BY KERRY FIRTH
Vero Beach resident Pamela Caragol has a dream career that has allowed her to travel the world and experience things most of us only see on TV.
As a documentary producer for National Geographic, she’s spent time with a voodoo priest in Haiti and archeaologists on South American volcanos. She dove with blue hole divers in the Bahamas and filmed rhinos in Africa. She even spent time with the last person to get out of the South Tower alive on 9-11.
So, what would be the pinnacle of her illustrious career? Perhaps winning an Emmy last year for her work as one of the executive producers for National Geographic’s Secrets of the Whales documentary series.
“I’ve met incredible people around the planet and witnessed animals in the wild,” Caragol said enthusiastically. “I feel honored to have had this opportunity to experience so much during my years as a producer. Now that I’m not in the field as much, I work with incredibly talented people on the ground who do what I used to do and get to share my experience with them and help shape their stories.”
The vivacious adventurer, who grew up in Brooklyn and on Long Island, New York, knew early on that she wanted to be a storyteller but she just couldn’t pinpoint which medium or outlet she wanted to pursue.
“While I was in college I considered working in movies but quickly realized that real life was so fascinating that I didn’t need to work in fiction,” she explained.
“My calling was working in documentaries where I could tell stories based on reality.
“Right out of college I worked for a post-production facility where shows get edited and finished. I had clients ranging from National Geographic to PBS to the Discovery Channel and got to know everyone in the nonfiction community. It was a great introduction to the world of documentary.”
She worked her way up from production coordinator to associate producer to producer to show runner and now, an executive producer. She’s been in her current position for six years and instead of being a show maker, she oversees other people who make shows for Nat Geo TV.
“As an executive producer, I work with many teams and oversee many shows,” she continued. “Right now, I probably have film crews in more than 11 countries all over the planet. Every project is different and each one has its own creative vision tailored to its subject matter and the story we’re telling.
“Some are funny. Some are serious. Some are groundbreaking because we are telling it in a new way. Some are more traditional in their approach. Each series or special has its own point of view. That’s where I come in to help shape that overall storytelling tone and perspective. They’re the hands on creatives. I help shape it.”
National Geographic’s Emmy award-winning Disney+ original series, Secrets of the Whales, is the documentary that brought home the Emmy for Caragol. Secrets of the Whales plunges viewers deep within the epicenter of whale culture to experience the extraordinary communication skills and intricate social structures of five different whale species: orcas, humpbacks, belugas, narwhals and sperm whales. Filmed over three years in 24 locations, viewers learn that whales are far more complex and more like humans than ever imagined.
“Working on Secrets of the Whales was inspiring,” Caragol reflected. “We worked with some of the finest cinematographers in the world. Our lead executive producer, James Cameron, brought Sigourney Weaver on board as narrator and it was magic.”
COVID brought its own set of challenges to filmmaking because of travel limitations. Caragol was working on a new series entitled SUPER/NATURAL, which premieres later this summer on Disney+.
It was filmed in more than 80 locations around the world with 95 percent done during the pandemic. Finding opportunity in adversity, the team embraced wonderful local talent who brought diversity to their crew and gave a whole new perspective to the process.
“One of the silver linings about COVID for me is moving to Vero,” Caragol said with a smile. “My mother lived here before she passed in 2015, but my brother, Joe, and cousin, Liz, still live here. COVID afforded me the opportunity to work remotely and spend time with them. I fell in love with this town and its lovely arts community. I have friends who are musicians and sculptors who all live and work here.
“Of course, being able to work remotely and travel back to DC as needed sealed the deal. Now I live close to family and can walk my dog, Cooper, on the beach at sunrise. Out of all the places in the world I’ve visited, Vero is the place I’m proud to call home.”
PAMELA CARAGOLAge: 59
Lives in: Vero Beach
Occupation: Executive producer for National Geographic
Family: One son, Nate; two step- daughters, Margot and Sasha
Education: George Washington University degree in Journalism and Communication
Hobbies: Listening and dancing to live music
What inspires you: “Telling stories with emotion that have impact.”
What most people don’t know about me: “I have a fixation on old, obsolete technology like typewriters, slide projectors and old Polaroid film cameras and have collected enough to fill a few cabinets. The design and hands-on feel of these objects just draws me in.”