We had the good fortune of connecting with Max Zupanovic and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Max, why did you pursue a creative career?
Ever since I was a child, my parents always pushed me to explore my creative side – whether it be listening to classical music as a baby for inspiration, reading me countless children’s books with illustrations, or enrolling me in art courses. I was a natural in fine arts, and obsessed with drawing and painting, especially monsters and surreal imagery. I was even voted “most artistic” student my senior year of high school. I was (and still am) an avid film buff, and loyal fan of hip-hop music (and have even been writing/producing my own since high school). These passions helped me to understand that tapping into my creative prowess was an absolute necessity, and to be successful in my future career, I would have to have to have a job that allowed me to utilize that part of myself.
My desires led me to Syracuse University, where I initially majored in Art and Design. However, I quickly realized that my love of drawing and painting wasn’t something I saw a clear future career in, so I switched my major to Film during my freshman year. Movies have always fascinated me, so I figured there was no better time to explore a new medium. I graduated with a BFA in Film, and quickly moved from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles, where I now work in feature film development.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In terms of my creativity, I’m someone who wears a few different hats. My main career path is Creative Development, primarily in feature film. At first, it was difficult. At times, I felt I was in way over my head and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to understand story and dissect scripts the way some of my superiors would. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re an assistant and low on the totem pole. As time went on, I pushed myself to practice and learn, because I wanted to be “all in.” I listened to the calls my bosses were on, I asked questions. I continued to read and do notes on most scripts I read (even if I wasn’t asked to do so), made more connections and started tracking boards. It was all about practice and pushing forward. Now, I’m an executive and more confident than ever in my ability. There are days where I still have discouraging moments, but I remind myself that I can do this job, and can do it well.
Aside from film, I mentioned I’m a fan of hip-hop music – well, more than a fan. Throughout middle school, people knew me as the kid who always wore a ton of jewelry and baggy clothes (I truly wanted to be 50 Cent). Now, although the jewelry’s gone and my style has changed, the love of the genre still remains. I’m an artist myself (Max Black), and absolutely love writing and recording. To be completely honest, for me, it’s more about the process of creating music than releasing it. I’ve never done it out of a desire for wealth or fame – I do it because it’s simply an art form, and something I love making as a creative person. I don’t like giving myself praise, but I do feel I’m a tremendous lyricist. I’m also working on building a brand under the name of “Brilliant Villains,” which will serve as a hub for music, fashion, and art. I’ve begun drawing and painting again, as well as designing clothing, so want to bridge the gaps between each medium.
One of the biggest challenges in pursuing multiple passions is overcoming the fear of public perception. I tend to worry about what others think, and wonder if people in the film world will judge me due to my passion for rap music. Luckily, I have a support system of family, friends, and other artists I’ve worked with who remind me that that negative thinking isn’t necessary or helpful. At the end of the day, I’m doing something I love and no one can fault me for that.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
LA is truly a playground for good food, scenery, shopping and nightlife – completely different from where I grew up! To start, my absolute favorite street is Melrose. If you start at the corner of Melrose/La Brea, you’ll be greeted by a series of shops and stores that will really make you feel like you’re in a unique place. There are a number of shoe stores selling the rarest sneakers, some thrift stores with a huge variety of wild clothes, as well as some cool bars and restaurants to pop in to.
In terms of food, I really have too many favorites. For breakfast/brunch, I love Syacamore Kitchen and the Griddle (best pancakes I’ve ever had). For barbecue, Bludso’s is incredible (their brisket is INSANE). For Italian, Mozza is excellent (but pricey), so I usually eat at Osteria la Buca (their rigatoni bolognese and carbonara are to die for). I have an extreme obsession with spicy food, so when I want to get my fix, I go to Jitlada (Thai), Howlin’ Rays or Dave’s Hot Chicken.
The bar scene has been tough due to the pandemic, but I used to love going to Black Bar, Harlowe and the Dime for good music, EP & LP and Harriet’s for a great view, and Arts District Brewing Co. and Angel City (both Downtown).
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I first want to first give a shout out to my parents, Michael and Cathy – without their help, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I don’t think I could have had a better childhood, and my parents always supported my ambitions and who I wanted to be – whether it was a cowboy, a pirate, an artist, a rapper, or a film development executive. Additionally, I want to give a shout out to my older brother, Tim, who’s 11 years older than me and has faced obstacles in life that many would have difficulty overcoming, but he’s proven that you can come out on top if you’re determined. He’s the smartest person I know, and has always served as my role model.
Importantly, I want to shout out the love of my life, Melissa. Her ambition continues to inspire me as we both move forward in the entertainment industry. When times get hard and I begin to question myself, Melissa is always there to encourage me – I feel like we’re in this together. It’s taken me a number of failed relationships to find someone as special and supportive as she is, so I am thankful for her every second of every day.
While we’re at it, I may as well shout out a few others I don’t know so personally – directors James Wan, Ari Aster, and Sean Byrne for reinforcing my love of horror film and inspiring me to work primarily in the space. Additionally, Outkast for making me fall in love with hip-hop music. “Stankonia” was the first rap CD I ever had, and opened my eyes to a genre that is now a huge part of my life.
Other: Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2xuBbx7hcYrom3ln121au6 Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/max-black/1427662524 Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/max-zupanovic