Thursday, November 19, 2009

Meet the Crew: Ed Mantell

I'm proud to say that Art Director Ed Mantell and I have a few things in common—one of them being the title, Art Director. While my title applies to the graphic design industry, Ed's calling is filmmaking; and there's nobody better at his craft than Ed Mantell.

I had the pleasure of working closely with Ed on the set of Ghosts Don't Exist, ensuring that he had access to digital props and other often-overlooked art department details. Wit
h every project, things sometimes have to change on the fly—even the script. I can recall a few instances (usually in the wee hours of the morning after a long shoot) when a scene called for something new; Ed would always respond with the same unflappable reply: "Copy that!" And within moments, he'd have it solved.

That's an art director's job on set and off—making sure that the film stays true to details and
visual consistency. To say that it's a tough job is an understatement. It takes meticulous planning, and a careful eye to control the set after its been assembled—a particular challenge. Between takes, cast and crew typically relax momentarily and tend to forget their surroundings. That's when the rogue coffee cup sitting on a step may inadvertently be moved or thrown away—someone innocently having forgotten that it was a prop in an earlier scene that shouldn't be disturbed! Ed was always there preserving the set; taking careful photos and diligently monitoring every artistic detail.

Just as important as his expertise and professionalism is Ed's genuine personality. He's both a willing, generous teacher and mentor on set—and a student of the industry with a continual thirst for knowledge. And he's just a hell of a lot of fun to be around—a trait that so many on this team shared.

Like most of our other veteran crew members, there's much more to Ed Mantell than his art directing duties. He's accumulated a wealth of experience on both sides of the camera, having worked as an actor and extra in over 30 projects, including documentaries for PBS, The Discovery Channel, A&E, and many more. He's also been in several feature films, including Gods and Generals, War of the Worlds, Leatherheads, and the critically-acclaimed HBO mini-series, John Adams.

As is his nature, Ed makes a Herculean effort to understand the things that interest him, and he immerses himself. He's a certified Cannoner and Gun Commander (Certified by The National Civil War Artillery Association). He's also a living historian—having impersonated civilians and soldiers from the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam—on film and for the general public.

It's also been suggested that Ed is a real-life pirate. But that's another story.

Undoubtedly, one of Ed's many skills is his chameleon-like ability to change appearance. I got to witness the transformation first-hand when he assumed a bit part in GDE as Bradford Walters, a character pivotal to the backstory. Ed effortlessly shifted gears on our very first day of filming, leavin
g his improvised art department desk briefly to don a vintage suit and take a turn in makeup artist's Jim Choate's chair. Reporting to set, he was a totally different person. He shot me a knowing wink and added, "Man of a thousand faces."

Ed's also an amazing drummer and guitarist—and one of the highlights of each day's wrap was the impromptu jam sessions with he, Sam Edens, and Gavin Peretti over a few beers. Where lesser crews might justifiably crash into bed after a grueling day, these guys would hold court for additional hours. And after hearing them play a few bars, most of us stuck around as well.

"Life isn't about finding yourself, Life is about creating yourself." This quote from George Bernard Shaw is one of Ed's favorites, and it's befitting. He continues to create himself with each project he undertakes, and in doing so, be a positive influence on everyone he works with.

On a sad note, 19th + Wilson and the entire Ghosts Don't Exist team extend our heartfelt condolences to Ed on the loss of his father,
Carl Raymond Mantell, who passed away yesterday. Ed's dad was a piano and organ teacher, and had still been playing a midi accordion as a one-man polka band. Like his son, he sounds like a wonderful character. God bless you both.


  1. God Bless Carl!
    Thanks for the great post too.

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