The nomination list for the 10th edition of the Uganda Film Festival (UFF) awards was recently unveiled, with several uncommon names unlike in the past. One name stood out – Allan Manzi – for his nomination for Best TV Drama/Series, Juniors Drama Club (JDC) drama series. In a phone interview with Ahmad Muto on Monday, May 15, film producer and director Manzi talked about his exploits at America’s The Jerry Springer Show, Netflix and US’ National Broadcasting Company (NBC).
Allan Manzi boasts a solid resume in film and television, having lived and worked as a student in the bustling and fleeting global entertainment capital – the US.
He interned at the US’ National Broadcasting Company (NBC) as a director’s personal assistant (PA), where he got to work with late American talk show host Jerry Springer on his TV show The Jerry Springer Show for four years, starting 2013.
Manzi was at the time pursuing his master’s degree in film and TV at Sacred Heart University, in Connecticut, about 40 minutes from New York.
“I made sure the director had all the notes for the show. Same with the producers. I watched and ensured quality control; spotted the blips and pointed them out. I also ordered the director’s lunch,” he says.
Also, while at the Sacred Heart University as a student, Manzi says he was a graduate assistant, where he would help out the lecturers and faculty heads that after four years of study and work, he felt it was right to return home.
How did he score the NBC internship?
According to Manzi, he got to learn about the internship opportunity at campus, where they told him it was a paid internship, with minimum wage.
“I was like how much? I was already happy because I was studying and so I applied immediately,” Manzi quipped.
His experience with the channel, he says, was amazing. He met many celebrities who were the embodiment of American culture, but also got to meet the rural Americans they hide from the rest of the world and from TV.
Then came Netflix
“There were days NBC would give us half days, then half weeks where we would have four days off. So, we would post on our filmmakers’ groups about gigs that were open. That was how I was called onto a project I didn’t know, next thing I knew it was a Netflix comedy drama called Master of None,” explains Manzi.
The time he worked on it, it was an untitled Netflix project because they had not decided on the name yet. But he saw many celebrated actors, actresses on it. After its release, it went on to win Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (2016), Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Comedy Series (2016), and a Peabody Award (2016).
“The people I worked with in production where the ones up there receiving the awards. So, it opened me up to the fact that it is possible. There were so many people on the project, intense production and editing so it taught me how to divide labour and manage a project,” Manzi noted.
What was it like working with Jerry Springer?
Springer, Manzi, says was a kind person. “He was in his 70s, but he used to live in New York for two days and go back to his home in Florida. Every week at the end of the show, he would say he was still doing it for over 30 years because he had seen his crew get families and grandchildren on his show. He felt he owed them,” says Manzi.
Working with him and NBC in general, Manzi says, taught him how to respect the hierarchy of film and content production – everyone’s job is important, however small.
“We were hundreds of people working in that studio. We would produce 25 episodes of four different talk shows every week. The Jerry Springer Show was just one of them. We would film random shows of people shooting pilots of shows people will never see. Weekends I would look for other gigs to pay my bills. So that’s how I ended up working at Netflix,” recounts Manzi.
Jerry Springer, real name Gerald Norman Springer, 79, succumbed to pancreatic cancer on April 27, 2023.
After four years with NBC, Manzi returned to his first Uganda Film Festival (UFF) award in the Best Short Film category for Rehema. The film premiered at the 38th Durban International Film Festival in South Africa in 2017. Then Kyadala also hit and now Juniors Drama Club (JDC) drama series has produced three UFF 2023 nominations – it is nominated in the Best TV Drama/Series category; Gaetano Kaggwa for Best Actor in a TV/drama Series, and Diana Nabatanzi for Best Actress in a TV/ Drama Series.