Max Leonida: the Evolution of an Italian Director

Luca Riemma, Laura Fuino, Max Leonida. Michael Chaves Photography

Luca Riemma, Laura Fuino, Max Leonida. Michael Chaves Photography

Starting off the evening the Italian way, with double Espresso shots, Max Leonida announced three upcoming projects he’s really excited to be working on. As a director that usually works with thrillers and dramas to extremely funny comedies, Max is currently directing a pilot. Bruna in Beverly Hills is a sitcom about an Italian woman running away from Italy but at the same time also in search for stardom; however, to her surprise, the protagonist Bruna ends up as a housekeeper for an upscale American family living in Beverly Hills. This light family comedy presents the friction of Bruna’s Italian behavior colliding with the classic upscale American lifestyle. 
 
At the same time, Max is also directing and co-writing a feature film based on a true story about schizophrenia and mental health. Light Wounds is a fresh story that just occurred 8-10 years ago about a boy who was in the army and starts showing signs of mental instability as soon as he gets back from Korea. This family drama is a constant unveiling of truths concerning family problems and mental health. Max was happy to announce that the producers of this film will be giving 20%-30% of all the income to the real life boy, in order to help sustain him and his family. 
 
Finally, he also gave an exclusive introduction to The Nemesis, a project he’s particularly proud to be working on. This feature film is a powerful yet very different story with a simplicity that ultimately becomes intriguingly disturbing. The actors are yet to be announced but we can expect well-known names. The entire movie presents a psychological violence somewhat resembling and inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, one of Max’s favorite films and director of all time.
 
How did you start directing and how did growing up in Milan, Italy influence your career?
I started at the age of 9. My dad was a writer and director for Rai Television, the most important national Italian channel. I grew up on the set, watching my dad and the others working. Eventually I asked my dad for a Super8 camera that I used to shoot my sister, friends, turtles, and toys. Everything on camera appears larger than it is, so I would shoot my turtles up close to make it appear as if giant mutant turtles were eating my toy soldier. Then my sister would hold my starships with string and that would appear as if starships were fighting the giant mutant turtles. This is a true story of how I started directing. 
 
How would you describe life on set?
Being on set is a 24/7 job. You want to be the first on set so you have to wake up really early in the morning. You want to be there to look at the scene and gain a better understanding as to where to place the camera. Then when you’re done with a day of shooting, you finally eat because you tend to forget to eat and even sometimes use the restroom during a shoot. After that, I personally go into my room, get the script, and start planning the scenes for the next day. I hardly sleep, maybe only 3-4 hours a day. That’s life on set. Believe me, it’s my life but I would never be able to do another job. I love my job.
 
Growing up in Milan, what has been the biggest cultural change you’ve faced moving to LA?
The greatest cultural change is driving! Even if Californian drivers complain, they are quieter than Italian drivers. Here you have to respect the laws and signs. If there’s a stop sign, you have to stop. In Italy, a stop sign is more of a suggestion. Also, dinner in Italy is usually around 9-10pm but here it’s around 6pm. I feel like I just finished lunch and now it’s dinnertime.
 
How would you describe your involvement with the Italian American community?
I’m happy to be here. I love this place and country but I only regret that the Italian community isn’t more strong and united. My wife Paola and I try to help everybody as much as we can. I have Italian cinematographers and crewmembers. We want to create a strong Italian association where we can help each other be successful and more united.
 
What struggles did you face during your transition from Italy to LA?
We arrived around 2011 and the first year was tough. It’s not easy for anyone to come over here and make it. But the only thing I believe in is persistence. You must be resilient. You have to believe in what you’re doing. Ask yourself if this is the right job for you. If you feel like it is and that’s what you want to do with your life then fight for it. Find a way to make it. Hollywood is crazy. You can find scams, con-artists, and liars everywhere. However, if you do something that is beautiful and that you’re passionate about, this place rewards you. It recognizes your passion and talent more than any other place in the world. In the end of the day, you just have to work hard. My wife and I created our own production company and we’re doing great. 
 

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