Despite growing up in the soccer hotbed of Westport, Max Lance never played the sport.
But he spent much of this summer hanging out with Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and the rest of the Liverpool team — one of the most famous in the world — at their training facility, and historic Anfield Stadium.
Sure, it was a job. Max is a production assistant on “Being: Liverpool,” Fox Soccer’s answer to HBO’s fly-on-the-wall sports offerings “Hard Knocks” and “24.”
But Max is not one of those soccer-haters or “we-kick-a-touchdown” dilettantes who lucked into a gig others would kill for.Despite never playing, he’s as passionate about “the beautiful game” as any Staples Wrecker, or every ex-pat who follows his home club in Colombia or Croatia every weekend by satellite from his Westport couch.
Max is a soccer junkie who came late to the game.
At Staples — from which he graduated in 2002 — Max co-edited Inklings, the school newspaper. (He was almost fired for proposing a satirical issue.)
At the same time, he was moonlighting at New York comedy clubs.
He spent 2 years at NYU, then dropped out for 3. He worked at “boring, crappy jobs” in Queens. In his spare time, spent in New York bars, he got hooked on international soccer. The EPL, La Liga and other high-level competitions captivated him.
In 2007 Max enrolled in USC’s film school. After graduation he spent most of his time answering phones at temp jobs, so he could spend the rest of it writing scripts.
Fox had just won the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Fox Soccer — in Max’s same Los Angeles building — was moving into original programming, and needed some soccer shows.
There was just one problem: Hardly anyone in charge of original programming knew anything about the game.
Someone heard that Max was a huge fan. They invited him to make a presentation to top executives.
For 2 hours Max used maps, worksheets and his own stand-up skills to describe the rivalries, intrigues and passions of world soccer.
“I tore through it,” he says proudly.
Fox Sports hooked Max up with Scott Boggins. The “Being: Liverpool” executive producer needed someone to conduct research, watch clips and provide help at every stage of production.
In a matter of days Max convinced his girlfriend to go with him to New York. Starting in May, he began building the story line.
Liverpool came to the US for a summer tour. A major stop was Boston (the Red Sox owners also own the soccer club). Working out of the Fenway Park dugout, Max was the “media master”: in charge of backing up all the tape.
“It’s a high-stress, multi-million dollar cut-and-paste job,” he says.
In August, Max headed to the UK for a 3-week shoot. It was a fantastic experience, from both a production and soccer perspective.
The crew worked hard. They got great footage. And, Max notes, “You just sort of nod back when Steven Gerrard acknowledges you.”
Max’s 1st live EPL match “completely lived up to its promise.” The crowd of 45,000 “sounded like 100,000,” Max says. “They were singing, screaming, on their feet, blowing the roof off the stadium for 90 minutes.”
There was a friendly at Anfield, a Europa match there, a Europa qualifier in Edinburgh, and the 1st league game against West Bromwich in Birmingham.
West Brom crushed Liverpool, 3-0. The production crew took it hard. “We’d gotten to know those guys pretty well,” Max says.
Back at Liverpool, they tied Manchester City.
Then it was back to the States, and post-production. Max watched footage, and helped crank out the show’s 6 episodes. Reviews — and ratings — have been good.
“It’s not just a day job,” he notes. “This consumes every minute of my life.”
It’s a single-mindedness he loves. He’s immersed in international soccer; he’s gotten to see some of the top names up close and personal, on and off the field — and he’s taken a big step in his professional life.
So is Liverpool his favorite club?
“Maybe,” he says. “Arsenal was, before. Now I know the guys, so I want Liverpool to win.
“But the US men’s national team is the one I really care about.”
Spoken like — despite Liverpool’s Red Sox owners — a true Yank.