily guarantee that he would be able to spend his life working with sharks. “I didn’t want to do research on tiny fish, I wanted to work with sharks,” he says.

After that, Andy decided it was time to change paths. He left FIT, and enrolled in a biology degree at the University of Pittsburgh. A degree in psychology from California State University–Long Beach followed, and in 2000 Andy graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biopsychology. He got a job in a software company straight out of college, but still his dream of working with sharks persisted. In his spare time, he penned a song about great whites that featured footage of him swimming outside a shark cage in the clear waters of Mexico’s Guadalupe Island, strumming a guitar while great whites swam peacefully by in the background. He decided to take a chance, and sent his video to three great-white research teams, one in California, one in Australia, and one in South Africa, asking for a job.

Amazingly, the South African research team replied, offering Andy a 3-month stint as an underwater still photographer for their project. He moved to Cape Town in 2003, and a job that was supposed to last three months instead lasted two years, during which time Andy swapped his still camera for a video camera and began filming the shark behavior that he witnessed on a daily basis. He soon realized that to get the best footage he would need to dive safely outside the cage, a skill he had perfected by the time a team from National Geographic came to visit two years later. The team recognized Andy’s talent for capturing extraordinary footage and offered him a staff position based in Washington, D.C.

Since then, he has traveled the world, filming in some of the planet’s most awe-inspiring locations.  He has filmed alligators in the Everglades, polar bears in the Canadian Arctic and penguins in the Falklands. He has more than 100 wildlife film credits under his belt, and has worked with some of the industry’s top names, including National Geographic, Discovery Channel, the BBC and Animal Planet. He has won several awards for his work, including two Emmy Awards for outstanding cinematography in 2011 and 2013.

Although Andy’s career often sees him filming inland, he still feels most at home in the ocean, preferably surrounded by sharks. A qualified rebreather diver, Andy has said that “diving has created who I am today…the reality is that there are a lot of people on this planet that will never experience the ocean from their own perspective. To be able to bring that experience to others is a huge honor, and it has also jettisoned my career beyond what I could ever imagine.” He goes on to say that “we owe a lot to the oceans, and capturing its amazing wildlife is how we give back.” Andy and Emma are both ambassadors for shark conservation organization Shark Angels, and spend much of their time promoting the sharks’ cause. It is Andy’s hope that his footage will inspire those who see it to care about the ocean and to work for its protection, in much the same way that he was inspired by that television documentary on sharks so many years ago.

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