We had the good fortune of connecting with Meridith Manning and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Meridith, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
This may sound cliche, but no matter the project or the budget, I always strive to go above and beyond. I’m known for my attention to detail and for making sure that every fact is correct, every base is covered, and every single frame is the very best it can be. By the time I share a project with the client, I know that we have truly given it everything we’ve got. We deliver on time (sometimes early!) and make sure that we have done everything possible so that when the client sees the final project, they’re thrilled. And sometimes, they even cry because seeing their own story told in such an authentic and truthful way—a way that explains to each potential customer/client what is it they’re about—can be emotional, in the best way possible. The best part of my business–and the part I take very seriously–is really getting to know the client and learning what it is they are hoping to convey via video. We specialize in documentary-style, natural, authentic video, and story-telling. In order to do that, I take the time to truly get to know my subject and the topic. Telling someone’s story is a huge responsibility and honor–one I don’t take lightly. It takes time, and listening, and patience; the big three. Combined with high-quality video, Emmy award-winning photographers and editors…our pieces come to life.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Meridith Manning Productions is a boutique production company based in Dallas. We pride ourselves on being nit-picky with each and every project that we produce. On-site, that means making sure on-camera interviews are perfectly lit; that the subject is at ease and their very best on camera; that stray hairs are tamed; that audio is clear; and that attention to every detail is 100%. We do everything from documentary-style productions to commercial shoots to in-house corporate videos, and everything in between. At the script-writing phase, we maintain regular communication with our clients so that we ensure a finished project that hits every goal, and that the project is always completed on time. I think that goes back to my days in the news business; news is all about tight timelines and delivering the content exactly when it’s needed. Our attention to that timeline, as well as our attention to every detail, is what sets up apart. How it all started….I have always been a curious person. That, combined with a love of writing and public speaking (not to mention a fascination with journalists like Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer) started my career path as a journalist. Though I originally planned to go the route of on-air television reporter, an internship at ABC NEWS (with Diane Sawyer!) opened my eyes to the many opportunities I might have as a producer. I also had somewhat unruly curly hair (not the best option for on-air talent) so behind-the-scenes producer was the route I ultimately chose. I started my career at ABC NEWS fresh out of college but decided to make the move to Dallas just two years later. In Dallas, I landed at one of the best local stations, WFAA-TV, where over the course of 8 years, I honed my skills in all areas of television news; as a field producer on multiple nationally televised stories, and later as an investigative producer. I was fortunate to work alongside some of the most talented and committed award-winning journalists and can honestly say that they were, in fact, the very best teachers and mentors. Along the way, I developed a reputation for getting my sources to share their stories. They trusted me, felt comfortable, and more importantly, they trusted that I would get their stories correct. It was something I prided myself on and never took for granted. I dug deep, taking as much time as necessary and asking as many questions as necessary until I felt I knew their story inside and out. You’ve heard the saying, ‘There are no dumb questions’? Well, it’s true. If you’re ever afraid you might sound dumb by asking a simple question, you won’t. The only way you can completely understand something is by asking questions and not being afraid to show someone what you don’t know. That’s really the only way you can learn. Being a journalist takes time, commitment, curiosity, tenacity and an unquenchable thirst for the true story. Once we started a family, I made the decision to go the freelance route so I would have more flexibility. During those years, I worked as a producer for many different networks and shows like Good Morning America, CBS, 20/20, CNN, Inside Edition, Fox Sports, and KTVT-TV. Eventually, I started my own company, Meridith Manning Productions, so that I could work directly with clients, combining my love of storytelling with their desire to share their story or campaign via video. It could be a fundraising video for a non-profit; a client sharing details about a new product, business, or campaign; in-house videos for employees or clients; a documentary-style video….the list is endless. What is the same for me is the level of production. I work