Manny Luke, 24, is a producer/screenwriter/actor. He attended Full Sail University in 2011, for creative writing in entertainment, and graduated in October 2014. After graduation, the screenwriter moved to Los Angeles, Calif. to pursue his dream in producing.
Luke is full of passion for his craft and feels the move to California was essential in learning every aspect of filmmaking. The zealous young man spoke with excitement and genuine candor during a chat session.
GLV: When did you decide you wanted to be a producer/screenwriter?
I always wanted to tell stories, and I am good at coming up with them. I loved watching movies. So I thought going to Full Sail would help me tell my stories. I started online, but after a mix-up, with the admissions office, I was placed in an on-campus class. I lived in Albuquerque, N.M. at the time. So it was either, pay $2,000 extra to switch back to online, or use that money to move to Florida campus. I planned to, from the beginning anyway, it just happened sooner than expected. During school, I made dumb little sketches, so when I got to L.A. I would have some experience.
GLV: Do you like living In California?
Um, yeah. It’s expensive, really expensive. You have to learn to budget your money. The traffic is awful and there are a lot, a lot of people. But, there are great aspects to it. Like, I love going to the beach, and in the same day I can be at the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, and then the next moment at Disneyland.
GLV: What is the hardest thing, for you, on breaking in the industry?
The hardest thing, not just for me, but for everyone else, is really finding the discipline to budget yourself. Finding the balance between that and working towards your goal. No one cares that you have a college degree, they care about experiences. I don’t want to have to work a regular job. I want to be creative and work in my field.
GLV: What have you written, produced, filmed, or published?
First thing, was a short film with Jake LeDrew called “Empty;” it’s a horror. It was at the Freak Show Film Festival. Then a webseries, with a great group of people, at MewNowTV, called “Manny’s World of Color.” It’s about working at Disneyland and educating people about the theme park. On “Class Act” I held the boom poll. And, “ZombieCON,” it’s a fullength film about cosplayers. I produced it with Kyle Valle, and Erin Aine. Kyle was also the director. He and I wrote it. We all acted in it. It’s in post production right now. We are adding the special effects, sound, and score. We are talking to distibuters to get it sold, now.
GLV: Did you all pay for the entire film yourselves?
At first, we were going to do an IndyGoGo campaign for it. We needed around $60,000 to make the film. We went all out with it and created a huge page layout with cosplayers. One of my friend’s dad donated a lot of actions figures, still in the box, that we were going to give away as perks. However, it did not really go anywhere. The realization is, you are really in this thing by yourselves. We endured, though. We raised the money we needed. It was hard, I don’t recommend it… no, wait, I do recommend it.
GLV: How many times have your scripts been denied?
Oh man, I pitched a script while at Full Sail called, “Bee Cool.” It’s about middle schoolers trying to be cool. Everyone in class loved it, told me it was a great idea. Fast forward to October 2016, when I finally had the opportunity to really pitch it. I did, and they told me ‘you will probably hear from us.’ Of course, I didn’t hear from them. But, I’ve learned if you let things marinate, and come back to them a year later, things, great things happen, and they are amazing.
GLV: Are you currently working on anything?
Still working on “ZombieCON.” And, writing scripts, so if “ZombieCON” isn’t successful, I will have a few scripts to pitch and get started again.
GLV: Who do you idolize in the industry?
Oh my gosh, this is something that is always changing. Right now, it is Quentin Tarintino because he shies away from the typical structure Hollywood deals with. It’s over the top. I saw “Pulp Fiction” for the first time a month ago. I asked myself, ‘what are you watching.’ I liked it. Edgar Wright is another one. “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” is my favorite movie. I love the dialogue and the camera angles.
GLV: How many hours do you put in your craft on a daily basis?
Oh man, that varies from day to day. Sometimes I will get to the studio at 8:00 a.m. and leave by 3:00 p.m. Sometimes I pull all-nighters. I’m even lucky enough to work from home, on my computer. That’s the beauty of it, I don’t have a set amount of hours, you just have to get it done. If you don’t, then you don’t have work to show. Right now it is a little more chill because we are rendering the video effects for the zombies. This is the fun part right now. The hard part is over. We are finally putting the final touches in.
GLV: What advice would you give someone trying to do what you are doing?
I would tell them to do research and learn from others. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent watching Disney and John Lassiter documentries. Never stop working towards your goal. Make sure you know where your sleeping. Never lose sight of your end goal. You need to have passion, if you don’t have it, it won’t be worth it to you. Everyone ignores what you have to go through before you get to the top of the mountain, as you stand at the bottom of it. The key is to never quit. You can’t quit, you just can’t.
GLV: Have you ever thought about giving up? Why? What stopped you?
Oh my god, that’s actually been something that has been on my mind from the very beginning. Everyone told me how hard it was to break into the industry and I should try something else. But, I look at Lancaster and Disney and, they too, were told to give up, but they didn’t. The phrase that keeps repeating is ‘it’s really hard, it’s really hard,’ and that’s true it is really hard. I thought I could pursue something easier, a job that’s comfortable, but it’s not what I want. I want to do this because I love to do it. Watching a finished product, I made-up in my head, come to life is reward enough.
GLV: Do you feel having a good network has helped you?
Absolutely one hundred percent! I was fortunate enough and blessed to meet Kyle and Erin when I did. When I first got to L.A. people asked me how I would go about doing it. That’s when I met them. Oh, and Punkie Johnson, she’s a comedian at the Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. And, Christian Casillas he works as a fitness trainer in L.A. and was in a film called “Jobless.” Both are co-stars in “ZombieCON.” Think of it like this, it’s like trying to lift a giant boulder, that’s in your way, by yourself. You can be super passionate about doing it, but if you have a group of people to help you lift the boulder, it’s easier. We are in this together. We will get there together and we will continue to work together. You gotta have your team.
GLV: What would you say was or is the hardest thing to overcome?
I think that the hardest thing for me is the self-doubt. You don’t think you can do this, or you are not meant to do it. I’ll watch amazing movies of directors I adore and I think I can’t do this. But, I’m right here. And, still, in the back of my head, I have doubts. It’s me inhibiting myself. I have to tell myself I am being too hard on myself. To keep going, just keep going.
The interview was rounded off with an exchange of knowledge between Luke and the interviewer. Each expressing their heartfelt best wishes to the one another.
By Tracy Blake
Interview: Manny Luke
All Images are Courtesy of Manny Luke – Used With Permission