Mandi Lyn Toan is a young woman learning the filmmaking trade through education and on-the-job training. She’s a junior at University of Southern Indiana getting a degree in Communications/Theater. She’s also involved in numerous upcoming feature films including Gospel Writers Autograph, The Tomorrow Saga, and The Good Book.
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be involved with films in some way. Acting, directing, producing, casting, assisting, music, anything at all I wanted to be a part of it. The very first movie I remember watching as a kid was The Wizard of Oz. I have a great passion and appreciation for acting. I started theater when I was about 11 years old. I began learning different musical instruments and continued on with theater throughout my high school years. After graduating high school I attended a community college that does not have acting classes or a theater to perform in so I unfortunately had to take a break for about 2 years. During my second year of college (2011) I found out about the local Civic Theater and was thrilled to pick up theater again. Then during that same year I met someone involved in a local independent film who said they were in need of volunteer Production Assistants. We were working 10 plus hours a day, barely eating, staying up working through the night sometimes on 2-3 hours of sleep but I loved being able to say I was working on a film! Since then I’ve worked on music videos, commercials, TV shows, shorts, feature films and a web series taking on various roles from actress to Production Assistant to Assistant Director and more!
To date I have worked on two completed faith-based films with several more lined up in the next few months. My first was Right to Believe starring Jenn Gotzon with Director Chip Rossetti as his Assistant Director and soon after Chip, myself and a few others, entered into the 168 Film Competition with our submission of our short film Broken where I was his Assistant Director as well. Recently I have been working alongside Chip again as his Assistant Director for his next feature The Gospel Writers’ Autographs. I will also be working on The Good Book with Director Sharon Wilharm, The Tomorrow Saga with Director Gunter H. Sanderson, and more!
Tell us about a typical day on set as a production assistant.
A day on set as a Production Assistant can be very challenging and stressful sometimes. It also depends on what kind of project you’re working on. Personally my jobs have included anything from getting people’s coffee and lunch order, getting releases, running errands all the way to filling in for actors and other crew members. Don’t go in expecting anything to go a certain way because every project is different. Working as a PA on a reality TV show I started out one day simply picking up people from the airport and driving them to their hotels. Then another project I simply followed the Director around and did whatever he asked me to do. Some things you can prepare for are long days because there usually isn’t a guarantee that everything is going to be on schedule. In fact 99% of the time it’s not. Other jobs you can expect to do are lots of running around, loading and unloading equipment and crafty (food services), lugging around the equipment, making sure people and things are getting where they need to be. The list is endless when it comes to the responsibilities of a PA. But it’s also a very rewarding and humbling role and no project could be accomplished well without one!
Without a doubt so far my favorite film crew job was my first faith-based film Right to Believe with Chip Rossetti. Working on this film literally changed my life! I reclaimed my faith, grew closer to God, was able to work with Chip for the first of many times, met the incredible and lovely Jenn Gotzon who became a great friend and supporter and above all working on this film helped save my life! Sounds a bit overdramatic I know but I was heading down a very dark path in my life at the time and being able to work in such a positive, empowering and uplifting environment with such amazing people brought me to a better and brighter path. I met new friends and had some of the most memorable experiences of my life and it has changed me for the better ever since!
What do you enjoy most about working on a set?
What I enjoy about working behind the scenes of a set is seeing things from a different point of view. Instead of being in front of the camera you are behind it, not just watching things happen but MAKING things happen! Watching the movie being made right before your eyes, looking through the camera, seeing the impact of sound and lights and how they affect the scene and so on. Working behind the scenes gave me an appreciation on what it really takes to make a movie happen! Being able to see the finished project and say “Hey I helped make that!” is one of the best feelings ever.
My ultimate career goal would be to act and make movies full time as my career. It’s what I am going to school for and what I’ve always dreamed of doing. There’s something I think everyone can understand and relate to, and that is being passionate about something. I believe God gave me these gifts and talents for a reason and I am passionate about it! It’s such a hard industry to get into and live successfully and comfortably but I believe it’s what I am meant to do. If what I do spreads a great message, makes someone laugh, cry or feel moved in some way than I know it’s worth it. It’s my dream and I won’t give up.
A few weeks ago my family was hit with something very devastating and life changing. My sweet 4 old nephew Josiah Valen Hodges was diagnosed with Leukemia. It started out as Acute Leukemia with a good prognosis but just last Monday the doctors changed the diagnosis to a very rare form of cancer, with a not so good prognosis. He went from standard risk to high risk and will need extensive treatments of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant as well with at least 3 years of chemotherapy ahead of him. My sister and her husband also have 3 other children and for the past few weeks they have been separated from each other. My sister has been staying with Josiah at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis while her husband and the other children stay at home, which is 3 hours away from the hospital. The family has also been dealing with the fact that they don’t have any health insurance and while we can’t personally heal Josiah, we can however relieve some of the financial burdens they are and will be facing for a long time. We have a prayer page on Facebook called “Pray for Josiah” where people can receive updates on Josiah, how he is doing day to day, offer prayers and encouragement, and it also has information on different ways people can help. Chip Rossetti is going to donate 10% of everything his next film Gospel Writers’ Autographs brings in, there are several websites where people can help support and donate and we are setting up a concert to help my sister and the family as well. First and foremost what we ask for are thoughts and prayers to the family. If people could also spread the word about the different websites it would be greatly appreciated. We have been blown away and overwhelmed by the love and support from everyone we have received so far and are very grateful.