Our Q&A with Telly Jury Council Member Max Yampolsky

Founder, Hammer + Nail

Max Yampolsky founded design-centric production company Hammer + Nail and serves as its Creative Director, Producer, and Director. He started his career in the black boxes of NYC’s Off-Broadway theaters, and later moved to commercials, documentaries and narratives, shows, and digital media. Equal parts creative and analytical, his sweet spot is revitalizing brands and building useful, bespoke products with a social touch.

Max enjoys drawing with charcoal, writing screenplays, riding skateboards (he’s goofy), and volunteering for kids-related causes.

What video/television piece inspired you recently?

High Maintenance. I can’t think of a current show that’s more precisely in sync with its method of characterization—and it went from Vimeo to HBO in about three years. The main character isn’t The Guy, the likeable weed dealer the show follows, it’s New York City or the customers that share one bond. It’s through The Guy’s eyes that we view the intimate lives of people and how they cope with their surroundings, which many of us can relate to. The writing is as tight as you’ll ever see.

The stories are less about marijuana and more about the people that use, and their honest stories with concise, digestible plot lines. What struck me most was that we’re made to embrace the exact moment we’re experiencing on screen, rather than traditional character reveals. That’s original and human. I mean talk about amazing interactive content! 

What is most exciting for you at the moment within your industry?  

Films during Hollywood’s second Golden Era did that: Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver etc. We’re now starting to see that energy and authenticity resurface.

Shows like High Maintenance and films like Good Time and First Reformed might not have been green-lit ten years ago, and are pushing the needle. In design, we are also going back to what worked well, taking its essence, and applying it to modern day, digital society. Look at UX/UI these days, and you’ll see many sites with hero images containing bold, beautiful photography and elegant, subtle typography over it. There’s less smoke and mirrors, and more the experience of a truthful moment. To me, that’s pretty cool.

What is one thing the Telly Awards community should know about you?  

Aside from Hammer + Nail, our design-focused production company, I live a double life as a screenwriter and am working on a feature film called The Freelancer. It’s about a graphic designer that suffers an existential crisis when she loses her imagination and tries to get it back while seeking meaning in the world. It’s a story of self-acceptance—you’ll have to see the film one day.

What is a piece of work you are most proud to have worked on?

Each piece of work we produce is a blessing. It’s gratifying when a client trusts you with their money, time, and reputation. However, I will say it’s a mini-doc titled Bridget’s Story. The piece is about a girl—profiled in the NY Times—who beat insurmountable odds after her father died of an overdose, her mother became addicted to crack, and she lived on the the streets in the South Bronx while losing many friends to gun violence. Eight years later, she attends college and works with the New York Yankees to help troubled youth attain employment.

I feel it’s a piece that withstands the test of time and inspires others to keep pushing towards what we all strive for: happiness.