The University of Connecticut welcomed Neil Mandt yesterday at the School of Business. Mandt is a five-time Emmy Award-winning producer who gave advice at his event, “How to Make it in the Entertainment Business.”
Mandt began by asking the audience to step forward, shake his hand and introduce themselves. Certainly, an unorthodox approach, Mandt explains that one of the most important things about the entertainment industry is first impressions. To get his foot through the door, Mandt was only 10 years old when he approached a production team filming a wedding scene near his suburban neighborhood in Detroit. Six weeks later, his mother received a phone call on their avocado-colored rotary phone saying that Mandt had landed an audition for a Buick commercial.
This was only the start of Mandt’s journey, as he would go on to be in more commercials. “Detroit was the headquarters for the automotive industry, which made it the headquarters for the advertising industry,” stated Mandt. At a young age, Mandt learned how to be a businessman and noted that this experience “made [him] realize you could do anything.”
His own content that started his career was the “VTV Special Report: Rock Interviews,” which aired in 1986. Mandt interviewed various stars such as Lenny Kravitz and Paula Abdul. His reason for starting the show is what many 16-year-olds wanted at the time: “I wanted to drink with Billy Idol backstage and shotgun beers with rock stars,” said Mandt. Since this reporting allowed him to get hired by many notable news outlets, one of his biggest coverages was the O.J. Simpson trial for ABC News.
His next lesson was on how individuals could bring their ideas to life. Mandt asked the audience what they thought was the most important thing to people. Students pitched words such as happiness, family and money. Mandt remarked that the one who said money was greedy and earned a chuckle from the audience. The most important thing, according to Mandt, was time. “You can’t buy time,” declared Mandt. In Hollywood, time is everything. Mandt estimates that studios get thousands of pitches, yet only a handful get pilot episodes. “The odds are not in your favor,” Mandt said, which is why your content must be interesting enough to pitch in just one minute.
With the advent of the internet and social media, Mandt tells students to “be loud, be daring” on their profiles. The most important site for employers is LinkedIn. Students should enhance their presence online and their brand. Mandt has his own website highlighting his accomplishments at neilmandt.com. He urges all UConn students to start networking and building their profiles now.
As for the future of entertainment, Mandt’s biggest concern is the usage of generative AI, such as ChatGPT. His thoughts turned to the Writers Guild of America strike in Hollywood. He states, “You cannot operate in this business without honesty and ethics, and honesty starts with yourself.” Despite the tentative deal between Hollywood studios and the Writers Guild, Mandt says, “It is inevitable that they will be gone; one or two will survive per show, but they will be gone.” He mentions various other jobs that used to exist in the entertainment industry such as owners of VHS stores.
Mandt concluded the event by discussing the future of advertisements, which he theorizes will be interconnected with augmented reality technology. Mandt mentioned the Google Glasses and the Apple Vision Pro, but a common way that people recognize AR is “Pokémon Go” and SnapChat. An example that he showcases is the “Game of Thrones” ice dragon lens on SnapChat from 2019. Mandt posited the question, should owners of these properties have protections against AR advertisements? He warns that property owners need to think about the future of AR and if companies should be able to make a profit from advertising on their buildings, even if it’s not physically there.
Mandt urges students to enroll in human resource courses to learn how to deal with people capable of hiring or firing them. He tells the audience to “be someone that gets stuff done.” Mandt also mentioned that he is looking for two interns to work an internship for five hours a week over the course of six weeks. Mandt emphasizes that past interns have become producers and directors, saying that the opportunity to work with him has opened the doors for many people to become a part of the entertainment industry. Students interested must create a one-minute video, or sizzle reel, that tells him why they should be hired. To get in contact with Mandt, students should reach out to Pamela Costa at firstname.lastname@example.org.