St. John's Confidential File
HOLLYWOOD—HELLO AMERICA! Seldom have I interviewed someone in film, young or old, who expresses him or herself with such clarity and elegance as young MAX KIRKHAM. He’s an actor, musician, writer all of it and hearing him express his understanding and take on the world is something I want you all to experience. The film industry had better get their seat belts on because this guy has a remarkable punch!
Q: Did growing up in the South influence your passion to produce stories of substance?
A: Growing up in Miami certainly gave me a wide range of personalities, cultures, and ideas to explore. They say that America is a melting pot, but I think that there are only a couple of places in the country that are truly like that and Miami would definitely be one of them. Living in Miami for so long, being surrounded by so many different people and cultures keeps you open to all the story possibilities. Keeps you from thinking you’re the only person in the world, which is a very dangerous place to be for a filmmaker or actor. I think a big part of it was also the move to Rome, Italy. My step-mom was posted at the embassy there and so I was afforded the chance to see the world from a very European standpoint. So that has definitely added its flavor. After Rome, the move to North Carolina was the best thing that ever happened to me. It wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina that I finally decided that I wanted to become an actor, I met my best friend(s), and most of all I found my voice in North Carolina. The south is full of story-tellers, it’s what we do to pass the time. Plus, the pace of life is just slower down here as opposed to, say, the big apple. You can take the time to stop and see the world, enjoy yourself in the reality of it all, and not just watch as it all blurs by. I think that’s so important. You miss a lot when you don’t slow down to look at something, even turn around and go back to find something that caught your eye. More than anything, I really owe a lot to my grandmother, Irene Elliott, for taking me to many plays, musicals, and movies throughout my time in Miami. Being exposed to the arts from such a young age I have always had an active imagination and a passion for sharing it with others. So in a way, yes living in the south influenced me a lot but I’m not so sure if it didn’t have as much to do with having been born into the right family as well. Almost every member of my family is gifted in the arts in some way and so it’s always been a part of who I am. It was required to be.
Q: What is it about motion pictures that make you want to become a film maker?
A: I could go on for days about the merits of film over the stage. But I could do it the other way as well and tell you why stage is better. To be honest, I love both of them. I fell in love with the stage before I ever thought of going into film. The fact that I love and now plan to go into film doesn’t make me love the stage any less. Do I feel more comfortable in front of the camera? Sure, yes, I think I could say that. Growing up with a professional photographer/videographer for a grandfather would do that to you. I think there’s something to be said about the mass availability and easy accessibility of film of theater. But there’s also something to be said about being on stage and reacting to a crowd that is the unique province of the theater. If everything goes according to plan,by the end of my life I want to have done it all: film, stage, and produce. One love at a time though. So first up: Film.
Q: What kind of characters excite you the most and why?
A: Give me intelligent and funny character any day and you will have me chomping at the bit for more. I’m a big fan of movies that assume an intelligent audience and write their characters as such. For example, I think Steven Moffat’s Doctor (Doctor Who) is one of the most well written characters that I have ever seen. What Moffat and Matt Smith have created is an incredibly intelligent, witty, and fun seven year old in a 903 year old body. A character that never uses anything but his mind and his sonic screwdriver to solve problems. A character that operates at a level that you have to hold on for dear life to understand. Moffat assumes that his audience can keep up, and his audiences love him for it because they finally have something to sink their teeth into that’s not mostly fluff. Another example would be every single character that Kevin Smith (a personal hero of mine) has created.His movies are filled with fart jokes, sex talk, and Lord of the Rings references, but also commentary on philosophy to religion, and everything in between. Even the basest characters (Randall and Jay for example) operate with intelligence and humor. He writes intelligently dirty jokes that I can watch over and over again.
Q: Most legendary directors, producers are quietly driven to express certain ideas about life and feelings in their films. Especially during a time of war or national concerns. What are the issues you have which might impact the type of films you make?
A: I think the biggest one would be equality of screen time for same sex couples. In the last ten years we’ve seen a handful of same sex couples, in wide release, on the silver screen and only a handful of those shown in a healthy and successful way. Movies do a lot to influence the national culture and mood and I think it’s time we had more “nontraditional” couples/families on screen. I think politics will definitely be an influence, I won’t go into my particular views here, but how could they not? I’ve actually started a screen play about a gay college student. I’ve been writing it for over a year now and I’ve had writers block for about three quarters of that. So expect to see it in about 2035.
