Electric Theatre Collective LA’s Managing Director on happy accidents, her passion for dance and running a top-tier VFX house
Tiffani Manabat believes that training classically as a ballet dancer, and cultivating the discipline necessary, set her in good stead for later life in advertising. After getting a break as an on-set production assistant, her career has taken her to some of world’s best known production and post production companies, including Anonymous Content, Digital Domain and Caviar, on top of a stint at VH1 / MTV.
She’s just joined Electric Theatre Collective as its LA managing director and is tasked with overseeing innovation and strategy for what is one of adland’s most exciting markets right now. Less than a month into the role, LBB’s Addison Capper picked her brains to find out what was so tempting about joining ‘The Collective’ and what she has planned for it.
LBB> You’ve been at Electric Theatre Collective for a month or so now - what was it about the company that tempted you over?
TM> The work made me turn my head long before anyone reached out. Then I met the team.
It’s difficult to answer this question without sounding like a sycophant, but I’m impressed every day by this group. They’re fearless and driven, with the topic of craft interwoven within every conversation be it creative or financial. It’s such a refreshing shift.
LBB> What are your goals and plans for the new venture?
TM> Right now it's all about strengthening and fortifying business practices, both internally and externally. The Collective established themselves as great creative partners and through those collaborations have earned repeat clientele - not an easy thing to do with all the options available today.
We’ve got specific short-term goals including reasonable growth / expansion and long-term goals, which we hold close to the vest, but we’re always forward-thinking. It’s my goal to keep us constantly moving, never stagnant, never comfortable.
LBB> You’ve worked at a number of top tier production and post production companies - how did you get into the industry in the first place? Was it planned or a happy accident?
TM> Absolutely a happy accident. I trained classically in ballet and modern dance as a young child, which developed into a career going well into my early 20s. I was on a long-term travelling project and grew very close with the tour manager who was on hiatus from line producing TVCs. When the tour wrapped, she went back to her old stomping grounds and took a freelance job for a small ad agency in NY producing a string of :30 AOL spots. She knew I was looking to retire from the road and as a favour, asked a local LA production company to hire me as an on-set production assistant. The rest is comic fodder as I stumbled through some pretty hairy experiences!
Looking back, I spent a fair bit of my childhood in an extremely regimented environment where there was no substitute for proper planning and training and where respect for the craft was a non-negotiable. Solid ground for this business I think.
LBB> As part of your role you’ll be “overseeing innovation and strategic directions” - what kind of innovation and tech is exciting you in the post sphere at the moment?
TM> The evolution of GPU/cloud options plus affordability makes me happy for sure. We’re travelling much lighter not having to rely on massive farms or an overbearing infrastructure in order to deliver beautiful VFX. With the UK office and the US office working together across a connected pipe, we’ve got the round the clock advantage too - though it does require constant watch and care.
Also, social media marketing in e-commerce is fascinating! From Volvo’s Interception to this year’s Snap/NBA All-Star Nike Jordan Drop, we’re asking ourselves how we can be of service to our clients in this space. If something requires deeper R&D investment, we take a closer look and consider it. Being a house like ours, innovation is crucial.
LBB> An exciting part of Electric Theatre Collective’s family is Friends Electric - will you also be overseeing the development of that area of the business in LA? If so, that must be an exciting prospect to push?
TM> As a member of the executive board, I am part of the team that oversees the development of Friends Electric in LA. The roster is unreal - from illustrious animation filmmaker Pete Candeland, to design-lead experiential specialists Silent Studio, over to creative VR/AR technologists No Ghost...to be able to offer up such a versatile bunch of collaborators to our clients is an exciting prospect, absolutely.
LBB> I think there’s always a bit of healthy competition between NY and LA in terms of the ad industry, and LA seems so exciting and vibrant. How do you see the industry in LA at the moment?
TM> This is a very myopic perspective of course, but it seems to be a very healthy industry for LA at the moment. The ever-evolving structure of our work also brings a variety of fruit to bear and we find that exciting.
LBB> Who are your creative heroes and why?
TM> Milos Forman. I was 15 years old when I first watched Amadeus and it left very deep impressions. It introduced morality as a question and what it meant to covet. It wasn’t until I was a bit older did I fully realise the masterpiece that it actually is.
Wes Anderson, because his films are just plain fun. And he embraces people’s differences. I love that.
And most importantly, my mother who still finds the time to send her three adult children Easter cards and baskets filled with all the cavity-invoking treats of our childhood.
LBB> Outside of work, what are you into? What keeps you going?
TM> Currently I’m into Netflix’s Ozark and My Next Guest Needs No Introduction (am waiting patiently for more episodes). I’m hooked on Entrepreneur and social media influencer Gary Vaynerchuck’s IG postings and keynote speeches. He has a cut-through style that I really respond to.
I still take dance classes but injure myself pretty often, and that’s fine really. It takes me out of my head for an hour, like meditation.
One thing that keeps me going is my 18-month old son Maverick. He helps me keep things simple. For instance, one of his favorite toys is a good old fashioned spinning top. I forgot how cool they are! I work hard at staying off my phone when I’m with him, and when I’m at the office I’m fully focused on the business. Time away from him is tough but I love what I do and count myself lucky.