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North Las Vegas native bringing Nevada into the spotlight

Director. Writer. Producer. Photographer.

North Las Vegas native Lance Mazmanian moved to Los Angeles years ago to pursue a career in the film industry's epicenter.

At 12, he made his first Super 8 -millimeter film movies using a camera he purchased from a store on East Flamingo Road and South Maryland Parkway. The money he used was earned from selling subscriptions to the Las Vegas Review-Journal door-to-door.

His experience came from the streets of North Las Vegas through producer Dick Wolf's "Nasty Boys" television series in 1990. The drama featured a North Las Vegas police narcotics unit following six undercover police officers who fought crime in a drug-ridden neighborhood using "unorthodox" methods, according to the Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia. The show featured actors Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Franz.

"I looked through my first Panavision 35 -millimeter movie camera on Lake Mead near Las Vegas Boulevard (and on a Titan crane, no less)," Mazmanian wrote in an email interview with View Neighborhood Newspapers.

Growing up in "NorthTown," as Mazmanian puts it, he lived one block east of Jim Bridger Junior High School for 23 years. His father worked on Nellis Air Force Base for 35 years. He spent 14 years as a consultant for Station Casinos.

Since then, he has brushed elbows with Leonardo DiCaprio, Francis Ford Coppola and Bill Paxton, to name a few. Mazmanian, 45, spent three years actively working in the business -- drawing a paycheck from videos, movies, television shows, commercials and shorts. The next 20 years were spent struggling to get "above the line."

He is working on a project with European investors that will probably have most of the film's exterior sequences shot in Nevada. Mazmanian said he wants to develop a new independent studio, at the level of Paramount or Universal. This studio will one day operate under a completely different business/creative/distribution paradigm from current studios.

View: Talk about growing up in North Las Vegas. What was life like? What made you leave for Los Angeles?

Mazmanian: "The then-transient nature of Vegas meant I didn't keep new friends for long. So while in school, many other kids I'd sort of 'bonded' with suddenly moved away. That eased back a bit in high school. My thing from 5th grade (Tom Williams Elementary School) to senior graduation was theater. Any chance I got, no matter how small (or large) the department, I was there. (For 10 years, I thought I wanted to be an actor, but decided against it -- ironically after receiving my [Screen Actors Guild] card in November 1989, courtesy of Sean Penn's father, Leo Penn, who was directing a TV show I was working on.) I was heavily involved with Rancho's theatre department. I competed locally and regionally with the theatre team, did everything you can imagine on all kinds of shows and showcases. And I was as interested in all the technical stuff as I was in the acting. I moved to LA because it's the epicenter of the film business, even today. It wasn't until later in life that I realized I needed to direct feature films, and after this first movie with the European investors (as writer/producer), I intend to finally do so."

View: What's it like working in the film industry? Talk about competition -- how do you make your work stand out?

Mazmanian: "The average hours on a set number 12 a day for most crew. Some can work 13 to 15 hours a day, or more. This is five days a week, sometimes six. In all imaginable weather, at any conceivable hour. And the work can be grueling. Sure, some people are paid very well to do these hours, but some are actually making average wages. And it doesn't matter, anyway: It takes a special kind of person to deal with demands of this nature, in all manner of climate. As for competition, it's relentless. It's also very difficult to know who your friends are. Most people will not give you the time of day unless you have credits and/or visibility. At a typical Hollywood party, people usually size you up immediately by asking, 'So what do you do?' If your answer doesn't work for them, they will scan the room for more interesting 'game,' and be off. Thus, I always have three fun answers prepared for such transparently insincere individuals. Also, you can struggle for years with no support system of any kind, never being invited to parties and/or functions, and then one day your name is in the headlines at and suddenly all your frenemies and people you haven't heard from in years call and want to be your best pal. … Anyone wanting to get into the business needs either luck, money, a great support structure of friends and family, or all of the above. If you don't have these things, you best pray to be in the right place at the right time somewhere along the journey, with the skill and preparation to respond to the opportunity. You'll also need a spine made of Aggregated Diamond Nanorods. Talent helps, too."

View: What's your favorite aspect of film production? You've been a writer, director, producer, art, camera ...

Masmanian: "Directing. This, for me, is home. And I haven't even begun to 'officially' explore that on a professional level. But I assure you, I will. One thing at a time, however. For now, I'm just glad to finally be working, and with amazing, smart, seasoned people. And, we're all moving forward on a completely independent trajectory."

Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at or 383-0492.