Noel T. Manning–Advice for Limousine Drivers

Welcome to “Advice for Everyone!”  Can you tell us your name?  Any nicknames?
Noel T. Manning II – many call me Noel T.

What do you do for a living?
Associate VP for Marketing and Communications. Worked in broadcast journalism for ten years, and have been reviewing films for numerous outlets since college.

Can you give us a sentence or two on what makes a good movie for you?  How about a bad one?
Tough question. Because you have movies for entertainment, and then movies for art purposes. But first, I always look at the story, the idea, the concept that holds a film together. After that I examine the other puzzle pieces like characters, conflicts, acting, set design, effects, sound design, score … the whole package. A really good movie with an “A+” rating should hit strong on all those marks, and honestly that could be a popcorn blockbuster film or an Oscar caliber arthouse flick. It really varies. Ultimately I look for the purpose of the film, its meaning, and how all that comes together with the director’s intent. A bad film can fall short on several areas. I always go into any film expecting it to be at least average, and then I’ll grade up or down from there.

How old are you?
Older than the original Star Wars (1977) film, and younger than the camp classic Planet of Vampires (1965).

Where do you live?
Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

Where can we find you on the internet?
I offer reviews, commentary, and stories to numerous blogs and websites, but here’s a general snapshot:  criticschoice.com/members/nmanning/ and on twitter @noeltmanning or @CinemasceneUSA

The most interesting place you’ve visited?
Russia

Can you tell us a little about the Russia trip?
I went on a study abroad trip for a month to Russia in 1992. I fully immersed myself in the culture, the history, and the understanding of differences and similarities between peoples and nations. I discovered we had much more in common than I’d grown up believing. As a kid, I’d remembered Russia being our perceived enemy (Cold War style), but once I really got to know the regular people, I discovered we were much more alike than I could’ve imagined. We all wanted what was best for our people, and many times it related to a good paying job, food on the table, a good shelter overhead, and a positive future for our children. That really awakened me.

I was in Moscow on the day that Pepsi Cola was introduced to the country; that was an awesome experience to see people lined around the block for a taste of a cola drink that was born in the Carolinas.

I also discovered that the Russians loved American T-shirts (and MC Hammer pants), and I had quite a few. There were many times I literally traded the clothes off of my back for some brilliantly unique souvenirs. I still have a flag that once flew inside the Kremlin during the Cold War days.

The experience was unforgettable. I learned some conversational Russian, and quite a bit about their history too while there. It opened my eyes to a whole new world, and I think I did the same for some of the Russians as well. Even though there is quite a bit of chaos going on right now with Russia and the USA (yes, again), I still value my time and experiences there.

Your favorite meal?
Anything with peanut butter …. and/or chocolate.

Ever had any brushes with greatness?
Yes. Because of my work in TV, film, photography and music over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and interview Oscar winners, Emmy winners, Grammy winners and the like. From Octavia Spencer, to stars from the Big Bang Theory, to Bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs, I’ve been incredibly blessed to spend time with some great talents. One favorite memory connects to singer/songwriter Tom Petty.  I was shooting photography for a concert venue while he was in town, and I happened to bump into him backstage before his concert. When he saw me, he beamed with excitement, came up and grabbed me and said, “Hey, man, so great to see you, how ya been?” We exchanged pleasantries and chatted for a while. As we wrapped things up, he invited me backstage after the concert, and said to make sure I brought my sister too if she was around. I thanked him, said my farewell, wished him a good show and walked on … then I realized, I don’t even have a sister.

Pet peeve?
Bullies (of any age)

Favorite book, or movie, or television show?
Book: The Traveler’s Gift (Andy Andrews).  Movie faves  – 1. Almost Famous 2. Children of Men 3. Forrest Gump 4. Last of the Mohicans 5. Up (not in any particular order). TV Show: (classic) “The Twilight Zone” (current) “House of Cards”

If people want to pray for you, they could pray for….?
Continued guidance to live to serve God with my gifts and talents (the same for my children as well).

Tell us about your family?
Married since 1994 to Beth Lamb Manning (school teacher). Two Children: Kathryn Manning (college senior and has had two study-away experiences), Thomas Manning (high school senior and multi-marathon runner).

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
Drive a limo (once drove Aerosmith).

Can you offer some advice for limo drivers?
Driving someone in a limo can be a lot like being a counselor or bartender. I was amazed at how many people wanted to share with me their stories, concerns with the world, and personal problems. I discovered that you should always be open to listen, express interest, engage in dialogue without judgement, and be open to seek understanding of other opinions, thoughts and cultural differences. Driving a limo introduced me to people of varied life trajectories and backgrounds. I even drove members of Aerosmith once, and Steven Tyler chose to ride in the front seat with me – that simple instance taught me that no matter how famous or important you may be, you can always take time to spend getting to know everyday people… because at our core, we are all regular, everyday people.

… for fun, I’d drive through a McDonald’s drive-thru window in the limo –just to get reactions.

If you had any spare time, what would you do with it?
If money were no issue, I’d travel the world and journal my adventures.

Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered.
I love to write, read books, listen to music (variety of genres), skydive, run, hike trails, spend time with family and God, explore things beyond my comfort zone, snorkel, take part in community service, engage in dialogue with people different than I am, live life to its fullest every day.

Noel, thanks much for letting us get to know you a little bit.  May God bless you and your family in your adventures.