“A new look, but the same dedication to indie filmmakers.” That is how Scott C. Brown, the Founder of Max It Magazine, describes the recently relaunched site. “Our motto says it all. The voice of indie film. We’re doing everything we can to make sure that continues.”
Though many haven’t yet heard of this site dedicated to indie film, according to their first year analytics, 1.2 million unique visitors, from 74 countries did and responded in kind, making it the fastest growing indie film site on the web.
From his home in Orange County, CA. we sat down with Scott to discuss the origins of Max It and what he and his team of co-founders, Jonathan Cocco and Bryan McClure, hope to accomplish with its presence.
Known for his writing and producing, Scott originally became involved in the film industry as a child actor. First appearing on the TV show Cooking with Chef Horst Mager, in the Pacific Northwest, though he had already been in school and church plays, long before he can remember.
“I’ve always loved cooking, even at that age, so when my mother pulled me out of school to go to a taping of it, I was pretty excited to put it lightly. Odd for a child of 7, but once a foodie, always a foodie.
We were sitting in the bleachers with the rest of the audience, when Chef Mager came over and started talking to us. He then took me down front and talked with me while he cooked. It was a great experience. What made it even more important to me is that we used to go to his restaurant Der Rhinelander in Portland on special occasions.
I remember a couple of times that he came out of the kitchen and talked with us, even before we were on his show.”
Max It Magazine was originally a print publication for the Portland Light Rail, but Scott explained how it transitioned from that into what it is today.
“Starting out in the newspaper business as a production assistant, I soon fell into a reporting position with a community newspaper in Arizona. 5 years later I ended up buying it and making it the fastest growing weekly newspaper in the nation. No one could have known what 9/11 would do to the newspaper industry and my company, but by then I had already started ghostwriting for the film industry and several politicians and was truly enjoying that side of life.
Though I’d been told by an English teacher in grade school I’d never amount to anything as a writer, once I started reporting the news I knew I’d found my passion. So, realizing there was no way to rebuild the newspaper, or my printing company back with the economy the way it was, I chose to close it, along with several other publications I’d created.
A short time later I got married, had a daughter and after some interesting adventures, ended up moving my family back to Oregon to help my elderly parents, who still lived on the same piece of land where I was raised.”
When life and marriage didn’t go as planned, Scott ended up taking a sabbatical in Dutch Jarrod, AK. Away from the world, he took that time to work on his series of novels.
After a year off, Scott returned to Portland to rebuild his life and his company.
“Even when I was away, several times a week I’d get writing requests. Radio, ghostwriting scripts and ghosting columns for politicians.”
Upon returning, Scott invested in his other passion and opened another restaurant.
“I’d already had a few restaurants and clubs that had shown some success, but it was always writing and producing that was my focus. Being a restaurateur and club owner was simply my hobby.”
Delving further into the Oregon film industry, Scott went to work with the Oregon Media Production Association (OMPA), which would make him begin to realize more acutely how little of a voice indie film had.
Seeing a need, but not wanting to cover the hard news anymore, Scott started Max It Magazine to give those riding the light rail something that was both entertaining and informative. It became the only publication that was actually allowed to be circulated on the trains.
“It was games, puzzles, cartoons, interesting facts, columns and amusing articles.” Scott explained “Nothing of real substance. Just something for the people to take five minutes out of their day and truly enjoy. It was a lot of fun.”
With more requests for on location meetings for writing projects in Southern California, Scott began to realize that he was going to have to make some changes.
“I had the restaurant, a piece of a night club and Max It. My passion for writing was being quenched on an ever expanding basis. The problem was it was mostly out of the state.
Adding to that, I’d met someone online and she was also in Southern California. Bouncing back and forth simply wasn’t fulfilling anymore.
That plus the ghostwriting and producing requests that were taking up more and more time, it really was a simple choice.
Selling his portion of the restaurant and night club, he turned the original Max It over to a couple to run and moved lock, stock & barrel to Orange County, CA. A place he’d spent time in shortly after being discharged from the Army.
Soon after moving to Orange County, in a freak circumstance, Scott was brutally attacked and nearly killed. It would take him over 3 1/2 years of intense physically therapy to get him back on his feet.
“Learning how to read, write and speak again was the toughest part. It may sound odd, but suffering from traumatic brain injury and the physical trauma of the attack was one of the best things could have happened to me. It made me realize that I had no legacy to leave my daughter. Besides the acting, nearly all my writing and producing was under someone else’s name. My ghostwriting and producing had literally turned me into a ghost.”
