When people ask Emre Izat ’99 what he does as an executive producer, he replies: “I’m curious for a living.” To satisfy that trait, Izat has filmed on six continents, explored uncharted limestone gorges in Mozambique, and shouldered crocodiles Down Under as a documentary filmmaker.
University of Mary Washington nurtured Izat’s inquisitive nature. After high school in Alexandria, Va., he selected Mary Washington because it allowed him to build his own curriculum and pursue the dramatic arts without sacrificing his love of literature and physics. And UMW’s black box theater appealed to him because he could get onstage right away.
In fact, Izat said, he “kind of lived in the theater” at Mary Washington − there’s a police brief in The Bullet archives to prove it. One night, he was rehearsing on the Klein Theatre main stage while directing a show in the black box theater. A professor had asked him to speak to a drama class the next morning, so when Izat found himself still working at 2 a.m., he decided to crash in the theater. Campus police awoke Izat and escorted him out. The headline, he imagined: “Student kicked out of Klein for being too big of a nerd.”
Izat’s dedication and passion for his work continues. “I love my job so much that when we are not doing it, I do it for free,” he said. When his girlfriend, also a producer, recently found herself short a cameraman, Izat spent his vacation behind the lens in Italy.
In 1999, the theater graduate moved to New York City to work in the business.
Then 9/11 happened; Izat was eyewitness to the attacks on the World Trade Center.
He returned to Fredericksburg to regroup — he played in a band, worked a day job, and performed onstage. Then, one day a friend called from National Geographic in Washington, D.C., about a job opportunity.
On a lark, Izat went for an interview, got a job as a “glorified secretary,” and worked his way up to film production.
Soon, he was on a Nat-Geo team in Australia lugging a drugged 15-foot crocodile − its snout wound tight with duct tape − and shooting underwater scenes of the carnivorous reptiles. Since then, Izat has written, shot, and directed films on diverse topics such as obesity, the crystal meth trade, and the process of manufacturing Legos.
These days, Izat lives in Amsterdam, where he works for Off the Fence productions. Most recently the company sent him to Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park for a six-part PBS series, tracking scientists searching for new species in the park’s limestone gorges.
For one episode, scientists and philanthropist Greg Carr, the American entrepreneur who financed the restoration of the war-ravaged park, rappelled down into a 500-foot gorge. Izat used his modest climbing experience to help them − he rigged Carr’s harness and manned his safety line. That’s when Izat realized, “I’ve got this billionaire − the whole reason this park exists − in my hands.”
Carr survived and so did Izat’s career, one sure to continue a curious path.