Winkler’s knack for storytelling was born out of a childhood dogged by severe dyslexia which made communication difficult through written essays and standard tests. That’s when he developed a hustle that would turn into a career: using short films in place of papers and reports to satisfy academic requirements. Winkler tapped friends and favors to craft visual poems for assignments from William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper” to conceptual physics representations of planets exploding using miniature styrofoam models. Through these early experiments in film, Winkler found his voice and his calling.
Working as a writer/director, Max Winkler excels at telling the kind of character driven stories that inhabit those rarified spaces outside of the expected. His heroes exist in worlds of their own creation, remaining steadfast and resilient even as real life and all of its concerns come crashing in around them. These outsider fables bring to mind the work of American masters like Mike Nichols and Sydney Pollack, two of Winkler’s cinematic heroes. Winkler moves effortlessly between genres without ever losing his voice, displaying a keen eye for characters who view themselves differently than the rest of the world while remaining undeniably relatable at the same time.
Using a real life experience as inspiration, Winkler crafted his feature directorial debut, Ceremony. The film centers on an unlikely hero pursuing the woman of his dreams by crashing her wedding weekend. With shades of The Graduate and Harold and Maude, on display is Winkler’s unflinching loyalty to another unlikely yet lovable hero.
Winkler’s next film Flower premiered at Tribeca and depicts the unlikely relationship between a damaged young girl and her awkward step-brother and features a star-making turn by Zoey Deutch.
Winkler wrote and directed the gripping Jungleland starring Charlie Hunnam, Jack O'Connell and Jessica Barden. The feature follows a reluctant bare-knuckle boxer "Lion" and his manager/brother "Stanley" who must travel across the country for one last fight. Jungleland received its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
In television, Max is serving as executive producer/showrunner/director on the new season of American Horror Stories, an anthology series produced by Ryan Murphy for Hulu. He was the executive producer/pilot director for the shows Cruel Summer and School Spirits. He also directed Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Arrested Development, New Girl and Feud: Capote's Women (FX) starring legends, Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, and The Watcher (Netflix) starring Naomi Watts, Jennifer Coolidge and Bobby Cannavale, and the Minx (Max).