Mandi Hart: “I’ll do it myself so it’s done ‘right”

All of the creative projects we work on at MORE Productions are geared towards positive impact. Whether it’s a true story we’re telling or a fictional narrative we’re developing, we always think about the impact: how can we raise good questions and invite our audience to meaningfully reflect on the themes and challenges raised by […]

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All of the creative projects we work on at MORE Productions are geared towards positive impact. Whether it’s a true story we’re telling or a fictional narrative we’re developing, we always think about the impact: how can we raise good questions and invite our audience to meaningfully reflect on the themes and challenges raised by a particular story? How can we communicate what is good and true in a top-quality way? And aside from the impact a given project has on its audience, we also try to be mindful of the creatives involved and how the project can have a positive impact on them — not just by providing financial compensation but by experiencing a production process that encourages a mutual exchange of ideas, experimentation and personal care for the artist.

As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mandi Hart.

Hollywood producer/writer team Mandi Hart (Producer, MORE Productions), Camille Tucker (screenwriter) and Craig Detweiler (screenwriter) gives a first glimpse reveal about their upcoming film sharing the remarkable story of Wally Triplett, the first African American to get drafted in the NFL. The film will arrive courtesy of More-Productions, the studio responsible for 2017’s critically acclaimed Martin Scorsese helmed Silence.

Mandi Hart is a renowned filmmaker and attorney specializing in creative content development and intellectual property. Camille Tucker is a writer/director/producer who has sold scripts to major studios such as Sony, Universal, New Line Cinema, Fox TV, and Disney. She has worked with producers such as Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, Stacey Snider, Marc Platt, Todd Garner, and Debra Chase. She is the co-writer of Lifetime’s hit biopic, The Clark Sisters: The First Ladies of Gospel, which was executive produced by Queen Latifah and debuted to 2.7 million viewers with 13+ million viewers to date. Filmmaker and author Craig Detweiler, Ph.D., wrote the screenplays for The Duke and comedic road trip Extreme Days, and directed the award-winning documentary Remand, narrated by Angela Bassett.

During an era when black people were compelled to tread softly as if walking on eggshells, Triplett received a scholarship offer to attend the University of Miami. He was ecstatic, but correctly assumed that the school’s coaching staff didn’t know they were recruiting an African-American. When Triplett wrote back and informed the staff he was black, the school rescinded the scholarship it had offered so eagerly. Miami’s loss became Penn State’s gain, as Triplett went to Penn State and enjoyed an outstanding career, becoming the program’s first black starter and made history by integrating the 1948 Cotton Bowl.

In 1949, Wally Triplettt was one of three African-Americans drafted into the NFL, but was the first to actually play. He competed for the Detroit Lions from 1949–1950 and set a single-game record with 294 kickoff return yards that lasted for 44 years. Moreover, his average of 73.5 yards per return against the Los Angeles Rams still stands as an NFL record. Two weeks later, Wally was the first NFL player drafted into the Korean War and he proudly served his country.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

It’s a bit of a winding one! Although I grew up in the performing arts (theater, vocal performance, public speaking, musical theatre), I studied political science, pre-law and international service in college, expecting to go into intelligence work. My senior year, however, I was re-routed to film school via an honors capstone project that allowed me to write my first screenplay. The project was a refreshing break from all the academic writing I had done previously, but was also a real challenge! I enjoyed it so much that I asked my supervising professor whether applying to film schools would be crazy; after all, I didn’t have any films to show! He was gracious and encouraging, however, and gave me the confidence to try. Four years later, I had my MFA in Film Production and Direction and was working for a documentary production company whose niche is creating short films for international development organizations. However, they’ve branched increasingly into sports documentaries and I was blessed to work on the first one: an Emmy-winning ESPN 30 for 30 called Youngstown Boys, directed by Jeff and Mike Zimbalist. I was line producer on that project and it was an invaluable experience. The Zimbalist brothers have such incredible artistic vision and bring an amazing attention to detail to their work. And my direct supervisor, Colby Gottert, truly equipped and empowered me to make the most of the learning opportunity. In the years I worked for Colby, I got to try my hand at so many aspects of filmmaking and I gained a great repetoire of skills. I enjoyed producing so much that I decided to go back to school to get my JD, in order to do more on the legal, business and financial sides of filmmaking. That’s what I’ve been blessed to do with MORE Productions the last few years. Which brings me to the Wally Triplett project, a feature film we are currently developing along with Franco Harris, Charlie Pittman, Lydell Mitchell and a great screenwriting team: Camille Tucker and Craig Detweiler.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