It was while he was bed ridden that he made the choice to never again work on another project that didn’t have his name attached.
Finishing out his final contacts, Scott had since then sold 30 screenplays in the last 5 years and is currently working in his 3rd feature of 2015.
“While realizing I was a ghost, I also started seeing how indie film, though the volume far outweighs studio projects, are ghosts as well. The sites and publications that say they talk about indie film really don’t. They only talk about projects that have been picked up by studios, or are produced by subsidiaries of studios, such as Fox Searchlight.
Sorry, but I don’t call those indie. They’re simply low budget studio films.”
Shortly after being attacked, I got word that the couple I’d been planning to turn Max It over to was not doing to be able to, due to personal issues. I decided to close the Portland side of things and put it on the back burner. It was less than a year later, while laying in bed recovering, that I came up with the idea of Max It as an indie film magazine.”
During this period of time, Scott met Jonathan Cocco and began co-writing on several projects. He came on shortly after as a Co-Founder and followed a year later by Bryan McClure as another Co-Founder.”
Launching Max It with only 12 articles on 6 January 2013, as a beta test it would show to be a major shift for indie film and the attention it receives, as 50K visitors swamped the site in that first 3 months, with only 6 articles being added during that time.
When formally launched on 1 April 2013 Max It begin to gain social media traction and global attention. Over the rest of the year, 650 filmmakers would gain the attention of 1.2 million unique visitors from 74 countries. Over the next 18 months it would go on to help indie filmmakers raise over $1,000,000.00 (by promoting their crowdfunding campaigns), with many stating that they even found distribution because of Max It.
“We knew there was a need by indie filmmakers for a publication like this, but we didn’t realize how much of one. When our server started to lag from the traffic, we made the decision to transfer the site over to a dedicated server. Our coders at the time claimed they knew what they were doing.”
It wouldn’t be until the site started crashing on a regular basis and finally going down completely that they realized this wasn’t true. The coders had left vast holes in the server and the site that as far as the team could tell, the same ones that hacked Sony, decided the Max It server was fair game.
“They Swiss cheesed our site. Not all at once, but as they took control of the server. Destroying the data and ruining what we and our indie filmmaking users had built.
It was devastating to realize we had nothing left, but some crumbs of articles and no way to relaunch. We were forced to announce that Max It was offline.”
Shortly after going offline, Scott received an email from an indie filmmaker that had submitted a press release months before. Stating they had heard about what happened, they asked if a small contribution would help to get it back up and running. Soon there were several emails with the same question and their social media feeds soon became barraged by a very clear message. Max It was needed.
Scott, Jonathan and Bryan realized that rebuilding the current site wouldn’t do any good, since the code was flawed and the server couldn’t handle the traffic. So, launching a private crowdfunding campaign on a temporary site of their own, they asked for help from the visitors and filmmakers alike.
Soon small contributions were rolling in and then it happened. Scott’s phone rang. A well-known producer had been visiting the site, but never used it for their films, having worked mainly on studio projects. Seeing how Max It was helping indie filmmakers, he recognized the transition of the film industry and wanted to help.
After asking to remain anonymous, with the click of a mouse, he contributed the $5K needed to get the basic version of Max It back online.
“Yes, there is more needed. Everything up to that point had been the three of us taking out of our pocket. We want to make sure indie filmmakers never get charged to submit press releases and get attention on their project. Besides the large contribution, we’ve had several donating small amounts. A $1 here and a $5, or $20 there. Those are the ones that will help keep Max It online and running smoothly.
Once we are fully up and running, which will take some time, we’ll be relaunching the contribution portion as well. Just like Wikipedia, we’re hoping that those that use Max It will be willing to support it in turn.”
Receiving a sneak peek of the new site, we found that all the original pieces are being reinstalled, while a lot of new features, including a store for indie filmmakers to sell their projects are being added to supplement what Max It can do for the indie filmmaker. There is even hints of a new type of funding for indie filmmakers.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that having the old site destroyed was a bad thing. It’s all in how you look at it. We were doing what we could with it, but at the end of the day it had a lot of limitations and issues that we were facing on the backside. The new site, once we launch and work out the bugs, will be an amazing upgrade.
We didn’t want to merely do a relaunch. Think of it as Max It 2.0!”