1) Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
I am the Executive Producer and co-founder of Apartment D, a stop motion studio here in Burbank. We’ve worked for clients such as Mattel, Nickelodeon and Warner Bros. to produce entertainment and advertising with our unique creative voice and artistic style. I’ve held just about every role in stop motion from puppet builder and animator to director and line producer. Nowadays my role is twofold: firstly, cultivating an environment that frees our artists to do their best work, and secondly, expanding our audience and fanbase.
2) How did you first become interested in art?
I have always considered myself a creative, but I’ve never necessarily felt like an artist. At a young age, I became discouraged from drawing (similarly my handwriting has always been messy). Instead, I spent my time building contraptions and making films. I was naturally drawn to the special effects heavy Sunday night movies that my dad and I would watch growing up, and would try to recreate the practical effects I had seen using my parents’ VHS Video Recorder. This naturally involved some stop motion.
In high school I took classes in TV, animation and photography, while also working on stage crew for the school plays. All this, while studying to become an engineer. Like many millennials, I aspired to do something that would positively impact the world. Yet, the more my future as an engineer came into focus, the more I felt like building bridges and tunnels wasn’t the path to greater positive impact that I was looking for. It was around this time that I began experimenting with computer animation, which was a natural extension from working with Auto-CAD, an engineering program for mocking-up builds. That year, I watched the animated film Flushed Away (ironically, Dreamworks’ attempt to end the stop motion industry all together). The climax of that film gave me chills. In that moment, I had the sudden realization that animation had the power to affect people in a way like no other. That was the grain around which my appreciation for art crystalized. Art became a medium of communication and community-building to me. From then on, my mission has remained to connect people through art and expression.
3) How does art enrich a community, and what are some ways people can engage with art in Burbank?
I think art is the fundamental medium of community communication. It is the centerpiece around which people gather, facilitating both the creation and expression of cultural identity and shared experience. Art is also the fiber that weaves through communities to make them more durable. That’s why so many city revitalizations begin with the arrival of artists. Art can build community from nothing – the birth of an art scene brings local culture and shared values. Given that we tie so much of our identity to the art and media we consume, it’s only natural that a community with a strong appreciation for the arts will have a stronger sense of communal identity and interconnectedness.
Burbank is such an interesting city. Despite being the American hub of the media arts and home to the most renowned and influential studios in the world, the city continues to think of itself more in terms of its industrial history, than its current role as an arts and media leader. While Burbank does have a thriving studio district, it is strictly commercial. The arts community along Magnolia Blvd. has been slowly shrinking as rents rise in the city, and the few art galleries that exist are spread out far and wide. In lieu of the young scrappy artists that would assemble a blossoming arts community, I would want to see the city of Burbank do more to actively foster a communal space by laying groundwork to be inhabited by the arts. For now, it’s heartening to see people flock to the monthly First Fridays on Magnolia, Downtown Burbank Arts Festival and CTN Animation Expo, which are great community arts events in Burbank.
4) If you could share with our community one thing about art, what would it be?
Art doesn’t have to be a young person’s scene. I think Burbank’s classic car shows are a perfect example of successful intergenerational gatherings that celebrate local art and culture. First Fridays on Magnolia have a similar effect. Art is a natural venue for the expression of differing opinions, and an arts community can foster so much relationship and community building. Especially in a time where people have become so much more divided and reclusive, a bright and bustling arts scene can reconnect people in a way few other things can. With a more active arts scene in Burbank, I think you would find bridges forming naturally between the older generations that have been in Burbank since it was an industrial city, and the newer generation geared towards the media arts. Connectivity like this could help foster the culture that takes Burbank into its next chapter.
To find out more about Maximilian’s work, visit Apartment D Films’ website http://apartmentdfilms.com/.