the Show issue 27 cover photo with Stefani Manger

To hear Stefani Manger talk about entertainment advertising, you’d almost think that being a freelance art director was one of the most relaxing jobs in the world. Forget that as a creative person, she needs to generate dozens of ideas for movie posters, DVD packaging, logos, brochures, e-blasts, whatever, in a matter of hours. Ideas that have to seamlessly navigate the labyrinth of requirements imposed by the studio execs. Ideas that have to be clever, and memorable, and tell a compelling story at a mere glance. And that’s the easy part. She then has to take those inspirations and bring them to life in beautiful, fully-realized designs, often in just a couple of days. All the while knowing that there’s no such thing as missing a deadline; the presentation date is merciless, unforgiving, immovable.

Ultimately, her work is often measured up against dozens of other ideas from competing agencies, and sometimes, the studio takes everybody’s work, puts it in a blender and mixes it all together to come up with something completely unrecognizable from what was initially presented. Trust us, it takes nerves of steel, extreme skill, and a ridiculous amount of patience.

Stefani shrugs it off. “I’ve been doing this a long time,” she says matter of factly, “and I’m at the point where I can hit the ground running.” As a freelancer, Stefani works for all the top entertainment agencies in town, sometimes several different ones in a given week. “I can set up anywhere and do whatever I need to do because it’s the world that I know. After doing this for the last ten years, I understand how studio think, I know what they’re looking for. I know the variety they expect.” She pauses for a moment to reflect. “You know, once you do entertainment advertising, it’s pretty much where you stay. It’s really hard to break into, and people usually don’t leave the business. If they do, they’re out.”

“The first round presentation is my favorite part of the process,” says Stefani, “because that’s when it’s really and truly your idea. Once you show it to the marketing folks, they either like it or they don’t and of course they put their 2, 3, 4, or 5 cents into it, and suddenly it’s no longer like your original idea. That’s just the nature of the game.” Stefani laughs, then adds, “If you could ever see the first round of any exploration you’d be blown away. You’d wonder, why didn’t they pick this cool movie poster … instead of this giant big head in the sky?” Even so, Stefani obviously loves her craft. “I like films. I know what it takes to make films. A film is an artistic endeavor, and I like being able to promote something that is artistic. It’s a lot of fun and super-creative.” As a student at Manhattan’s prestigious School of Visual Arts, Stefani studied painting and the arts. Oh, and she also took one computer class. She moved to Los Angeles where her dad was a film editor, and her first gig was as a messenger, which is a pretty long way from creating movie posters. “I learned on the job,” says Stefani. “I was very lucky.” Meanwhile, in what might be called Stefani’s parallel universe, not long after she moved West, a yoga studio opened up around the corner from her place. It was a life changer. “From the moment I took my first class, I loved it.It’s the ultimate stress reliever.” Aha. Now we’re starting to see how Stefani copes. “The physical limb of yoga and it’s philosophy are life changing. It gives you an incredible awareness of your body,” Stefani tells us with an obvious passion. “You start to notice your posture. And when you get upset, you learn to use breathing to calm yourself rather than reacting. It’s just so blissful … you can’t help but want the experience again and again.” As the saying goes – blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.

Last year, during a work hiatus (otherwise known to most of us as the economic recession), Stefani finally had the time to pursue her dream of one day becoming a yoga instructor. “I’ve always known that I don’t want to be in entertainment advertising forever,” Stefani says, “… and if I’m going to teach yoga in another ten years I have to start somewhere. I had the time off and the support of my boyfriend, so it was perfect. I went through a 200-hour certification program at Yogaworks and became a certified teacher.”

Today, Stefani teaches at least one day a week at a studio, and she conducts more classes out of her home – sometimes several a day. “I guess I’m attracted to calming influences,” Stefani explains, “which I suppose is one of the reasons I love First Entertainment.” Perfect segue. “I’ve been a member for about ten years,” she goes on to tell us, “although I did bank at Wells Fargo for about half a second.” She shrugs. “Never again.”

“First Entertainment has helped me in so many different ways.” Stefani explains. “And what’s great is that when I have a question, say, about rolling over a Roth IRA, they really take the time to explain it in layman’s terms that even a person who draws pretty pictures for a living can understand. The personal attention is fantastic.” Stefani is on a roll … who are we to stop her? “First Entertainment helped me buy my car with a great loan. I’ve got some good investments through them, and I think they offer members some good deals. Unlike Wells Fargo, who buries you in fees, First Entertainment is on our side. They’re human, and genuinely understand the business.” As Stefani talked, she was holding the last issue of the Show. She held it up and said, “I’ve always liked reading the profiles in the magazine and learning about the different jobs that people do in Hollywood. Because they’re so not typical. The most interesting thing is that through all the individuals there’s a common thread – most people don’t set out to do what they end up doing, it just sort of happens. Kind of like me.” Here’s to going with the flow.