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The cinematographer and co-creator of the ABC adventure series Born to Explore has made it. By the end of Born to Explore’s first season, 83 million viewers will have watched some of the world’s most isolated territories and under documented civilizations through Barnhardt’s camera lens. From the outside looking in, he has a life worth gawking at.

John Barnhardt did not become the filmmaker he is over night, in fact he started working at as TV news teleprompter operator 14 years ago, and worked his way up from there.

Before moving to Charleston, Barnhardt graduated from Colorado State University where he earned a degree in English. But his ambitions of being a filmmaker started long before that. Barnhardt says his father was a photographer that loved movies and took him to see many great films at a young age. During this time, Barnhardt recalls seeing everything from Jaws and Alien, to classic Vietnam movies like Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter.

“I remember when I saw The Road Warrior, and my father and I were walking back to his car, and I told him that I wanted to make movies for a living. My father’s response was, ‘good.’, At that time, he was only 9-years-old.

Barnhardt says the turning point in his career was when he moved to Charleston, and he promised himself that once he understood all the little things about making a movie, he would go for it and attempt to make at least one independent movie a year.

“When I moved here, I heard about Russ Schaaf and his film program. So I went up and met him, and pretty much knew that he was the guy to learn from,” John said. From that point he listened to Schaaf and pushed himself as hard as he could. “I would say that my time studying under Russ was the most influential time of my life as a film/movie/producer,” said Barnhardt.

When it comes to the creative process, any artist looks for inspiration. For Barnhardt, movies made between 1967-1984 served as his biggest influence. Among his favorites are early films from Francis Ford Coppola. He also enjoys Wes Anderson and Walter Hill films.

You can also look for John Barnhardt’s work on the Emmy nominated adventure show, and the winner of the 2013 parents choice award, Born to Explore.  Barnhardt is co-creator/director/cinematographer and edits several of the episodes each season.  The show has literally taken Barnhardt around the globe.

In closing, Barnhardt says if you really want to make filmmaking a career, “you have to eat, breath, drink and sleep it.”


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