Meet Awards Alum Jesse Manning

Jesse Manning, courtesy of Business Lunch Productions

Every now and then at the Scholastic Awards, we have the distinct pleasure of running into another member of our Scholastic Awards family out in the wild… and that is exactly what happened with this month’s featured alumnus, Jesse Manning!

Journey back with us to March of 2019 when the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the nonprofit behind the Scholastic Awards, was searching for a professional videographer to capture the unique magic that comes from having hundreds of National Gold Medalists together in a single space. Through a referral, the Alliance connected with Business Lunch Productions, a Brooklyn-based production company. And who should we find at the helm of this impressive team but none other than Jesse Manning, a Scholastic Awards alumnus pursuing his art professionally.

Jesse first got to know the Scholastic Awards in 2009 when he received a Gold Key for his photography portfolio. Although Jesse had been pursuing the arts since junior high, his Gold Key played a pivotal role in supporting him to continue his creative journey and eventually go on to co-found his own creative agency.

Check out our Q&A with Jesse to learn more about his journey from receiving his Gold Key in 2009 to now, and keep reading to find out his prompt for our August Start.Write.Now challenge!

Q&A with Jesse Manning

Q: What impact did receiving your Award have on you and your path?

A: This award got me into college.

I was wait-listed for Brandeis University at the time.  When I won the Gold Key, I sent the news along and soon after they admitted me.  From a journey perspective, my Gold Key was something uniquely gratifying for me as an artist.  I had gone to a junior high where I was in a screened photography program, but when I was accepted into the Art Program in high school, film photography was not a major focus of the Art Department.

As a screened Art student, I needed to be doing sculpture, drawing and painting and these did not come easy to me.  I was sort of always at the bottom in terms of the talent pool in a lot of my art classes.  So as a senior, when I found out that I had won this award, it made a lot of that initial struggle and perseverance worthwhile.  I saw myself on the same level as some of my most talented peers not only in my school, but also across the country.  To show up and see my work in the Brooklyn Museum with my pictures professionally matted and framed for free, the experience validated my creative identity.

Q: How did you pursue your creativity after high school?

A: I truly believe that once you develop an eye and passion for creativity, and a critical mind for what can be improved, it flows seamlessly into everything you do.  In college I was a part of the radio station and ultimately ended up planning major concerts with Childish Gambino, Fun., Kendrick Lamar and others as part of my work for the University.  I did a lot of cooking and teaching of cooking–I think food is such a creative medium, especially in 2019.  You eat with your eyes.  I worked for Major League Baseball as one of the original people that did Statcast for live TV broadcasts which allowed me to combine my creativity with my passion for sports and that won a few Emmy Awards. Now as the COO of my own company, I get to both be creative and support others in the arts everyday.

Q: What are you up to now?

A: Perhaps the most important undertaking in my life was starting a creative agency (Business Lunch Productions) with my best friend Matt Hunter.  Matt went to school for screen composition at SUNY New Paltz and I was a politics and American studies major with a journalism minor at Brandeis.  When we graduated in 2013, Matt wrote a feature film script and we decided that we should draw upon our network of talented creative friends and make the film, which we did.  We used it as a jumping off point to start our company which has in turn inspired us through corporate and creative projects.  In the years since, we have made documentaries, short films, features, ads, and have a fast-growing commercial projects division that works with many top end clients to bring their marketing vision (both artistic and strategic) to little and big screens around the world.

Q: Where can people find your work?

A: Our work can be found in many places.  We are an official Snapchat Creative Partner and so when clients come to Snap looking to do a commercial shoot, much of the time they turn to us.  If you see a story ad, we may well have helped to create it.  We have partnered on ads for everyone from Dunkin’ Donuts to Verizon and Porsche.  In addition, we produced a weekly show for ESPN Deportes and a lot of recent photography and video work can be found on iSpot TV’s Instagram. You can check out our company reel on the BLP site.

Q: What inspires you to start working on a new piece?

A: I think with the hustle and bustle of my day to day, and the constantly changing circumstances that go along with it, it’s the moments of peace that inspire new and innovative ideas.  When I am in the shower, or on the train, or taking a long drive and I have nothing else I can be doing other than that one task, that is when my brain can decompress and the ideas come out.  The inspiration could be anything from an article I read at some point to a story that I feel needs to be told.  I am a huge advocate of stepping back from the blitz of the modern world to find inspiration. That includes taking a break from technology from time to time.

Q: Anything else you want to share students who might want to submit?

A: The only way to fail is by giving up.  Success might not take the path you envision or might not look exactly like what you thought it would, but that doesn’t mean you won’t succeed.  If you believe in yourself, your work, and you are always your own best advocate personally and professionally, then you are going to make it in life!

Check out more about Jesse’s company, Business Lunch Productions, and their recent work at!

Start.Write.Now August Prompt: From Jesse Manning

The Prompt: What’s for lunch?

From Jesse: At Business Lunch Productions, as you may have guessed, we are big on food, and food is such a big inspiration for me personally as well.  We have this phrase we always ask one another, which we are even turning into a fun Instagram series. Write about it, draw about it, make photos, music . . . cook a meal and make a video. That question is: What’s for lunch?

Jesse with Business Lunch Productions co-founder, Matt Hunter, with one of many possible answers to their question: sandwiches were for lunch that day. (Photo courtesy of Jesse Manning and Business Lunch Productions)

Start.Write.Now Reminders!

As a reminder, all responses to the Start.Write.Now post are due August 22, 2019. Email your responses to us at with the subject line “Start.Write.Now.” Make sure to review our guidelines for participating before emailing in your work. Everyone is invited to use this prompt as inspiration for your work this summer, even if you choose not to or are ineligible to participate in the Start.Write.Now challenge.

Check back on August 29 for a chance to see the works that this prompt inspired, who are our lucky gift card winners, and to get excited for the launch of the 2020 Awards on September 12!

All participants must be 13 years of age or older, and follow the Scholastic Awards eligibility criteria. For more information on participating, please see our full guidelines.

Have questions for Jesse, or another alum that you want to hear from? Share them in the comments section!

One response to “August Start.Write.Now with Jesse Manning”

  1. Carol Moore Tricarico Avatar
    Carol Moore Tricarico

    So proud of my student Jesse. He was a star at Mark Twain Intermediate School for the Gifted and Talented and will continue to do so . !


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