While he was still in high school, budding documentary filmmaker and sponsored kayaker Andy Maser trained his camera on the subject he knew best. Before he even had a driver's license, he was churning out VHS tapes of his buddies bombing down the Potomac River's rapids and waterfalls outside his hometown of Baltimore.
When Maser moved across the country to study journalism at the University of Oregon, he continued paddling, garnered collegiate honors, and searched for ways to parlay his passion for adventure into a career.
Upon graduating in 2007, Maser stumbled onto his first big break and a meaningful professional discovery. He joined friend, fellow river rat, and National Geographic Young Explorer Grantee Trip Jennings on an expedition through the underground cave systems and tumultuous Class V rapids of the remote and little-known Pandi River in Papua New Guinea. The team hoped the first descent of the mystical waterway would raise awareness about the biological diversity of the area and warrant a conservation designation that would halt planned clear cutting by international logging companies.
The poignant stories Maser heard from local natives and the "Wild Chronicles" National Geographic episode that followed showed him the possibility of weaving a conservation story with flair — one that avoided humdrum didacticism and used a gripping trek as a narrative backdrop.
"My initial impression of conservation films was it was typically very heavy, and doom and gloom, and you'd always leave the screen with a heavy heart," he says. "I never responded well to that. That never engaged me."