Oh my, so many! One that immediately comes to mind was a quick reenactment “scene” we filmed for Youngstown Boys, where Maurice Clarett and I sat across a conference table from one another and chatted about his aspirations to open an assisted living facility for older adults. In the film, those shots come during a segment about Maurice being grilled by NCAA officials, though the tenor of our actual conversation was quite different! It was a delightful experience. And among my most interesting experiences: filming in rural Alabama for a project on race and poverty. It was eye-opening (and gut-wrenching) to see people (mostly African-American) living in third-world conditions in the richest country in the world! The days we spent there forced me to do a lot of learning, thinking and praying about our history and present responsibilities to one another.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

One of the things I treasure about my time with Colby and the DDC team is how much they focus on and elevate the voices of people featured in the film projects they produce. I’ve carried that ethic with me ever since. Some of the most interesting people I’ve met are “regular” people with unique stories and singular spirits. Like a classmate in my MFA program who was also a professional figure skater! And the breast cancer survivor with two young sons who lived in difficult financial and material circumstances yet chose to serve others. And the former felon who rose above an abusive childhood and past incarceration to have a successful career in hospitality. I’m met so many people with compelling stories in this work. I’ve also been repeatedly humbled and challenged by the financial investors I’ve met during my yet-young career. Their passion for high-quality, impactful storytelling and willingness to risk a total loss of investment (because, let’s face it, it is tough to recoup, let alone profit, off investments in creative works!) in order to bring a story to life is so inspiring and instructive. They are leaving a legacy that may not “bear fruit” or have visible impact for years or decades to come. One of my favorite films, It’s a Wonderful Life, is emblematic of that: it was a box office failure but, a lifetime after its release, the film is considered a classic!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

The Wally Triplett film project has been such a treasure! His life and legacy, as well as that of his teammate Dennie Hoggard, are powerful and poignant — truly examples of lives well lived. We also have such a wonderful team working with us. Wally’s family has been so gracious and supportive as we’ve worked on the script and we couldn’t be prouder of what our screenwriters have accomplished. Lou Prato has been a key consultant and has provided us some important historical gems to incorporate. And we’re so grateful for our investors, without whom this project wouldn’t be possible! Beyond the Wally Triplett film, the company I co-own, MORE Productions, is working on a short animated film honoring the 21 Coptic men martyred by ISIS in Libya in 2015. That project has also been a standout, as we’re working with Tod Polson (formerly of Cartoon Saloon) and a global team of iconographers and animators to bring the film to life. The concept art is breathtaking and we can’t wait to share the final product with the world!

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Honestly, I think a lot about the countless people who have lived faithful, humble lives, with great impact on those who knew yet, and died with no record of their existence. I hope to be one of those people. 100 or 1,000 years from now, no one will know I lived, but I hope to bless those who know me and who I encounter while I am on this earth.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

All of the creative projects we work on at MORE Productions are geared towards positive impact. Whether it’s a true story we’re telling or a fictional narrative we’re developing, we always think about the impact: how can we raise good questions and invite our audience to meaningfully reflect on the themes and challenges raised by a particular story? How can we communicate what is good and true in a top-quality way? And aside from the impact a given project has on its audience, we also try to be mindful of the creatives involved and how the project can have a positive impact on them — not just by providing financial compensation but by experiencing a production process that encourages a mutual exchange of ideas, experimentation and personal care for the artist.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

I have always loved story, in any form. I was heavily involved in performing arts as a child and teenager and read vociferously. Graduating from high school, I didn’t plan to pursuit any of my creative passions; I knew I didn’t have the innate talent to be the next “big star” and was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to even earn a living as an actor and/or vocalist. So I turned my attention to academic pursuits. But during my senior year of college, I saw the film La Misma Luna and realized I could combine my creative passions with my “intellectual” interest in social and political issues. That film humanized the immigration “debate” for me, even though policy wasn’t at all the focus of the film! Just by virtual of the story and the characters’ experiences and dilemmas, though, it forced me to think about immigration outside the set political frames. And I loved that!