with an award-winning talented team of photographers and editors who use state-of-the-art cameras, lighting, and equipment. I treat each piece, each script, as the most important and I always go back to my goal of getting the story right, hitting the mark, and exceeding the client’s expectations. The best compliment I receive is when someone says to me, ‘You told my story better than I could’ve told it myself’, or ‘You made my mom cry’, or better yet, ‘You brought me to tears’. For the past six years (season seven is currently in production.), in addition to working with individual clients, I have produced a series for WFAA-TV called Shaping: DFW, which focuses on entrepreneurs. With 50+ pieces under our belts, not to mention several Emmy Awards, we have the honor of showcasing the hard work and dedication that it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Maybe it takes one to know one, as I understand how tough the path can be. Sometimes that means meeting with a client to help them find their essence; what it is about them or their business that sets them apart, shows their passion, and ultimately helps them connect with their audience. Using the same interviewing skills and techniques I learned way back working in news, I help clients tell their story on video in a way that is authentic, connective, natural, and most of all, effective. Making the decision to leave a steady paycheck and benefits is never easy. Never. And the road is not always smooth, at least not for me. You have to knock on a lot of doors and do LOTS of work for which you won’t necessarily see an immediate return. On the flip side, however, the best part about starting your own business is that you can take it in the direction you desire. You can build it in a way that fits within your life. Know that along the way you may need to take some jobs that don’t pay as well, but those same jobs might help you diversify your skills. If you give it 100%, no matter the pay, that job might just lead to another, and another, and another, My best advice is to look at each opportunity as a door to something else. As a woman in the production business, I can say, without any doubt, that I have had to work harder to prove myself. From my very first entry-level job out of college, men with the same scarce resumes were given better positions and more hands-on opportunities to learn. It’s only recently that I really took some time to look back on my career and see where, as a woman, I was likely underestimated. If anything and this speaks to my stubbornness, it fueled me. That’s the same advice I would give another young woman starting out; don’t be deterred when someone thinks you’re not capable, just work your butt off and prove them wrong. These days it’s all about diversification so if you have an opportunity to learn to shoot, edit, write, field produce….try it all so that you have some familiarity. You may not be the best at each component, but the more diversified your skills, the more you have to offer.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Dallas really has some great, hidden spots to explore. With Covid, of course, we’ve all been so limited in getting out and socializing and seeing what this area has to offer, but going off my memory, here are a few faves: Armory DE in Deep Ellum: Great patio, delicious octopus (must have with french fries on the side) and yummy drinks. Dallas Farmers Market: Great little shops for TX-vibey stuff. Favorite Farmer’s Market lunch spot is definitely Nammi! Their lemongrass chicken rice bowl is the best. Kalachandji: This is the restaurant inside the Hare Krishna temple and has been a favorite spot for as long as I’ve lived in Dallas. I ate here weekly when I was pregnant with my daughter and I think it’s the reason its her favorite too. Best. Buffet. Ever. Another buffet, this time is Irving: Our Place Indian. Yummy! Not just vats of sauce with a piece of chicken, but instead lots of very fresh, plentiful options. Angelika Theater: Always interesting movie selections. Genesis Benefit Store: Thrifting at its best! Klyde Warren Park; Just a great little respite in the middle of downtown. Nice spot to spread a blanket, visit one of the food trucks, borrow and game, and just chill.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This may sound corny, but I can say with certainty that I owe my confidence to my parents’ belief in me. No matter what it was, there was never any doubt in their minds that I could achieve my goals. When I landed my first job in television (at ABC News in New York), I remember my dad said, “I knew you’d do it.” It was just an unwavering and never-faltering belief that the tenacity they could see in me as a child would stick with me through the years. As my career flourished, I think they saw it as a self-fulfilling prophecy; they were never shocked by the success, just accepting of it. Unfortunately, my dad passed away before I decided to venture out on my own, but I have no doubt he would not be surprised that I had to confidence to take the risk. As a parent myself, I always strive to instill that same confidence in my daughters so that they, too, know they there really are no limits.