Alumnus shows promise in entertainment field

May 30, 2017 — by Ava Hooman and Muthu Palaniappan

2011 alumnus David Mandell was nervous as he walked up to renowned actor Kevin Pollak. In Mandell’s hands was a script that he had been working for the past several months.


2011 alumnus David Mandell was nervous as he walked up to renowned actor Kevin Pollak. In Mandell’s hands was a script that he had been working for the past several months.

With the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work alongside an actor such as Pollak during an internship, Mandell decided that it would be beneficial to ask Pollak to take a look at his script, because he had worked in the industry for so long.

After persistently asking for suggestions to improve his script, Mandell began to feel that he was bothering Pollak, but he learned an important lesson about catching attention in the entertainment industry.

“Everyone in this town will tell you when you're bugging them. No one will ever tell you that they forgot about you. Keep bugging me,”Pollak told him.

That’s one of the realities of working the entertainment industry industry.

After graduating from the school the school six years ago, Mandell went on to the University of Southern California (USC), studying acting and the entertainment business.

During his time here, he was the ASB president,  drum major, a speech and debate captain and the director of the student production “The Woman in Black” during his senior year.

His exposure to the arts in high school encouraged him to pursue his passion later.

Since then, Mandell has worked for companies like ICM Partners, the agency of actors Samuel L. Jackson and Jodie Foster, and Leverage Management, the production company behind the 2015 movie “Entourage.” He has also worked for Appian Way, Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company.

Mandell said that he was drawn to the field because entertainment allows him to truly express himself in a way a typical Silicon Valley job, such as being a doctor or an engineer, might not.

“The entertainment industry is truly a place to express some of the most prevalent issues and make vulnerability a strength, not a weakness, shining a light on the stories that need to be told,” Mandell said.

Mandell said that the business side of the entertainment industry is nothing like what he expected. Instead of the fast-paced environment that he envisioned, Mandell realized that projects take a  long time to complete. Some can span several years.

One of the many unexpected situations that he has had to tackle was during a short film that Mandell recently scripted  called “Laughing Along the Way.” After deciding on a $3 million budget for the project, Mandell met with Indomitable Entertainment to start the production process.

Although the company managers saw potential in Mandell’s script, they were only looking to back films with budgets ranging from $15 to $35 million. Therefore, instead of submitting his script that he had worked over three years on, Mandell was forced to use a different script which he had only started working on a week prior.

What Mandell learned from this situation was how surprising the industry was. Even after working on one project for several years, executives wanted something produced quickly for a script.

In the future, Mandell hopes to make more films that spark social commentary, similar to films such as 2014 film “Whiplash” and recent Academy Award winner for Best Picture, “Moonlight,” instead of the mainstream, conventional superhero or action movies.

Mandell has learned that putting his work out into the world and being vulnerable to criticism has made him a stronger writer, so he advises other students at Saratoga High to be brave and go for their dreams.

“Don’t be afraid to fail. I’m still working my way and paving my path,” Mandell said. “But at the end of the day, I’m doing what I love, and not everyone gets to say that.”