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'Next Stop for Charlie' is offbeat global tour

by Lynn Elber
| December 3, 2010 8:00 PM

LOS ANGELES - Filmmaker, TV producer and world traveler Neil Mandt has seen the flip side of U.S. air travel security and safety procedures.

He's been through overseas airports lacking even metal detectors. He was on a plane bound for Paupua New Guinea that boasted a full-size raft, bolted in place of rows 18 to 26, to be used in case of an emergency landing at sea.

"The plane would have had to break up to get the raft out. That's how big it was," Mandt recalled.

His recent globe-hopping was in service of the Showtime comedy-adventure series "Next Stop for Charlie," airing 11 p.m. ET Thursday and created and produced with Neil's brother, Michael Mandt.

A follow-up of sorts to "Last Stop for Paul," the Mandts' well-received independent film, the Showtime series follows Charlie (Neil Mandt) as he searches for his wayward young cousin, college dropout Eric (Erik Adolphson), to haul him back home.

Eric is following his version of an international festival circuit, hop-scotching to cities where local celebrations are taking place. Charlie is in hot pursuit of Eric, and a good time.

With that bare-bones plot in place, each episode includes a real festival as backdrop and is improvised with locals, whether taxi drivers, bystanders or even police.

Mandt, who acts as star, sometime crew member and director, had a run-in with Thai authorities as he was filmed inside a tiger cage. He ended up at the police station but managed to convince officials that his project wouldn't demean the noble animal.

Every adventure, expected or not, is a candidate for the final cut.

Mandt's Charlie, a bathroom supplies salesman, and his lost, found and lost again cousin scramble through 10 countries in the series, including Colombia, Belgium, Thailand, Japan, Philippines, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Morocco and Turkey.

The on-the-fly production style - and a budget of between $7,000 to $15,000 per episode - called for scenes to be shot and then restaged and shot again from different points of view with one or two mini HD cameras and wireless mikes.

Besides Mandt and co-star Adolphson, there was a crew member on the madcap ride. At times, a passerby's help was enlisted, Mandt said.

The series, like the movie the Mandt brothers made before it, attempts to show what travel can be like when a visitor is immersed in the life of a country as more than a sightseer, said Neil Mandt, whose credits include Syfy's "Destination Truth" and ESPN's "Jim Rome Is Burning."

"There's nothing I have made that has had a bigger impact on people than my travel projects. Travelers say, 'Yes, that happens.' For people who want to travel, they say, 'I want that to happen,'" Mandt said.

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