The man who minded ‘Amazing Race’
Most of what I do is holistic risk management, says former SAS man
Last year, in Ghana, Bob Parr had to make a run for the border and evacuate a Discovery Channel documentary crew amid ministerial threats and government harassment. ‘‘That was an hours.’’ The Arrowtown-based Emmy Award-winning television producer, private security contractor and former special forces operative splits his time between New Zealand and the global demands of the job. Parr’s story starts with humble beginnings on the streets of Essex in the UK and teenage years aboard fishing boats before joining the SAS, private security and risk management jobs and a move into film industry production. His day job with his New Zealand company SO3 Projects provides risk management solutions all around the world, managing logistics for film crews and security in dicey spots around the world. Working on a Discovery Channel show in Ghana, Jungle Gold, following two American prospectors on the hunt for mining spots the crew fell foul of politicking surrounding the goldmining industry. Parr describes it as shenanigans
48 and said a government minister threatened to arrest the crew and, eventually, he was forced to pull the filmmakers out, chartering a helicopter and a plane to get to the border and out of the country. ‘‘Most of what I do is holistic risk management. ‘‘[SO3] is a tiny company, it’s not a huge corporation but the diversity of the work is quite extraordinary. ‘‘It’s the only time I’ve had to evacuate an entire production.’’ After a notable career in the army with the SAS, UK special forces and counter-terrorism units he worked in Somalia in a fisheries protection role amid an attempt at nation-building. Control Risks, a UK-based security firm, called him one day and said they wanted to discuss a job offer in Hollywood. He thought they meant Holywood near Belfast, Northern Ireland –where he served during the Troubles – and immediately said ‘‘no thanks’’ but then, once he realised it was Los Angeles, agreed to start a risk management job for a new high-end TV series. That series was The Amazing Race, starting in 2001. Parr racked up a decade with the series, picking up six Emmys, travelling to 140 countries with the teams and production crews. The series was a runaway success. ‘‘It was just insane, I’d never had anything to do with the media before, it was just crazy. I was pitched into the middle of all
this.’’ After the first run he took a job as a member of a security team in Qatar but broke a contract when The Amazing Race was renewed for another season, eventually working on 18 races around the world. ‘‘I was doing the same production logistics and very unique to that show I became the producer that raced with the teams.’’ Travelling around the world, mixing with the powerful and the poor alike taught him that wealth is something that should not be viewed as either intimidating or impressive. ‘‘I’ll never forget the roots. I’ve encountered some of the deepest wisdom and greatest generosity among the poorest people in the world –and the inverse. ‘‘I have been to some extraordinary places and people often ask me what’s the most beautiful.’’ The answer, he says, depends on the context. The United States has an enormous diverse landscape but it was New Zealand, where diversity was accessibly concentrated in an area the size of California, that won out. A qualified master yachtsman, his rough retirement plan involves sailing his handbuilt yacht Koru from the northern hemisphere to New Zealand even though it might take 10 years or more. His production credits include The Amazing Race for CBS, Shadow Force on The History Channel and America’s Next Top Model. His army career started with the British Armed Forces as a Royal Marine then switched to the Special Forces where he spent 18 years including stints in the SAS, defence intelligence units and national intelligence. His latest TV venture, as a risk management consultant, is called Manhunt, a survivalist series.
Threats: Bob Parr in Queenstown.
Evacuation: Bob on location in Ghana last year.
Retirement plans: The Koru moored off St Lucia.