If Max Winkler has his way, Beverly Hills will be home to a one-of-a-kind production company where young filmmakers, actors and comedians can "team up with other kindred up-and-comers and turn out incredible movies."
Winkler, 28, sees Beverly Hills as the place for his production dream to become a reality; an homage of sorts to the classic days of old Hollywood when, he says, "Beverly Hills was the hub of everything." He plans to launch his venture in the same iconic location on Brighton Way where legendary filmmaker Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot) spent his time writing scripts well into his 90s. Winkler likes "the romantic, old-school places of Beverly Hills that feel like they've been there since Charlie Chaplin was walking around the town."
But building a Beverly Hills-based production company is not just another pipe dream from a typical entertainment family heir (Winkler's father is Happy Days legend Henry Winkler). Come Friday, the son of Fonzie is making his feature film directorial debut with the nationwide release of Ceremony, starring Uma Thurman.
Ceremony is backed by Magnolia Pictures and former Warner Independent head Polly Johnsen. It counts Winkler's mentor, Jason Reitman, director of Juno and Up in the Air, as a producer. The comedy follows a young twenty-something (Michael Angarano) on a love-sick journey to win back the heart of a much wiser, much taller, elder beauty (Thurman) who is about to marry everybody's dream guy (Lee Pace).
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. By all early accounts, Winkler has a veritable hit on his hands. He said the screenplay took just two weeks to write because it's based on a "super personal story."
Winkler has been making movies since the age of 10 with whatever family camcorder and neighborhood buddies he could wrangle up. He attended film school at USC, where he met his writing partner, Matt Splicer.
Fresh out of college, Winkler sold his first screenplay to Fox Searchlight. Since then he's been packaging projects involving big names from across the movie industry spectrum. He is currently working on an edgy comedy based on the book The Adventurer's Handbook that will star Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman and Jason Segel.
Talking with Winkler opens up a wide window into why he's on the fast track to media mogulship. Everything he does—writing, directing, producing, collaborating, putting deals together—is beyond big. You can readily see that his pragmatic approach to filmmaking is the secret sauce to getting work done. He talks of films as "not one person's vision, but an inspired team effort."
Winkler has much more to accomplish before earning the full-fledged title of "media mogul." But if his few years in the biz are any indication, he's well on his way. And when his production dreams come to fruition, he'll be bringing Beverly Hills with him.
Jon Gluck is a bleeding heart Beverly Hillian. He is a graduate of Beverly Hills High School, where he was captain of both the football and hockey teams. He lives in Beverly Hills, works in Beverly Hills, and spends as much time as he can experiencing everything our great city has to offer. Gluck builds companies: He operates the only business incubator in Beverly Hills and manages Iconic Digital, a leading social media marketing firm that helps small and medium size businesses join the digital world.
The Beverly Biz Buzz appears exclusively on Beverly Hills Patch and comes out every other week.