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

What immediately comes to mind for me are the artists whose visions we’ve helped bring to fruition and the audiences they’ve been able to reach. Humans are by nature storytellers; we look for meaning and connection in the “ordinariness” of life and have a yearning for something bigger than ourselves. It’s been such a privilege to partner with and learn from creatives who have labored over a project and put in the hard work to bring it into being. And then to hear from the audience of a particular project about what it meant to them — how it thrilled their imagination or connected with their soul or comforted their hearts. Story is so powerful, and as C.S. Lewis said, it “steal[s] past [our] watchful dragons” to reach our innermost thoughts and being. If I had a penny for every time a life is changed by a story…. I’d be able to fund the production of many, many more!

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

I have loved seeing how individuals are stepping up to patron the arts — through platforms like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Patreon, etc. And Etsy can be similar. What has historically only been possible for economic “elites” and institutions is now accessible to anyone! I’ve personally started to “shop” on those platforms for birthdays and Christmas gifts and would encourage others to think creatively about how they could be a “patron” as well.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

First, be patient. I know I am a naturally impatient person, but stories (especially fictional ones) have their own timeline. As much as I might want (and try!) to force a creative project to fit my timeframe, it generally won’t. And that often results in a better final product, as unexpected discoveries and ideas enter the picture during the process. That said, I wouldn’t encourage anyone in the creative space to be totally dismissive of timelines; milestones are important to keep you moving forward with a creative endeavor, and deadlines are part of the business side, whether that’s a client deadline or a publication due date or a film distribution deadline. I also wish someone had advised me to keep my pride in check by choosing to partner with others and look for ways to be of service. I can easily slip into the mindset of “I’ll do it myself so it’s done ‘right’ (as I would define it)” but that reinforces a terribly arrogant attitude. My business partner, Mark Rodgers, has been such an example to me of the better way: he always asks how he can be of help to others and is always open to collaboration. I’ve learned so much by working with him and am trying to follow in his footsteps in that regard. I was taught from a young age to be wary of building “castles of sand” — after all, I can’t take anything tangible with me when I pass away. I think that’s a wonderful piece of advice for young people, especially as they dream about and begin to pursue a career. We certainly have the option to pick a career path solely based on its salary and status potential, but those things may not pan out the way we hope, and even if they do, they won’t satisfy the deepest parts of us. And in the end, we have to leave all that behind. I think a much better frame to approach work and career is to consider how we can leverage our skills, knowledge, expertise and experiences for something bigger — no matter what job we find ourselves in, we always have the opportunity to look out for colleagues and foster a culture of humility, joy and others-centeredness.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

It truly is better to give than to receive. Sacrifice for others can be difficult, even painful, at times, yet it reaps intangible rewards. And our character is formed by the countless choices we make on a daily basis — that’s what ultimately composes the lives we live. “Positive impact” is often unquantifiable. So while I can’t encourage young people to consider working towards the common good in order to achieve some metric or particular result, I would encourage everyone to set an intention towards having a positive impact solely based on the principle of the thing — we get one life to live, so live it well.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Wow, what a fun, exciting question — and opportunity to dream! As I puzzled over this, two people immediately came to mind: Robert George and Cornell West. I remember seeing a video clip of the two of them on PBS a few years ago, talking about their friendship, which is increasingly rare because of their strong political differences. Watching the two of them in that joint interview, I nearly cried seeing how much they loved and respected one another even while vehemently disagreeing about a host of different issues. They didn’t let their disagreements keep them apart. Rather, they chose to engage the other person fully and to learn why the other person believes what he believes and holds the views he does. It was such an exquisite thing to watch and I would love to collaborate with them on an impact / educational campaign to foster a culture of such friendship.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are so many quotes and nuggets of wisdom I try to keep in my perspective! But just picking one, I would say (in my own paraphrase) “You never know when you might be entertaining angels”. The principle I draw from that is that I never know someone’s story, or who someone is, until I take the time to learn and allow the other person to share. I have so often been led astray by a first impression, and thank God, I’m finally starting to learn to distrust my first impression! It’s been such a good practice to interrogate my own impression and assumptions and imagine how wrong they could be. That helps keep me humble and curious about other people. About the time I try to put someone in a box, they’ll break out of it and prove me wrong — to my great benefit!

How can our readers follow you online?

I am not active on social media (sorry!), largely because I have a finite amount of time and have chosen to invest it elsewhere. So really, my only online footprint is through my company’s website,, and the websites associated with our projects (which are all linked there).

This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!

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