The first-time many people were introduced to Anis Maknojia was on the Sunset Strip in 2012, the setting for the short film Artifice. The 2019 dramatic crime release was his first leading role, realized just a few months after moving to Los Angeles from Houston.
In the Phoenix 4 Productions film, Maknojia’s Tony takes a reckless chance for an opportunity to move up in the world. Eight years later, the decision, and his life, has spiraled out of control.
Maknojia’s real life choices are much more grounded. A passion for visual images pulled him out of his home in Texas and onto the Instagram platform, where he transformed his artistic interest in fashion photography into a growing collection on the influencers’ site.
He also started collecting instagram followers @anis_maknojia racing to 80,000 just eight months after posting his first few images. Today, the account follows his professional life in front of the lens as well as his work behind the camera.
“That’s where everything began,” Maknojia said. “Instagram was the right place at the right time. It helped me work through some pain and depression. Taking pictures, editing them to capture what I was feeling, and wrapping it up with a caption from a positive state of mind, a positive place in my life, was a way to escape, a way through the darkness.”
Photography also helped pull him to Los Angeles, where he transformed his talents for artistic, single-moment images into a focus on filmmaking.
“The move from photography to film-making felt very natural to me, a natural segue, like walking to running,” he said. “It was the logical next step for what I wanted to do … and it has helped me move forward. I would say the same for Los Angeles. It was the next step I needed to keep moving forward because I can be with like-minded people on a similar path.”
Maknojia’s path continued to introduce him to the larger world, with advertising spots for Armani Code, Don Julio Tequila and Mercedes-Benz. Maknojia continued his relationship with Phoenix 4 as the executive producer on the feature Breathe, currently in post-production. The feature film explores the darker side of a suburban Atlanta community through a handful of disparate stories touching on drugs, violence and religion, all with one common connecting element.
With an entrepreneurial upbringing in Houston as the son of Indian immigrants, Maknojia launched Land Ahoy! Films, in 2019, putting his time in the family retail business and his degree in supply chain management to work in a new way.
“Land Ahoy! was created to help me push myself to expand my creative edges,” Maknojia said. “It is also a vehicle for others to do the same, with others, with passion. There is a powerful force of multi-cultural talent around the world. The goal is inclusion. We are stronger together and I want to help shine a light where it might not have been before. I want to help give a voice to those who might not have been heard before.”
Through Land Ahoy!, he is currently in pre-production for With Interest, an action comedy short delving into the world of a mob debt collector and his newfound interest in stand-up comedy. Maknojia will act in and executive produce the film.
The company is also early in the process of developing a number of episodic television projects and Maknojia sees the wealth of streaming services as a literal invitation for new voices to step up and offer their stories.
“It’s a big unknown,” he said. “People struggle with the unknown. I struggle with the unknown. Los Angeles was an unknown place, the people were unknown, the opportunities were unknown. But there is a freedom and a power in the unknown because you can set your own course and be your own person. The unknown can be a struggle, but it can also be very freeing.
“It’s a good feeling, or it can be. The unknown. I don’t know where Land Ahoy! will take me, in what creative direction things will go. The future is another unknown. I don’t know where I will take Land Ahoy!, but it is still growing. I’m passionate about the journey and the sense of satisfaction I get when art reflects life and life reflects art. I just want to play my part in it all.”