“Your benchmark for what really scares you changes.”
Paul ‘Mungo’ Mungeam is no stranger to taking risks. He’s been a cameraman for over twenty years and his career has taken him all over the world – from traveling the world by land and sea with Charley Boorman, to performing extreme stunts with Bear Grylls on Man vs. Wild.
We caught up with Mungo to discuss his career, adventures and what his Christian faith means to him:
Early in my career I found that I suited adventure and adventure suited me. I’ve always been a risk-taker. The idea of living life on the edge was what got me out of bed in the morning.
But with adventure – like adrenaline – your benchmark for what really scares you changes. Now I spend my whole time hanging out of helicopters with Bear. It doesn’t scare me in the slightest but I still enjoy it. My levels of extreme have to go way beyond and in the end it just gets stupid because you’re being very dangerous.
But then the older you get the less brave you become because you realise you have more to lose. I always used to be disposable in my eyes, and that played to favour in my career. I was a cameraman with years of experience and I was able to go away at the drop of a hat for three weeks or even three months.
Now I’m older. I’m married with a kid and have responsibilities. Suddenly your life changes. Fatherhood is a whole different adventure!
I originally fell in love with Cambodia and South-East Asia. Cambodia was the first place I filmed a TV documentary in my own right. I loved it. I was a bit out of my depth, but I rose to the challenge. We were the first non-news crew to film there since the fall of Khmer Rouge in Kampuchea, so we had a lot of access to areas that you couldn’t usually go to because they wanted it to be filmed and the story to be told.
Other than that experience, it’s really difficult to name one place in particular that stands out from my travels – the Arctic is so different to desert, the jungle is so different to mountains. You can’t really compare them.
During my career I’ve been on a massive rollercoaster ride with my faith. Sometimes I’ve had a massive amount of faith, sometimes I’ve wanted to give it all up. But you do find your way through – eventually you do find God in it.
When I was in Rwanda I visited a church that was the infamous site of a massacre during the Genocide of 1994. I stood there quietly and I said to God, ‘What was all this about?’ – I was looking for answers.
I didn’t feel like he gave me any answers but I felt he stood with me, looked at it and was equally as sad. And that was the answer I needed. It wasn’t a case of him going, ‘Well, it was this or that…’ and making sense of it. It was a sense that he understood the pain, and he felt that pain too.
So, you learn different things – but that’s the big adventure. It’s life, it’s trying to weigh it all up.
The conclusion I’ve come to is that I’m not a religious man but I have got a lot of faith. My God is the God that I see and feel and love when I’m out the back of the surf pinching myself because there’s a twenty-foot wave about to crash down. Or I’m up a mountain and the blizzard comes in and I feel really out of my depth. That’s my God. He’s massive – he’s awesome and can’t be put in a box.
For me, working alongside Christians is incredibly rare. To be with somebody like Bear, who is in an incredibly influential position whether in the media or among TV crews – he’s just so open about it his faith, I found it really challenging and incredibly encouraging.
Quite often when we are standing at the start of the shoot, helicopter propellers roaring, waiting for the OK to jump aboard from the pilot, Bear will pray. He’ll say, ‘Lord keep us safe, give us a good time and ultimately it’s all about you.’ Then I’ll say ‘Amen’ and we are off and away.
We work with a sound guy called Jimmy who isn’t a Christian and one time we were so caught up in what we were doing that Bear didn’t pray. Jimmy’s reaction was ‘Hang on a minute! Bear hasn’t prayed! We’ve got to pray before we start.’ So the influence is massive.
I think that’s how you can make the biggest impression, really; being the best friend you can be, being there for people, be Jesus to them. It’s about being in the community. People won’t come to us; we need to go to them. If someone comes to Alpha looking to find out more about faith, then you’re halfway there because they are asking questions. The rest of it is being out there and simply being a friend.