Service disabled Army Veteran Travis Mandenberg uses entrepreneurship to manage his PTSD. His photography and videography business, Visionary Media Productions, helps him to find a sense of calm and peace, and to see the world in a positive new way. See also IMDB page.
Like many other young people, Travis Mandenberg found himself struggling to survive economically during his youth.
“I was either 18 or 19, and I wasn’t really going anywhere. I wanted to go to college, but I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do with my life.”
Every time he would finally save up enough money to enroll in college, his car engine would blow, his tire would go flat, or some other expensive unfortunate event would occur to ruin his plans. While working at one of his minimum wage jobs, Mandenberg decided that he had had enough, and he made the snap decision to tell his boss that he was leaving early to go sign up for the Army. The Army promised him direction, education and travel, which was the exact change that Mandenberg needed at this time. His commitment to the military quickly became very serious, as the tragic events of 9/11/01 occurred while he was still in basic training.
In 2003, Mandenderg was deployed to Iraq as a member of the first node center team.
“The first ever! Not just in recent times, but the first node center team ever to enter Iraq!”
Mandenberg wrote as an outlet and to relieve stress. Realizing that the proper story can change the world he became committed to examining the world though narration. He knew that the best way to get his stories told was through film. He decided there that telling stories through film was his goal, however as he learned and grew he has adapted and included new ways of communication.
Although Mandenberg is so very proud of the work he did while in the military, he now suffers from service-related disabilities, including PTSD, Tinnitus, hearing loss, and a severe knee injury.
“PTSD is something you see in a lot of soldiers. I was just angry all of the time.” He admits that the paranoia, hypervigilance, and anger affected a lot of his relationships and made the transition to civilian life that much harder.
“It was really difficult transitioning to civilian life. In the military people always tell you exactly what they want. In civilian life, they don’t.”
He tried a variety of new occupations; he worked briefly as a wedding officiant, a substitute teacher, and even doing data entry for security clearances. In 2006, Mandenberg started doing Martial Arts at White Tiger Martial Arts in Traverse City. This challenged him and opened him up to new ideas and ways of thinking that he’d never experienced before. Since then one of his goals has been to capture the true essence of martial arts on video, to go beyond the physical, to the depths of movement itself. For a short time, Mandenberg considered becoming a martial arts instructor full-time, but his greatest relief from his PTSD came when he was being creative with photography or videography.
“When I’m doing video or photography, it helps to keep me calm. I love doing it.”
These feelings of calming and love are completely visible in his videos and photographs. He explains that photography and video sets are constantly changing and providing him with new, creative challenges, which he thrives on and uses as opportunities to see the world through fresh eyes. For Mandenberg, the opportunity for change is the absolute best part of being an entrepreneur and owning his own business.
In December of 2012, Mandenberg graduated from Grand Valley and moved back to Traverse city where he met and started working with several filmmakers in the Grand Traverse Area.
Mandenberg started Visionary Media Productions, a multimedia production company. He describes his business with a sense of accomplishment and relief. Mandenberg enjoys the freedom of being able to choose the projects that interest him in the most creative ways. As a disabled veteran he was eligible to receive financial and business support through The VA Accelerator Program. The VA Accelerator Program has helped him in all phases of entrepreneurship, from initial self-assessment and business plan preparation through the launch and growth of his businesses.
“People like to say you need to focus on one type of photography, but I like to prove those people wrong.”
Mandenberg currently teaches a fight choreography class for the seeds program, teaches video classes as part of the adult education program at the Northwestern Michigan College, and works on many different film projects. He has worked on model photography, engagement photos, product and food photography, as well as movie and TV sets. Currently, Visionary Media Productions is primarily setup for industrial videos and interviews, but Mandenberg dreams of expanding the business beyond these things. His long term goal is to produce his own motion picture or television show, but knows that in order to reach that goal, he must continue to grow his current team with other creative individuals.