From Disney to Almaty. Interview with Max Howard

Max Howard is a famous Disney producer, who has produced numerous bestsellers such as “Who
Framed Roger Rabbit”, “Saving Santa’, “The Little Mermaid”, “Aladdin”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and
“The Lion King”. He recently visited Kazakhstan for the “Almaty film festival” and gave a series of master classes. OCA therefore took the opportunity to speak to Max about his experience of work as a producer and his impressions of Kazakhstan.

OCA:  Max, your master class at the “Almaty Film Festival” last summer was fantastic, it gave new
generations a lot of useful information about how to become a successful producer. What were your
impressions of Kazakhstan and the festival itself?
Max Howard: I really liked how enthusiastic people were at the master classes. I see many
opportunities for the development of animation in Kazakhstan and central Asia, since the state really
supports this structure. I see a lot of potential in Kazakhstan, especially the energy of Almaty and its
inhabitants. As a producer, I am interested in the local culture, I find it very original and interesting. I am hoping to find an interesting bright story for a film set in Kazakhstan that i can bring to the international entertainment market.
OCA: Do you still work for “Disney”?
MH: No, I’m working for myself now. In the animation industry there are a lot of new technologies.
These days everything depends on the talent of those who understand and engage in high technologies in the production of animation.
OCA: Last year a Kazakh film, “Tomiris”, about a famous Asian queen-conqueror, won many prizes and even was included into nominations for a “Golden Globe” movie award. The historical film, “Tomiris” is dedicated to the events of the sixth century B.C. and tells the life story of the great queen of the steppe – the legendary Tomiris. Did you watch that movie and what’s your opinion as a producer about it?
MH: I did not see the film unfortunately, I only know that Akan Satayev (the film director) made it. I
watched the trailer, though, and must admit that it intrigued me and I was really impressed. I believe
that Kazakh women are so interesting, this role of the female leader is very new and intriguing for the
world market in the film industry. Kazakh culture is fortunate to have such a colourful woman leader as Tomiris. I can see the character in many Kazakh women’s faces. The biggest mistake that I made was that i could only visit the festival for 3 days and this is my sadness.
OCA: We hear you may have co-operated with the legendary Steven Spielberg. What was that like?
MH: You know, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are issues of competition between the studios, it was a revolution because they combined animation and live actors for the first time. Steven is a great
professional, it was a pleasure to work with him.
OCA: What were your impressions of Almaty from your brief time at the festival?
MH: I very much liked the festival and the people of Kazakhstan. I’ve been to the big Almaty lake, and I was really impressed by it. Almaty is a big city, it’s a former capital of Kazakhstan full of nice hospitable people. I loved the people of Almaty actually. I did two workshops during the festival. There were many young professionals in the industry at the festival, and I was thrilled to see that they were full of enthusiasm.

OCA: In Kazakhstan there are great possibilities for new movies and a lot of governmental support,
which gives young generations a great opportunity to shoot exciting movies. Did you get any proposals for future cooperation with Kazakhstan?
MH: Yes, I was given a proposal to work here, I love the energy of Kazakhstani people, so definitely I will come back here next year. I’m eager to work with local co-members and co-productions here. Also
because of the beautiful mountains, Almaty is surrounded by the Zailiysky Alatau mountains, I have
figured out a potential new location for my future films.

WWW.OCAMAGAZINE.COM   SUMMER 2020 Interview by Julia Katsman