Sam Branson may get the playboy label in the press, but the 25-year-old says "explorer/film producer" is a title that's more appropriate.
The only son of billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, the younger Branson has lately been inspired to make a difference in the world through filmmaking. After three trips to the Arctic, he returned in 2009 and set up a production company called Current Sponge with a focus on what he calls "challenging and informative programming."
“I’ve been lucky enough to travel, and I think the experiences of different cultures, people and places has made me quite passionate about the world," he told MNN. "I’ve always been interested in the medium of film, and what I'm doing now is using it as a tool to give those experiences to people who don’t actually get to visit these places."
On April 25, CurrentTV will air a special hosted by Branson (and produced under his Current Sponge label) called "Man vs. Earth." The one-hour show, essentially a pilot to what could become a full-blown series, follows the younger Branson as he explores how researchers are trying to keep technology one step ahead of avalanches.
"I think we’ve got a really great format," he said. "And if we got the series, the main basis of the show would be to really look at the elements, and the technology we're creating to survive them. So this one is snow and avalanches, the next could be earth and earthquakes, wind and hurricanes, fire and wildfires, water and floods, and so on."
In a move characteristic of his adventurous father, Sam decided to see first-hand what it's like to be trapped by an avalanche — choosing to be buried in life-crushing snow. His only tool was an Avalung, which allows you to "breathe" for up to two hours. Otherwise, you've got only 15 minutes before you asphyxiate.
"I got to experience being packed under about 4-5 feet of snow – and it was incredible," he said. "I think I’m a unique person that thrives in these kinds of experiences and I quite enjoyed the whole psychological game of it. But being down there, I started to think 'Wow, what if this is a real avalanche?' and not knowing if someone is going to come and get me, my mind state in the space of a split second went from being calm and collected to irrational — and it was just a weird kind of mind game. You just don’t think about the effect avalanches can have on you."
Branson says "Man vs Earth" is only the beginning of what he hopes will be a new angle in getting younger people to pay attention to the natural world and science.
"My presenting style is not the same as other people’s — it’s very laid-back, very tongue-in-cheek," he says. "Having a younger person talk about science is a major step in the right direction because it's easier to relate to. Kids can shut off when they see a scientist talking about science."
"Also, it’s important to have fun with it — and I think this show does that," he adds. "And we’re talking about quite a serious subject matter, talking about facts and figures and technology — and yet along the way, we’re having a laugh — and I think that’s key so people can be entertained while also learning."
Check out a trailer for "Man vs. Earth" below. The program airs on CurrentTV on April 22 at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST.
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