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Going to great depths to win an Emmy
Not many people know what they’re going to do for a profession when they’re in preschool.
Though he hadn’t yet enrolled at James Whiteside Elementary School, Patrick Greene somehow had it all figured out.
The four-year-old was in love with sharks and drew pictures of them whenever he could, a frenzied passion nurtured by the wonderous exploits of legendary oceanographer and explorer Jacques Cousteau and National Geographic.
“I just knew I wanted to do something with animals,” Greene told The Richmond Review.
Today, at the age of 41, he’s doing more than just living his childhood dream; he’s excelling in it.
The former Richmond Review carrier has reached the pinnacle of his profession as the director for the acclaimed ABC TV series Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin.
The show explores life in the world’s oceans and airs Saturday mornings on the regional ABC affiliate KOMO.
As the director of the show, he sets up scenes, figures out what they’ll be shooting, and directs the talent on the show, including host Jeff Corwin.
But Greene is also the director of photography, working the primary camera, which is responsible for about 80 per cent of the show’s televised footage.
“I can’t see myself doing anything different,” Greene said.
Greene joined Ocean Mysteries in its first season, and the show is now in the midst of shooting its fourth and fifth seasons.
Greene speaks fondly of his time growing up in Richmond.
“It’s certainly home,” he said Tuesday, just a few days after returning from a week-long visit to B.C. that included a gathering with family and friends, a trip to Sechelt, and a visit to his former elementary school’s playground with his children.
His love for nature and the sciences likely came from his parents, who are both now retired. His father, Wayne, was a nuclear physicist at the University of B.C. while his mother, Merrely, was a school teacher at Robert J. Tait Elementary.
After taking the French Immersion program at Whiteside, he graduated from Matthew McNair Secondary and then obtained a degree in sciences with a focus on marine biology from Simon Fraser University (The way he looked at it, he knew he’d be working with aquatic life, so he’d better know quite a lot about them.)
He then packed his bags and moved to Australia, where he worked as a biologist on the country’s west coast in Shark Bay, known for its tiger sharks.
He was also hired as a scuba diving instructor on the country’s east coast, near the Great Barrier Reef.
That’s where he got his first experience working with underwater cameras, taking video of guests.
Life then took him to Alaska, where he worked as a fisheries observer for the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Armed with a camera, Greene shot footage of big storms as well as a memorable clip of sea lions jumping on fishing boats and eating their catch.
Hoping to land a gig at National Geographic, he put together a reel of his best footage and sent it to a connection he had there.
He got the job in 2001, which was the beginning of his film career.
Today, he hauls top-of-the-line documentary camera gear worth about $50,000 to $60,000 to the corners of the globe, including Botswana and New Zealand.
He’s shot footage of Nile crocodiles, African painted dogs, hippos, elephants and lots of sea snakes.
While he’s often around dangerous and unpredictable creatures, the biggest challenges often come from the weather.
Keeping lenses clean and dry, and free of drops is imperative, while shooting on the open ocean is impossible during high winds.
“We need to ensure everyone’s protected,” he said.
Asked if the insects in these exotic places are a nuisance, Greene said he wears bug suits when necessary, and though it can be hot and uncomfortable, it’s “better than being eaten alive.”
Ironically, it’s not the threat of getting malaria from mosquitoes in Botswana that is his biggest concern. It’s bites from deer ticks in North America.
Greene learned in May he was nominated for an Emmy by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and was joined by his wife Sara in Los Angeles on June 20 for the red carpet reception and awards night where the winners were announced.
The father of two, who is raising his daughters in Washington, D.C., beat out four others for outstanding directing in a lifestyle/culinary/travel program.
“I was completely in shock,” said Greene, who recalled turning to hug his wife and Jeff Corwin and the show’s executive producer. “Everything was in slow motion.”
Luckily, he’d prepared a speech, in which he thanked a long list of people, including Litton Entertainment which produces a series of shows for ABC, CBS and CW, Georgia Aquarium and its scientists, biologists, animal trainers and other experts, and of course his wife and parents.
Greene is heading for Hawaii this week to film pilot whales and false killer whales. He’s also heading to Japan to film giant salamanders.
But he hasn’t forgotten where he came from, and specifically the abundance of creatures in supernatural British Columbia.
Last year, he worked went to Bowen Island to film giant Pacific Octopus. He also has worked with the Vancouver Aquarium to film Steller sea lions.
Aside from Ocean Mysteries, Greene runs his own production company, Symbio Studios, in Washington, producing science education videos tailored to children as young as eight, all the way up to high school.
He credits his French Immersion classes at Whiteside with helping him to film Beluga whales in Quebec, and to convince a farmer in Tahiti to permit him to fly a camera-equipped quadcopter over his fields.
He’d still like to return to B.C. to do a killer whale story, and perhaps do more on the giant Pacific octopus.
His advice for elementary school dreamers: “You’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing and don’t let anyone get in the way of your goals and your dreams. Staying humble helps, people like to help humble people, and find a mentor of some sort.”