Film Director Darnell Martin will Go Broke Before Sacrificing Her Vision #IWD #womensday #womeninfilm #indiefilm
In honor of International Women's Day, join me in celebrating contributions that one woman has made to the film industry -- Darnell Martin. Today's post may also serve as a starting point for subsequent features on women in film, in celebration of Women's History Month. That is still yet to be determined. Enjoy!
About 30 days ago, I had no idea who Darnell Martin was until reading a slideshow on people who are viewed as game changers in Hollywood. How could I not know about “Cadillac Records,” starring Adrien Brody, Beyonce and Jeffrey Wright but not be familiar with the woman who directed this film? Then again, all I knew about “Cadillac Records” was that it is a movie where Beyonce plays the legendary blues singer, Etta James. I've never been a fan of Etta James’ music and had no interest in watching this movie.
It does not take long to understand, however, why Darnell Martin is a force to be reckoned with for at the very least, her way of doing business and making films. While working in film labs as a technician and at camera rental companies the 80s, she applied for film school and was rejected -- three times.
The third rejection from NYU came while Martin happened to be working as an assistant cameraman on “Do the Right Thing,” directed by Spike Lee. She was later accepted into NYU’s graduate film program after Spike Lee made a call to the school, on her behalf. Martin’s short film “Suspect” also granted her directing fellowship at the Sundance Institute and she wrote a feature length script that received a $2 million dollar offer from New Line Cinema during the early 90s.
As lucrative as the offer may seem to any first-time writer or director, however, Darnell Martin turned it down because she believe this deal did not provide adequate an time frame for her to make a good film. All the while, Martin was facing eviction and had no food in her apartment. Still, she refused $2 million from a well known movie studio, just like she once refused someone’s suggestion to change the characters in her script from Latino to Black.
Martin later accepted an offer of $5.5 million with a longer production schedule from Columbia Pictures, for her script, which became the 1994 romantic comedy, “I Like It Like That,” starring Lauren Vélez (from “Dexter” on Showtime) and John Seda (“Selena”; “Gladiator”). The film is about a woman who suddenly has to figure out how to support her family after the breadwinner of their household is arrested for looting during a blackout. “I Like It Like That” was well received, garnering Martin an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Feature.
Darnell Martin, who has since directed the 2001 drama “Prison Song,” the 2005 TV movie "Their Eyes Were Watching God," starring Halle Berry and continues to direct television episodes for dozens of TV shows including “Grimm” on NBC and “The Mentalist” on CBS, will not compromise any aspect of her work for anyone.
“I'll take my name off my films before I let people change them.”-- Darnell Martin in the L.A. Times
Can YOU name any Female movie directors?
Seriously, off of the top of your head. No Cheating Allowed!
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