Max Landwirth ’14 is a film producer and founder of Landwirth Legacy Productions. He’s making his mark on the industry by becoming known for producing films that advocate for social consciousness and compassion for humanity. One of his latest projects, L, just might be his most important projects yet in terms of shifting the way we think about the world. L, set to be the first-ever feature-length film with a gender non-binary lead, aims to shatter gender stereotypes and encourage people to learn how they can be a better and stronger ally for each other. Learn more about the film and its Kickstarer campaign here and check out our interview with Max below.
Chapman University: How have you reinvented yourself in the course of your career?
Max Landwirth ’14: Freelance producing is an interesting career choice because it is unstable, unpredictable, and requires an immense amount of patience, effort, and perseverance. I like to think of producing as facilitating a giant, organic, moving puzzle. As a result, I am constantly problem-solving, learning and growing. Every film I produce, team I work with and project I manage, presents different opportunities and obstacles. No two films are ever the same. What remains unwavering, though, is my commitment to put the project above all else and, more importantly, my mission to treat my team and my clients with the utmost compassion and respect.
CU: Tell us about your career—what do you do on a daily basis?
ML: A lot of emailing! After graduating Chapman in 2014, I started Landwirth Legacy Productions, a production company for socially conscious media. Since then, my team and I have helped facilitate and produce two feature films, a T.V. pilot, several award-winning short films, and over a dozen commercials and public service announcements (PSAs) for clients such as Toyota, LeapFrog, and American Greetings. As a young producer for independent media, my day-to-day job consists of facilitating and managing various productions of all different sizes in all different phases of production. At any given time, I strive to have at least five productions in the works. The amount of work and the amount of time needed to complete each production varies based on the scale and scope of each project. Some smaller commercials and PSAs can be developed, shot and edited within a six-to-eight week period, while some of the feature films I am working on can take at least three-to-seven years to develop, finance, produce, get through post, exhibit, and secure distribution for. Being organized is essential. When I have down time, I am constantly reaching out to new potential clients, meeting with industry professionals to build my network, and developing scripts with outside writers.
CU: What insight do you have to offer current students and alumni who are searching for employment?
ML: Make friends, follow your passion and trust that everything will work out. As cliche as it sounds, I have learned that who you know really can make all the difference. That is why forging meaningful relationships and continuously doing outreach is essential. That’s also why I do my best to treat everyone I meet with compassion and respect. Whenever I meet with an industry professional or anyone for the first time, I’ve learned the best question to ask is, “What can I do to help?” This typically results in doing a little work pro bono, but from my experience, that little bit of free work comes back tenfold.
CU: What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their time at Chapman?
ML: Take advantage of all the incredible courses and programs that Chapman offers! Enroll in a class that’s not part of your major that you’re just genuinely interested in. Travel! Whether on a travel course or on semester abroad (or at sea), go out and see the world. See how other people live. It’s invaluable! Lastly, surround yourself with diverse people who have diverse interests and make friends with people outside your major.
CU: Which Chapman faculty member(s) made the greatest impact on you and how?
ML: Interestingly enough, the Chapman faculty member who made the greatest impact on me was sociology professor Dr. Bernard McGrane. I took several courses with Dr. McGrane during my time at Chapman; the first being sociology of death, the summer after my freshman year. The reason Dr. McGrane left such an impact is because he challenged and encouraged me to think differently. He taught me the importance of seeing aspects of life from various perspectives and how each of those perspectives can drastically alter how you perceive reality. His assignments were unconventional, his approach was introspective, and he provided tools and resources that I continue to use to this day. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the person I am today had it not been for Dr. McGrane.
CU: How has your Chapman degree helped you?
ML: My Chapman degree has added substantial credibility and trust to my production resume. As Chapman continues to climb the ranks as one of the top film schools in the country, more and more people in the industry are aware of and admire the work that is coming from Chapman filmmakers. As a result, when I am meeting with a client or a director about producing their project, and they see that I graduated from Chapman University, they immediately know that I received exceptional training, as well as a well-rounded education, and know what I am doing.
