The Real Deal

BY Carita Rizzo | February 20, 2017 | Feature Features National

Neil Mandt is changing the world of film and television one 360-degree video at a time.

Remember how The Terminator pulled up personal information on the people he encountered just by looking at them? What then seemed like a crazy dystopian capability, available only to robots from the future, is soon poised to be our everyday experience. With the development of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, the way we view the world and consume entertainment is about to change forever.

At the forefront of VR content production is Neil Mandt, owner of MANDT VR, which creates 360-degree videos—most recently for The Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration and the Pittsburgh Steelers—to deliver immersive experiences to fans. While Mandt recognizes that VR currently reaches a niche audience, he believes we are at the cusp of a tech revolution. “It’s going to change the world,” says Mandt. “And, for me, being on the front edge of this technology is very exciting.”

From approaching football player-turned-actor Alex Karras for a job at age 10 in the suburbs of Detroit to moving to L.A. at the age of 20, Mandt has always been up for a challenge. “I didn’t know a single human being west of Chicago. I had a grand in my pocket that I had saved from a year’s worth of work. The first night, my car was broken into, and everything was stolen,” he recalls of his initial nights in Hollywood. Two decades later, Mandt owns a building on Santa Monica Boulevard just east of Orange, from which he has produced over 3,000 episodes of TV; won an Emmy for his coverage of the 2000 Summer Olympics; co-produced Million Dollar Arm, the Disney film starring Jon Hamm; and is currently shopping around a feature film starring Burt Reynolds and Ariel Winter.

As he tackles the world of VR, what differentiates him from the rest, he says, is his knack for a good narrative. “I’ve been up against a lot of tech guys, and I [have] an advantage—I’ve been telling stories in visual medium, and they haven’t,” he says. “On my tombstone, it won’t say producer, director or world traveler. It will say: ‘Storyteller.’ That’s what I am.”

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Originally published in the March issue of Angeleno

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