Lenny Manzo’s memoir, “Above the Line: A Twenty Year Career inside the Movie Business,” is a likable, informative trek into the trenches of moviemaking. His passion for movies is part of the book’s appeal. We like Manzo, we want him to make it, and we read all the way to the end to see what happens. I’m not telling.

“Above the Line: A Twenty Year Career inside the Movie Business” By Lenny Manzo. Double Saw Press, 2011, Boston. 236 page paperback. For purchase information, go to www.lennymanzo.com.


Lenny Manzo’s memoir, “Above the Line: A Twenty Year Career inside the Movie Business,” is a likable, informative trek into the trenches of moviemaking. His passion for movies is part of the book’s appeal. We like Manzo, we want him to make it, and we read all the way to the end to see what happens. I’m not telling.


Manzo is a real life Rocky. You just can’t knock this guy down for long.


Manzo lives on Boston’s North Shore and opted to work, not in Los Angeles or New York City, but in the New England area so he could go home and see his wife and kids once in a while. This decision meant that Manzo could never fully turn himself over to his career. You must practice total immersion in the movie business and you must be very good at what you do.


Most of the continuous work is in Los Angeles and New York City. The work is far more seasonal in New England, due to the winters. Fall is when filming and the foliage in New England peak. Without the continuity, Manzo fell off the radar for months at a time. So almost seasonally, he had to re-invent himself. He tried acting in school, but then moved on to soundman, producer, equipment supplier, boom operator, carpenter, floor sweeper, layer of cables and more. He was always a freelancer and always vulnerable. He writes that his movie career had four major iterations. Despite the ups and downs, he worked on many of the big movies made in New England including “The Town” and “The Fighter” and “The Perfect Storm.” Sometimes he only had a few days’ work. On other movies, like “Surrogates,” he managed to stay with it through the final wrap.


According to Manzo, if you are “above the line” — director, actor or screenwriter (and possibly producer) — you can be nutty and volatile and demanding. But not so below the line. The rest of the crew had better be good and patient and of superhuman strength. Workdays start at 12 hours and go up from there. I learned all this from Manzo. Now, when I encounter a location shot in Rockport or Manhattan, as I often do, I will have a much better idea what’s going on. Often, nothing.


Just as they say, movie making is incredibly boring. Manzo, adept at entertaining himself and others, was well equipped for the work. I learned, also, that a quick glance at the food table reveals scads of info about the budget, the compassion of the director, and the eventual quality of the movie. Some movie projects even come with their own barista.


Manzo’s life would make a good comedy, I’m somewhat sorry to say. He has enormous ups and downs, but for the most part, this earnest, hard-working, driven man with boatloads of ideas has the happy face going all the time. His movie or TV series (though he’s not a fan of cable TV) would be a merger of “Entourage” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Tempers flare and power struggles erupt. Manzo, like others below the line, are vulnerable to the resulting flak. Yes, I think the next screenplay Manzo should write is a parody of his own experiences with the likes of Bruce Willis and Kevin James, two men with outsized egos and behaviors to match.


Manzo’s book is, overall, well done. It’s self-published and it’s different from a lot of memoirs you’re likely to pick up and read. He uses a low-grade sarcasm as his form of humor, which, over time, wears on the reader. Also, he rewords clichés, adding his own spin. He often puts his own story in the context of a movie scene. And his word choice isn’t always accurate. All that aside, there’s a refreshing honesty in this book and the man comes through loud and clear. This kind of honesty, which includes a man’s psychological and emotional grappling with passion and career, is very much an all-American story of entrepreneurial drive.


Rae Francoeur can be reached at rae.francoeur@verizon.net. Read her blog at www.freefallrae.blogspot.com or her book, “Free Fall: A Late-in-Life Love Affair,” available online or in bookstores.