Inside the Artist’s Kitchen caught up with Martin fresh from the screening of his web- series Our Cultural Center, at the LAWebFest. MartingJon Productions is generously supporting ITAK’s Digital Residency program for the duration of 2014 to produce Filipino Fusions.
Kristina: So, the LAWebFest garners some notoriety?
Martin: It’s the oldest web series festival in existence.
K: When did they start?
M: Five years ago? I think it’s their fifth year.
K: Wow, that’s really young. I feel like the internet’s been here a while.
M: For the idea that there’s a festival for series of things that are going on the internet, and for there to be enough people to invest funding and invest time into celebrating that, five years is pretty old. If you think about You Suck at Photoshop , which is a great web series that’s maybe seven years old, what a great web series that is. There’s a story line, but you’re only invested in one person, but the idea that there’s a story and it’s a tutorial series, how great is that?
K: Is this the first screening outside this area that you’ve had?
M: It is the first screening I’ve had for that at all.
K: So you’re in season one still?
M: Yeah, the final episode of season one releases Friday, so the next week after that, I will be doing press releases for binge watching and getting people to watch five or six episodes that kind of truncate the entire season, and we can get some press, hopefully, and launch a funding program from there.
K: How did you get started in Film?
M: When blogs started picking up in the arts, about seven or eight years ago, and all of the major newspapers were dropping their arts coverage, I decided because YouTube was available, it had been around in the public eye, or in my eye at least, for about six to eight months, and I was watching some web-based content, and I was like, “Well, it’s people just doing stuff,” I was like, “I can interview people.” So I picked up about $150 worth of equipment, which was a lapel mic and a Flip cam, essentially, and I just started interviewing artists. And that was journalistic. I didn’t have any aspirations of doing TV, video, scripting stuff or whatever.
Over time, my equipment got better, and a little over a year ago, I started planning to pitch a full sitcom of what I produced ultimately as a web series. I went to the Great American PitchFest, which is a place where you pitch to producers, and it’s in Burbank, and I was there for the whole weekend. As I was pitching to people, everybody across the table from me had nothing on me. The next day after the pitch fest, I called the person I had been planning the sitcom with, and I said, “I think we’re going to make a web series.” I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like. Less than four months later, I shot my first ten episodes.
K: That’s exciting. I feel pretty excited about this half episode we have for Filipino Fusions.
M: Exciting is a weird thing. When you’re producing something, and you’re just taking the next step, step number six doesn’t have any relation to where you were when you decided to take step number one. And understand that seven years ago, I picked up a camera because I saw a lack of coverage. Fifteen years ago, I picked up my ability to draw and paint, and I did portraits of people all over Chicago. Taking that step to do something isn’t foreign to me. And having taken that step and looking back, I’m like, “Wow. In June, I decided to do this. Here it is April. In two months, it’ll be a year from when I decided.” I’ve already got a first season, and I’ll be funding season two by then, or raising funds for season two.
K: Do you feel like a self high-five is necessary?
M: Maybe, but when you’re writing and producing and shooting and editing and casting and doing all that,it’s exciting and it’s fun, but I gotta fund it. I gotta keep moving forward. Yes, it’s exciting, but there’s nobody that’s going to celebrate, and that’s a weird thing. I went out to LA for the LA WebFest, and I saw my screening, and I was proud for about a minute, and then I criticized it, and then I knew exactly what I had to do for season two. It was brilliant. Here’s this thing where I’m out here, and by the time the third screening came out, I was almost embarrassed about what was showing because I couldn’t change the things that I wanted to change from the first screening to the third screening. And I wouldn’t want to. It’s not like I’m trying to do anything perfect. I’m just trying to get better. And I picked it up, and I didn’t know anything about lighting, I didn’t know anything about scripting, I didn’t know anything about blocking, I didn’t know anything about any of that stuff.
K: So you’re completely self-taught?
M: In film, yeah.
K: And you were an artist before?
M: Yes, I went to a trade school for two years and painted eight hours a day, five days a week, and that was my training for painting. I was a painter for twenty years.
K: And now you call yourself a producer?
K: And you are full-time MartinJon Productions?
M: I’m full-time MartinJon Productions, but I was always full time, even when I was a painter with the LLC. Understand that being a producer just means you get it done. You set a goal, and whatever it takes to get it done, and that means I gotta get my rent done, I gotta get my feeding done, I gotta get my production done, whatever it is.
K: Aside from our web series and your web series, what other projects are you working on right now? What other stuff have you done recently?
M: MartinJon Productions right now is focused on getting new clients. That’s huge. Today, I’m working on… Packer Schopf Gallery is having an opening, and I’m going to do a quick promo video for them. I’m working with an arts advisor on truncating his work. I may be working on a documentary.
K: What are your business goals?
M: My biggest hope for MartinJon Productions is to maneuver MartinJon Productions to work with artists, galleries, non-profit arts centers, and arts promotional and arts advocacy groups. My goal in life, and I’ve found this over many years of looking back and saying, “What was I doing?” I found out that as an adult, the answer to that question, every action that I took that was meaningful to me, was making the arts more accessible. And that is what I live for. Talking to painters and understanding what they’re trying to do, or sculptors or actors, people that have a passion, and for me to be able to take in what they do and read it. Because it’s so hard as a creator to look at what you do and say, “What am I talking about?” But you’re forced through school, usually, to talk about it, so you make up something that sounds good or that someone told you, and you run with it, and the reality is there is more there, although maybe you’re touching the tip of the iceberg. When I interview artists, it’s amazing to me how many artists say, “I never saw it like that.” And then they have to go back to the studio and look at that because, even when I interviewed them, they said it. Now it’s just about how I edit it to show them that they’re saying something rote, but they’re not hearing the undertones of what they’re really saying. I’m not trying to say that I’m seeing something you can’t when you’re making your work, but what I’m saying is that when I pay attention to you as a person and as an artist, I want to understand your work and you. And that’s always an intimate thing that we hide from ourselves as creators so often.
K: I feel like we might feel similarly. Our experience has always been that it seems like there’s a little more of a reveal at the end of any interview that we ever have that we didn’t even expect, even though we’ve been doing it now for about a year. And there’s definitely a connection between how people prepare food and how they prepare their artwork, what processes they go through.
M: Well, these are life things, aAnd if we go back, I’ve been sitting intimate with people and doing portraits since 2000, and one-on-one, small group stuff. I know how to take your motivation and make sure it’s comfortable and pull out what needs to be pulled. I want to do artist videos. I may not be the best cinematographer, I may not be the best editor, I may not even be the best interviewer as a whole, but if you want to talk about interviewing artists, I’m the game, man. I can make it happen.
K: For your web series, say you get all the funding in the world, where does it go? Does it stay at the Hyde Park Arts Center?
M: All the funding in the world? I would rebuild the Hyde Park Arts Center in my backyard.
K: Is your backyard that big?
M: If I had all the money in the world, I’d make sure I had a backyard that big. I want the series to wrap up in the Hyde Park Arts Center.
Be sure to binge watch all the season one episodes of Our Cultural Center!