A filmer and storyteller, Ben Gattegno is the adventurer who never knew it. A product of Australia, the Los Angeles transplant went from scrimping for vacations to being paid to take them - all in the space of a few months.
Fast forward four years and the 28-year-old now makes a living in adventure content, paid by travel companies, tour groups and brands alike to travel the globe and capture everything from the ancient wilds of Machu Picchu to the hidden cultures of Lake Titicaca in The Andes. Better yet, he isn’t restricted to being stuck behind the lens but expected to partake in every adventure he films - even if it means launching himself from the clifftops of the Amalfi Coast with YouTube daredevils Devin Super Tramp.
We caught up with the intrepid Content Originals filmmaker to find out how exactly to turn an adventure lifestyle into a career.
THE RED BULLETIN: You started off shooting videos for small brands in Australia. How did you come to specialize in adventure content and make traveling the world your job?
BEN GATTEGNO: The funny thing is that I never intended to put myself in the adventure/travel space. I had a small creative agency in Sydney, Australia where I was doing all of my work locally for brands. And one day I was put in contact with the people at Contiki through a friend, because they needed a simple edit done for a destination reel using existing content. I jumped on the opportunity and put everything into it - everything! Next minute they had me out shooting in the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, Spain and France all within a few months.
And that one small job, by going above and beyond, turned into a full-blown career of adventure…
Basically. From there, they loved my work ethic and really saw the opportunity to use video and social media content to market to their millennial audience, so they relocated me to the UK. Which was awesome. They actually created a position for me as head of video production and that’s when my career really kicked off. Over a year or two’s span I flew the distance to the moon and back.
You’ve been paid to tick off more than 30 countries in the space of 5 years…
I’m currently hovering around the 35 mark for countries, which is not even 20 percent of the world! But I have been to most of those countries about five times. Speaking of repetition, I’ve been up to Machu Picchu about eight times over three different trips - so I’ve got that place dialed [laughs].
You’ve spent some time with YouTube daredevils Devin Super Tramp, too…
The most memorable shoot so far would have to be the project I produced with Devin Supertramp on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I was flown out by myself to try and locate the biggest and baddest cliffs. So I hired a four-meter tender and spent a week cruising down the coastline by boat measuring the depth of the water and the height of the cliffs - all while sipping on an Aperol Spritz! [laughs]. I then went back a few weeks later with the crew and watched these athletes send themselves off some pretty gnarly cliffs. That was a definite moment where I thought to myself, “this is a job!?” [laughs]
You get to film all these rad adventures. Do you have a chance to enjoy them?
The best part about the job is that I HAVE to partake in everything I am filming. The action is always the content, and how else do we get to capture that!? So if there is ever an extra spot on the adventure, I am the first person to be thrown in. I was out in Nice, France shooting a series with a couple Australian mates (Australian reality TV stars) - Nathan Jolliffe and Ryan Ginns. It was towards the end of the shoot and we had our final scene which was them lapping up the hills in a Ferrari Spider. We got out there and I turned to them and said, “before we shoot, I think I need to get the car nice and warm”. So I jumped in and absolutely flogged the thing. So yeah, I always make sure that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I drop the camera for a moment and take in the experience.
And you’ve been to the birthplace of the sun in the Andes…
Lake Titicaca! Seriously, people live on islands made of reeds completely cut off to the outside world. It’s mental to grow up in such a materialistic world yet immerse yourself in cultures that are happy cruising on the absolute bare minimum. I love to shoot those beautiful cinematic visuals at locations like that, but it’s those stories of the cultures that really are the most important part.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the adventure travel industry?
It’s all about storytelling. Don’t worry about what camera you use, focus more on how your content is going to engage the viewer through storytelling. I read a quote once that really stuck with me by Phillip Pullman: “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need the most in the world”. Stories can be simple if told well. So never overthink it. Work hard and have fun.