Q: During your earlier years growing up, how did you see the world? Was it something you observed in your town or what you read in newspapers or watched on television that helped form your own take on the kind of world you were forced to exist in?
A:Growing up was an incredibly frustrating experience. For as long as I can remember I have always interacted more easily with adults than with my peers. I was never interested in sports or playing outside with the kids on my block. To be honest, I really had no clue how to interact with kids my own age. So I didn’t. Throughout elementary and middle school I was also teased constantly about being overweight and a loner. In fact, a lot of the reason I went into theater, originally at least, was to escape the world I was living in. To cope with my “non understanding” of the world my peers were operating in. My family life was great, always has been, but I never really had friends at school until I moved away from Miami and was given the chance to find myself.Watching movies, reading books, going to the theater, and acting in school were really the only ways I ever found to connect and thus sane. I became friends with the characters in my favorite books, movies and plays. I lived a hundred lives and went on a thousand adventures. More than anything,this is why I want to go into the entertainment industry. More than money and the prospect of fame (who needs it?!), if I can help one kid like me survive one more day, my life will be complete. This industry has given me so much in my life, more than I could ever repay, but I’m going to try.
Q: At this time in your life what do you wish to help change in an artistic or creative sense?
A: At this time in my life I’m just trying to finish school and make it into the business. I’ve still got a lot to learn before I start to truly begin to develop my artistic vision. Ask me this question in 5 more years and maybe I’ll be able to answer it. For now, I’m not quite sure.
Q: What actors impress you the most as far as the craft itself? And why?
A: There are a couple of actors working right now that impress me the most. There are two and a company, in particular, that amaze me every single time I see them on screen. Meryl Streep, of course, is a complete chameleon and one of the greatest actors living today, in my opinion. Every character she has created has been a fully realized human being. You can tell that she puts her entire self into everything that she does. Her hard work, dedication, and the sheer span of her career are all formidable examples of her spectacular talent. She is one of the few actors that can pull me all the way into a movie and forget that it’s not real. The other actor would be Stanley Tucci, this man takes the art of the supporting role and creates characters that might as well just be called leads. I truly believe that, at times, the supporting roles are the hardest roles to do and don’t get the full measure of credit they deserve. As a supporting role you usually have less to work with in the script, less time on screen to convince the audience of your character, and you have to be your own character while helping the leads be all they can be as well. Stanley Tucci, a chameleon in his own right, is a truly gifted actor whether it be lead, supporting, or otherwise. Each one of his characters is a completely different person, filled with the spark that makes us all unique. It’s a complete pleasure to watch his work.The company that amazes me? That would be John Lasseter and the geniuses at Pixar. To say that believable animation is a difficult thing to accomplish would be an understatement and a disservice to the craft. Pixar is able to make such art, for that’s what it is; creating characters that live and breathe, with problems that span the full breadth of the human experience, even if the characters themselves aren’t necessarily human. I have never walked away from a Pixar movie dry eyed and never without pondering my life’s existence somehow. Pixar, in my opinion, has done more to advance the art of animation than any other player in the game. The best part of it all is that they write with such intelligence and skill never underestimating the power of a child’s thought and understanding of concepts to often considered out of their reach. As a result, you are left with movies that can be loved by anyone, understood by anyone, believed by anyone.
Q: Has your experience so far in making films given you a better understanding asto who you are? If so, what is that?
A: Oh definitely, any acting experience does that. When you spend all day inhabiting someone else’s world you’re bound to see it influence or make you think about your own. Acting has helped me get through a lot of problems and dilemmas, mostly because it makes the whole “walk a mile in the other persons shoes” adage a lot easier. Acting has made me a more understanding and compassionate person. Acting has taught me how to be strong and willful but kind and not unbending at the same time. Film making has me seeing color differently, I see composition and the z-axis everywhere, I look at the world around me and constantly wonder what makes it tick because it’s infinitely fascinating, incredibly complicated, and yet simple at the same time. Film making has certainly made me a much more patient person and I am now a master of killing time between set-ups (when I’m not the one setting up of course!). Being an actor/filmmaker kind of feels like being a fish, you can go any direction you want, in the vast ocean of opportunity that is this industry, as long as you keep moving in a direction that keeps water running over your gills.
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