The 2019 dramatic crime short film Artifice was his first leading role. With Interest provided the opportunity for Maknojia to both act in and executive produce a dramatic comedy exploring the life of a mob debt collector with a serious interest in stand-up comedy. He was the executive produce Breathe, a short film expected this year chronicling the darker side of drugs, violence and religion through several interconnected stories.
An unexpected return trip to Houston, TX, late last year provided the opportunity to fast-track another short film, Jack, a slasher movie-inspired project which has long been percolating in the back of his mind.
“It’s been one of those things where you keep coming back to it but other things get in the way and steal your focus,” Maknojia said. “Getting out of my routine in Los Angeles and returning to a place I was familiar with shook up my routine enough to really let me focus in on this idea.”
In the short, Maknojia’s Bruce heads a quickly growing tech company preparing to launch their IPO. Presented as a day-in-the-life exploration, he is definitely in charge at the morning meeting with the firm’s partners and legal representation. At lunch, he appears unfazed as his relationship with his fiancé takes a sharp turn. When a new opportunity presents itself, his predatory instincts once again lead the way.
As the day-in-the-life story wraps up, the audience is left to fill in many of the details.
“I think this character was best served, at least for now, through a short film,” Maknojia said. “Looking at a single important day in Bruce’s life without showing everything that happened before and after makes the audience participate more. They have to decide … they have to guess what happens. They have to make their own decisions. There are not a whole lot of overt details presented to the audience on a silver platter. Some things are less obvious or only hinted at. As a result, people have to bring their own experiences and expectations to the viewing and take away different impressions. This was all intentional.”
The project was shot while the COVID pandemic was making headlines across the globe. Behind the scenes, personal protective equipment was required everywhere, and everyone was tested regularly.
“I’m still new to a lot of what I’m working through,” Maknojia said. “Putting the risks associated with the COVID pandemic on top of the typical difficulties of creating a project like this was challenging but I think everyone found the additional challenges contributed to the end result. I think the tension showed through, for the better. Despite all the extra work, the extra precautions, everyone brought their A game and I think it shows on the screen.”
Bruce is definitely one of the more complex characters I’ve been lucky enough to bring to life. I was able to pull aspects of the character from my time with my family’s business. That helped. It continues to be a learning experience.”
Maknojia still approaches entertainment is a business.
“The way I see things, there are two points of view when making a movie,” Maknojia said. “There should always a focus on creating a quality product, bringing the right people together at the right time with the right material. But it is still a business so there is a focus on the profit side of things, the business side of things, so the funding can be available to make the project happen. And the two feed off one another.”