Sporting a pigment green plaid shirt and slightly ripped jeans, Max Lanman ’10 rounds the corner to head into the Silliman dining hall for our interview. Relaxed, yes, but also incredibly close to achieving his dream of reaching the stars. The stars of Tinseltown, that is.

Last Sunday, Lanman, a Film Studies major, was revealed to be one of five finalists in the Filmmakers Alliance’s “Ultimate Filmmaker Competition.” He submitted a screenplay titled “What Would John Do?” as a part of his entry for the contest. If he advances as the Grand Prize winner, he will receive more than $500,000 towards the full production of his film as well as a screening at a major international film festival, among several other prizes. Winning the competition would be the just catalyst needed to launch Lanman, a senior, into the professional filmmaking world after graduation.

In its inaugural year, the Ultimate Filmmaker Competition is not a one-shot deal — it has been a long process with the first deadline for all applicants set last July. Lanman believes that this lengthy design is actually one of the benefits of the competition. He explains, “It’s a lot easier to follow a deadline that would make my dreams come true than a deadline that I set for myself.”

Out of the more than one thousand applications, Lanman was then chosen to be one of the 200 Quarter-Finalists. At this point, he had to write a detailed, 5-page breakdown of his script called “a treatment.” He emerged as one of the 25 semifinalists, beating out applicants who were Emmy-nominated and those who have already been featured at major film festivals.

“He’s definitely someone who isn’t a afraid of any aspect of this process,” Marc Lapadula, the Professor of Lanman’s Advanced Screenwriting class, said. “This process can be extremely intimidating to many.”

The multi-staged competition continued with an on camera interview as well as a draft of the full-length script. In order to proceed to the next round, it was up to the public to choose, and the semi-finalists themselves to garner votes innovatively. To reach out to friends and family, Lanman promised everyone that he would get a bowl cut circa his 1998 basketball picture if he received enough votes to make it into the next round. With the most number of votes out of all the semi-finalists, Lanman advanced to the final stages of the competition, a position he currently holds.

In mid-February, Lanman will fly back to his native sunny California (a change to the frigid New Haven winter that he’s already excited for) to complete the final stages of the competition. For three days, he will split the time between shooting shorts and having face-to-face interviews with the competition’s judges.

Spending anywhere from 80-100 hours average on a 10 minute short, Lanman must make a lot of sacrifices in order to pursue his passion. Pulling all-nighters is no big deal. With filmmaking as his top priority, sleep is frequently cast away—and so is socializing.

And although he doesn’t get to spend as much time with his friends as he would like, they are still supportive of his driven goals. Fellow SAE brother Jefferson Warren ’11 says, “One of the great things about Max is that he can really pick something that he can invest all his energy in which allows him to excel.”

For Lanman, winning the competition would “mean the world” to him.

Although supportive of what Lanman has been able to accomplish so far, Lapadula cautions that it is still crucial to “rewrite that script again and again and again before it’s shot.” He adds, “What’s good is that he’s realizing that he wants to really refine things to make them polished jewels instead of just turning out a lot of work.”

The winner of the Ultimate Filmmaker Competition will be revealed on March 12, 2010.

Lanman’s videos can be seen at