In addition to everything Chapman gave me (prestigious diploma, well-rounded education, amazing film training), it also gave me something so much bigger. It gave me a safe environment to figure out who I really was.
It wasn’t until I was a junior at Chapman (after ending my first serious relationship and going on a year or so of some soul searching) that I realized, came to terms with, and embraced the fact that I was gay. And I can attribute that journey of coming out to the intensity of Chapman’s performing arts program, the accessibility of the interfaith community at Chapman (especially the Monday night shambhala meditation group), and the opportunities Chapman offered for introspection and world travel.
Chapman really did provide a safe and loving place for me explore and discover who I really was.
CU: How were you involved on campus during your time as a Chapman student?
ML: While I wasn’t enrolled in any clubs or official organizations, I did cheer on my fellow Panthers at sporting events, participated in Greek Life fundraisers and events, watched every production that came out of Chapman’s theatre program, and attended as many guest seminars and lectures as possible. I was also a regular at the Shambhala Meditation Group that met on Monday nights.
CU: What is your favorite Chapman memory?
ML: I honestly don’t know if I can pick just one. Chapman filled me with memories that will last a lifetime. Chapman introduced me to my best friends (who have remained my best friends since freshman year), offered exceptional travel programs that allowed me to experience new cultures and expand my horizon, and provided a safe place for me to explore my passions, learn the ins and outs of the film industry, and pursue my dreams.
CU: What was your favorite spot on campus as a student?
ML: Since the first day I stepped onto Chapman’s campus to tour the school as a scared and confused high school senior, I have been in love with the Attallah Piazza. It was the spot that made me feel most at home and welcomed on Chapman’s campus. It was a place to relax, socialize, and observe the beauty of the school and its students. It’s where I’d meet my friends in between classes, let my dog run around and play, and take a step back to appreciate the school that I was so fortunate enough to attend.
CU: Have you been involved with Chapman since graduating?
ML: Since graduating, I have attended several of Chapman’s alumni events, including the Alumni Brunch and the Alumni Entertainment Industry Mixer (which I highlyrecommend). I’ve also remained in contact with several of my most influential professors who have given me tremendous advice and support when I needed it most.
CU: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Chapman Family?
ML: Yes, there is! My team and I are currently working on a feature film that I would love the Chapman Family to be a part of.
The film is called L and is poised to be the first feature film ever with a gender non-binary lead. The goal of our film is to shatter gender stereotypes and encourage people to learn how they can be a better and stronger ally for each other.
The film tells the story of Will, a clueless marketing strategist in San Francisco who, after his girlfriend leaves him, forms an unlikely friendship with his new roommate, L, who happens to be genderfluid (meaning their gender identity fluctuates over time). Together, Will and L embark on a series of crazy and frequently embarrassing adventures, shattering everything Will thought he knew about friendship, gender, and identity. Things get complicated for L, and Will is put to the test to see just how strong of a friend and ally he is.
Our film is being fiscally sponsored by From the Heart Productions and is being endorsed by 12 LGBTQ+ organizations, such as PFLAG LA, The Lavender Effect, JQ International, Trans United with Family and Friends, Transgender Talent, and the Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board of the City of West Hollywood.
I’m an indie guy with an indie team, so everything we do—financially or otherwise—is grassroots. We recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise some of our production funds and would love the Chapman Family to check it out, watch a scene from the film, and see if it would be worthy of a token of their support.
Connect with Max:
Max_Graduation: Max and his sister, Rebecca, celebrating Max’s graduation from Chapman in May 2014
Max_BestFriends: Max and his best friends that he met freshman year at Chapman.
Max_Galapagos: Max and his friends enjoying a beautiful day in the Galapagos thanks to Chapman’s travel course about Darwin, Evolution, and EcoTourism.
Max_Work: Max on set of one of the feature films that he produced, “Groupers”.
Max_Still: A still from Max’s upcoming feature film about genderfluidity, “L”.