By Arthur Lightbourn
Eight-time Emmy Award winner Tonya Mantooth is carving an impressive niche for herself in the film and video world, just down the road a bit from Hollywood, in San Diego.
Mantooth, whose father was a Seminole, is the owner and executive producer of Mantooth Productions, a film and video production company which she launched in 2007, culminating 15 years in the business.
Show biz definitely runs in the family. Her two brothers, Randy and Don, were contract actors with Universal Studios. Older brother Randy starred in the hit 1970s TV series "Emergency" and, most recently, in the feature film "Bold Native."
Mantooth lives locally with her entrepreneur husband of five years Dale Strack, and her daughter, Stephanie, 19, and her son, Alex, 9.
Mantooth was born in El Campo, Texas. Her father was a pipeline construction worker in the '50s and '60s, so she and her two brothers and sister were "born all across the country — and I was the last one, born in Texas," she said.
"My oldest brother, by the time he went into high school, lived in, I think, 42 states."
The family eventually moved to Santa Barbara, where her mother decided that was the place she wanted to stay — Mantooth's parents subsequently divorced.
"But I was lucky and got to got to grow up in Santa Barbara and just be in one house. Even though it was far from Los Angeles, there were a lot of acting families there and both my brothers were in local and regional theater and I was too."
She was also drawn to music.
"My mom had a piano in the house and somebody needed to play it and everybody voted that would be me and I was the one who stayed with the lessons.
At San Diego State University, in 1981, she earned a B.A. in business administration and music.
Music, understandable, but why business?
"That's an interesting question," she said. "Actually my best friend's father, a very successful businessman, was a big influence of mine because (from age 3) I had grown up without a father. He encouraged me and spent a lot of time working me through career goals."
Asked what was the best advice he gave her, she said, "It was to treat others the way you want not only to be treated, but want to be remembered. That would definitely be one of my philosophies. I always try to keep that in mind when I hire people and people work for me."
After college, she sang and played professionally on the road for three years. Then, settling back in San Diego, she continued her singing and piano gigs while entering the business world via film and video as marketing manager for Learning Forum, where she oversaw the development and launch of an educational series for teenagers.
Finding her stride, she moved to CRM Films where she used her business savvy to manage the direct marketing of the company's inventory of 200 business films and to executive produce new corporate films.