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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!

Darnell Martin will Go Broke Before Sacrificing Her Vision

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.

Darnell Martin will Go Broke Before Sacrificing Her Vision,

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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Reader Comments (5)

Uh oh! Is Nora Ephron a director? Penny Marshall? It's pretty terrible those are the only two I can think of, isn't it? Though, in my defense, I can only name a few male directors, too. That list would, admittedly, be longer, though. ~shuffles toe in the dirt and looks away~

Darnell Martin sounds like a powerhouse of a talent, though. I respect anyone who sticks to their version, especially when a temptation like needing money badly comes along. Good for her! I'll definitely watch for her from here on out. We need people we can look up to who represent strength and determination.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the" rel="nofollow">2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

March 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShannon Lawrence

Wow...I'm going to have to check out "I Like It Like That". Sounds like a *very* interesting film.

As for female directors, the first ones that *instantly* pop into mind are:

- Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation)
- Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
- Susanna White (HBO mini-series Generation Kill)

I really wish Generation Kill had more than seven parts. I loved the book, and was really blown away by the screen adaptation.

March 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHermanTurnip


Yes and yes. I had to check first though, as I've never heard of either of those two women, so thanks for teaching me something today. Nora Ephron wrote the screenplay for "When Harry Met Sally" and she directed "Sleepless in Seattle" -- two films that I heard of, yet never watched.

Penny Marshall directed "Big" and "Awakenings." Women in film...wait, let me rephrase women working in film only make up a small percentage of the total of people who are producing, directing, etc. so I'm not surprised that while even though you can only name a few male directors, lol, it would still be longer than the list of female directors that come to mind.

Maybe you and I can both extend that list this month...if I can find out about more ladies working behind the camera!


Knowing how busy you are with the Blu-ray and DVD watching, you'll probably see Darnell Martin's film before I do, so let me know your thoughts on it once you check it out, please :)


Sofia Coppola ALWAYS pops into my mind when I think of female directors. It's weird that I know of so many today, but just a few years ago, Coppola was the only woman that I could name. I was soooo rooting for her to be the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director....not Kathryn Bigelow, but alas, it's still good for "The Hurt Locker" team.

I have no idea who Susanna White is, so I'm glad she *instantly* popped into your mind ;)

"Generation Kill"? Never heard of it. When did that come out? Sounds like a war series or suspense/thriller, maybe.

March 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

I was surprised by the historical dishonesty in the movie "Cadillac." Darnell Martin seems like a pathetic liar; she isn't a real artist and has no business making a movie about Etta James. Shame on her.

October 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMako Mark

This alleged "black" filmmaker (daughter of a single white mother) is more white than black, obviously.

March 6, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAD Powell

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