Screenwriter Max Landis

Outspoken rising star in screenwriting world

Featured as one of Forbes magazine’s “30 under 30” two consecutive years, Max Landis is an outspoken rising star in the screenwriting world whose latest film Victor Frankenstein is causing an uproar.

Max LandisHaving sold over fifteen projects in the last five years, Landis’ first produced feature, Chronicle, was a surprise box-office hit.

Landis was born in Beverly Hills, California, the son of director John Landis and costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman Landis

Since he started writing at 16, Landis has written 75 screenplays. He sold his first script at the age of 18, a collaboration with his father, John, on the Masters of Horror episode “Deer Woman”, and later reurned to the series in its second incarnation, Fear Itself, independently penning the episode “Something with Bite”.


Landis has found success both inside and outside of the studio system, and has had a rare amount of tremendous success with original ideas. Barring Victor Frankenstein, which is a complete reinvention that he brought to the studio rather than an assignment he won, all of Landis’ produced films are original ideas.

‘’I used to get so up my ass about the originality of my ideas, most of which weren’t even very original.  I had a fixation with trying to do stuff that hadn’t been done yet, and luckily, my creative process lends itself to that, but my skill and craft definitely didn’t.’’


He most recently wrote and directed “Me Him Her,” starring Haley Joel Osment, and featuring Geena Davis and Scott Bakula, which premiered at the Seattle Film Festival; the action comedy,  and he wrote the screenplays for American Ultra,” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart; and “Mr. Right,” starring Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick, which premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Landis is currently in the process of cracking the television world, having sold two pilots, as well as moving into more directing and producing. He recently sold “Dirk Gently,” based on the Douglas Adams’ graphic novel, to BBC America. As a producer Landis set up “Channel Zero,” a horror anthology with Nick Antosca writing, at the Syfy Channel.

Max-LandisTips On writing

  • ‘’One of my calling cards in interviews, and as a person, is having been ridiculously prolific.  As of right now, I’ve written approximately 71 feature films, some in excess of 400 pages long.  This is not to say any of them were good.  I’d say, to my current standards, there are about fifteen I’m proud of, and about seven I’d be willing to show to people.  My managers, the ultimate fence between my delusional ramblings and the actual realities of the film industry, have only seen about twenty five or thirty of them, and of those, agreed to show only the most recent 7 around town, the rest of my sales coming from pitches, that then turned in to scripts I’d now say I’m pretty proud of.’’
  • ‘’I write much slower now than I used to, which is good, and I focus more on ideas that I think will sell.  That isn’t to say I haven’t written plenty of things that I think started as good ideas, or even sound like good ideas now.  But my execution, from 15 until about 23, was fairly hopelessly flawed.  Even some of my later stuff is unreadable to me now.’’
  • ‘’My old habit was to just get an idea and go write it and not stop til I was done.  That ultimately I’ve found was good for my work ethic, but led to me writing sequels to my own unsold, unshown, untested work, and also writing adaptations or remakes to things I didn’t have the rights to and no one was asking for.  I never include these in my usual count of my features, but I did here, because, why not.’’
  •  ‘’I’m forever asked “how do you write so much,” “how do you make yourself sit down to write,” “what is your writing schedule,” all the basic questions screenwriters ask because they want to see how it lines up against what they’re already doing. I never really have good answers; I don’t have a writing schedule, I procrastinate as much as you do, I just write when I want to write.’’
  • ‘’The primary problem I see in a lot of scripts by new (or even old) writers is very hard to articulate, but it does repeat itself across the pages. That being: it doesn’t feel like a movie. The dialogue doesn’t sound like something someone would actually say, the scenes don’t add up in a way that builds momentum or tension, or even that there’s no real beginning, middle or end.
  • ”There is a panacea to this problem, though, but it requires you to get off your ass and MAKE STUFF. Doesn’t matter if it’s for youtube or just for you, a screenwriter must must must be a technician in terms of story flow, and the best way to learn this is to try to make shorts with your friends, with yourself, with action figures, WHATEVER.”
  • ”Record yourself saying your dialogue out loud. Does it sound terrible? You’d be shocked how many people will write a script and show it to people without ever HEARING their own words. That’s a killpoint, man, that’ll blow the whole thing. You’ve gotta direct the movie as you write it. You’ve gotta be the actors, too. And the cinematographer. And the editor. And the music. And the color correction. And the-.. You get the point: You’re the only person on the team WHO IS THE WHOLE TEAM. Because that movie is only in one place right now, in your fucking head, and the audience is ONLY YOU.