When Max Aronson first moved to Los Angeles after graduating from IU in 2007, it wasn’t the Hoosier hub it is now.
He made the move with several friends from his classes, in pursuit of what he refers to as his desire to be the “next great American screenwriter.” Twelve years later, Aronson is a development executive at Apple TV+, Apple’s new streaming service.
Aronson credits a class he took at IU as one of the biggest reasons he moved out West. The class, called Slow Children at Play, was modeled after “Saturday Night Live,” letting students create, act, write, direct and produce both taped and live sketches every week. It was his first hands-on introduction to the creative production process.
“There’s no great major that can teach you how to do this job,” Aronson said. “You just have to figure it out.”
Development executives hear pitches from writers, mine books and articles to find story ideas, and eventually decide which shows and concepts to develop. If one of the development team’s shows gets picked up, a development executive oversees that show from start to finish: the casting, the hiring of the production team — even the nitty gritty budgeting details.
But before Aronson discovered his passion for development, he dreamed of becoming a writer. The way he sees it, he said, aspiring screenwriters can write and work at a coffee shop, or they can work as an assistant in the industry and write at night. He chose to get his foot in the door at an agency and push his writing into the evenings.
Aronson then moved to Sony Pictures TV, where he worked as an assistant to a couple executives for almost three years, until finally he was promoted to a manager position. From there, he worked his way up to development executive.
“It’s what I feel I’m meant to do,” Aronson said of his role in development, a position he said he didn’t know about until he moved to L.A. “I get to work with some of the best creatives in the world.”
At Sony, Aronson began to find success, joining during season three of the hit show, “Community.” Aronson would later be a driving force behind The Russo Brother’s “Deadly Class” on Syfy, which began when a friend gave him the comic books Aronson would later workshop into the series.
He sees himself as an advocate for the writers’ and creators' vision of the shows he works on. He considers himself there to support the show, not to control it. While Aronson works closely with the creative team before and during production, he also has his hand in the business side that happens before production even starts.
“It’s fun for me to go from … ‘living in the creative land of the script,’ and then moving to the next call or nuts and bolts of the production,” he said.
The work is not all glamorous, he said. In fact, it’s mainly hard work. Aronson said it takes time to succeed and the patience to be potentially rejected for years. It’s all about initiative and perseverance on your own: taking classes, writing or acting consistently, or producing your own work.
“You have to really work for it in any job out here,” he said. “The people who are in it for the perks don’t last long.”
But being neck deep in the business of television hasn’t made him cynical about the medium. It’s just given him a critical eye.
“When a show is great, I forget all of it,” he said. “And then I just enjoy that. When something’s really good, you just get lost in it.”
Aronson’s current favorite shows include “Breaking Bad,” “The Wire,” “Community,” “Ricky and Morty,” “South Park,” “Barry,” “Killing Eve” and “Succession.”