By Raiza Giorgi
When the limousines pull up and Hollywood’s biggest stars step onto the red carpet, Chris Manigault feels proud of his accomplishments after months of preparations for that big day.
“I feel like the actors and actresses are coming to my house and we are showing off all the months of hard work to get it prepared. Hearing them say they are excited to walk the red carpet and seeing them love the atmosphere makes it all worth it,” Manigault said.
Manigault is one of the lead producers for the Academy Awards Red Carpet. (The Oscars ceremony will be televised this year on Sunday, Feb. 24.) He spends months coordinating with vendors, builders and designers to get the job accomplished before the stars converge for Hollywood’s biggest night.
Born in Hollywood, Manigault moved to the Santa Ynez Valley as he was entering eighth grade at Los Olivos Elementary School. He then spent four years at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, graduating in 2001.
“I acted as a child and wasn’t particularly interested in working in Hollywood until I went to high school. My close friend Daniel Lahr was an amateur film maker and we did theater together all four years. Along with our theater friends, we made a lot of projects together. That was really the start of my passion,” Manigault said.
Manigault went on to attend San Diego State University and majored in film and television. He then transferred to Chapman University and got his master’s degree in fine arts. He also met his wife, Bernadette.
“After I graduated from film school I was a ‘starving’ alum, desperately looking for a job in the business. My first gig was a commercial for a friend that I got paid $50 for, just to get work,” Manigault laughed.
A friend of his called and asked if he wanted to help with the MTV Music Awards.
“I jumped at that chance … I was a production assistant, basically one of the gophers, a ‘go-to’ guy, for the show. Those eight days were great and at the end, when the show was over, the production coordinator asked other PAs to stay and clean up. No one showed up that morning except him and I, and we put away what had to be a thousand chairs” Manigault said.
The producer liked his work ethic and invited him to help with a spinoff of “Project Runway,” moving furniture into the models apartment.
“After that gig, work started to pick up but then quickly came to a halt. It felt like the dark ages for a bit for my entertainment career, as I could not find work. I was about to take a marketing job selling car wash cleaner but just before I agreed, a friend called and asked if I was available to work,” Manigault said.
That was the last time Manigault had to look for work. Now he spends the majority of his year planning and coordinating the Academy Awards Red Carpet as well as the television element for broadcasters.
“I love working on this show so much. It is a blast to execute the academy’s vision and design. I work on the Oscars pre-show where they talk about the fashion and the nominees in their categories,” he said.
Manigault tries very hard not to get star-struck as the big names arrive, but he was excited to see Oprah and did take a moment to look when Star Wars characters C3PO and R2D2 walked the carpet.
“I am a huge Star Wars fan, and that was such a great moment,” he said.
In the hours before the show Manigault is meticulously making sure that all crew members are in their positions and last-minute details are taken care of before he gets dressed in his tuxedo.
“Everyone on the carpet has to be in formal attire. You won’t see anyone running around in jeans,” he said.
Manigault also helped produce Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday celebration at the Shrine Auditorium. He also works on the NBA Awards and other projects before he starts working in the fall on the Academy Awards.
In addition to his production role, Manigault still works in the film industry. He is developing his own feature film script and he is on the board of directors for the nonprofit Central Coast Film Society.
“When Dan (Lahr) asked if I would help with the film society I was so excited, because it brings me back to the valley and I get to help local filmmakers and students,” he said.
The Central Coast Film Society, which celebrates and promotes media arts in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, gearing up for its first film festival in 2020 to be held in the Santa Ynez Valley.
The society will host a fundraising Oscars viewing party from 4 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Grillhouse in San Luis Obispo. Admission is free, and those attending are encouraged to participate in the night’s contest to pick the Oscar winners.
For more information on the CCFS or the Oscars viewing party, log onto www.centralcoastfilmsociety.org/events.html.