Since he was eighteen years old, Johnny Martin has been solely working in the film and television industry. He began his career as a stuntman, and within a relatively short period of time graduated to being a stunt coordinator and second-unit director. In those capacities, Johnny has worked on over 260 films, TV shows, and commercials, and even won the award for Best Stunt Coordinator of the Year for the film “Gone in 60 Seconds” and later receiving two nominations for an Emmy and one Screen Actors Guild award.
In 2003, Johnny launched his own production company, MARTINI FILMS. In just the first year he produced three films under his banner and two of the films received SYFY Channel’s “Premiere of the Year”. In 2012 Martini Films was one of the first US companies to partner with China Film Group (“CFG”) for the feature film “Urban Games”, which was entirely shot in China and Korea. Since, Martini Films has produced 20 films for Lionsgate, Sony, Paramount, and Saban.
In 2014 Johnny began his Directing debut on the horror film “Delirium” after winning three film festivals and receiving a theatrical, he was then hired in 2016 to direct “Vengeance: A Love Story”, starring Nicholas Cage and Don Johnson and then following up with “Hangman”, starring Al Pacino, Karl Urban and Brittany Snow and is now in post-production on “Alone” starring Donald Sutherland and Tyler Posey. On each of these films he has credited the late great Tony Scott for the many years of preparing him for his new venture. 2018 Johnny was invited to be a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.
Alex Ferrari 1:51
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Dave Bullis.
Dave Bullis 1:56
My next guest is a filmmaker and stop man. He began his career in 2014 just directing with his debut of the horror film delirium, which is actually coming out the beginning of next year, by the way, which was January 2018. He went on to direct to other films vengeance, A Love Story starring Nicolas Cage and Don Johnson and Hackman, which is the film want to talk about today. A lot about today, starring Al Pacino, Karl Urban and Brittany snow. We also talk a lot about doing stunts because he was in a really cool movie called killer clowns from outer space with guest Johnny Martin and I really appreciate that too. You know, we have a mutual friend and and Mr. Keough. And, you know, is it just me Johnny? Or does Michael Keough know everybody?
Johnny Martin 2:40
Michael Keough not only knows or he knows people he doesn't even know yet.
Dave Bullis 2:47
Yeah, it's always seems like Mike is always knows somebody else. He's always, you know, I see him talking to somebody else, or just, you know, mentioning somebody else. I'm like, Oh, my God, this man must not sleep. He must just, you must just either either call or go to networking parties are just, you know, he has his finger on the button like he has it all working together.
Johnny Martin 3:06
Oh, well, I've known him for a long, long time, probably over 1820 years. And back then, you know, he always talked about directing and doing all these movies. And I just thought, well, he's craft service, really. And I was always told today's craft service is tomorrow's director. And sure enough, this man pulled it off. He's amazing.
Dave Bullis 3:23
Yeah, I mean, he definitely did. And, you know, and speaking about, you know, today's craft services, tomorrow's director, you know, there's a lot of ways to get into the film industry. I mean, you know, everyone I've had on here as unique story. So I wanted to ask Johnny, how did you break into the film industry?
Johnny Martin 3:38
Well, it's such a great story. And I'm very proud of it. And basically, when I was seven years old, I used to go to car washes all the time, because when I grew up, it was like the 70s. And they always had the hot rods coming into the carwash and as a huge cost. And so one day also in his car pulls up with a trailer behind it with a smashed up car. And this guy steps out. I mean, she looked like Burt Reynolds coming out his car. He just was an amazing man. I had to ride ride my bike up to him and ask him, you know what have you know, when I'm in your car and he goes, this is a car. Her name is Eleanor. He goes, Eleanor meet and he asked me my name. And I told him he goes, Yeah, Eleanor's, a star. My movie called gone in 60 seconds. And I'm the director, producer, stuntman, actor, writer. And I'm out there delivering my movies, all the theaters and self distribute this film. And I said, I don't understand it. So he so we sat for like two hours and he explained everything to me. At the end of the conversation. I said, I want to do what you do. And he says, Well, look, if you go home and study and train, you can come see me when you're 18 and I will help you out. So sure enough, that day I went home and I started training, I started learning how to be a stuntman and an act I took acting classes and when I turned 18 And sure enough, I got in that car went to LA call my mom and tell her I was I was there and she said Honey I got bad news for you he colicky he died today doing movie Gone in 60 seconds part too. And so I went there, I was left alone, not knowing what to do. So I worked my butt off. And 10 years later, I got asked to suck, coordinate, and design all the actions for an upcoming Jerry Bruckheimer movie, we're starting to get out of that part of it my life and started only direct and produced. And I said, Well, what's the name of the movie? And they said, was gone in 60 seconds. And so it was just this amazing turnaround was like he was still taking care of me. And I ended up winning the award for Best coordination of the year. So it was really a thrill.
Dave Bullis 5:31
Yeah, that's absolutely amazing. It's absolutely amazing Johnny, where you got to actually be part of the movie that you started with? And yeah, that's amazing. And so, I mean, you did a lot of different stunts. And I looked at your IMDB. And I there's one movie Johnny, I have to ask about and you did stunts for killer clowns from outer space. Oh, my
Johnny Martin 5:52
God. You don't understand. I did a Titanic. I've done the matrices. I've done the terminators. I've done tons of YouTube. But the number one question everyone asked me. You were in killer clowns. It's so funny. That little cult movie was one of my first films that I acted. And it's done. And I played three of the clowns. And I did everything on that show. And it ended up becoming my most memorable movie. You know, I keep getting gifts from all over and autograph signings for that movie, too. It's just crazy.
Dave Bullis 6:22
You know, one day I was I was at like a big loss. I don't know if big loss is kind of like this big box discount store. And I was there, they had this big these have a movie section. And I found killer clowns there one day, and I said, you know, I remember this movie as a kid. So I take it up to the register, right? And I'm checking out and the girl scanning was, you know, scanning the DVDs and buying and she stops on killer clowns. And she goes, Oh, my God. She was I remember this movie. And she goes, she's telling everyone around us because have you ever seen this movie? She goes, it is freaking awesome. She goes, it's about these clowns are coming from outer space. And they're turning people into these cotton candy cocoons. And everyone now is like getting around her looking at this DVD case of killer clowns. And they're like, Oh my God, dude, is there more copies back there? Oh, my God, there's listening to awesome and it's just, it's just one movie that just came out of nowhere. And I remember seeing as like as a kid growing up. And now I have another copy. You can't see it. Because on a podcast, but I have a copy on my bookshelf.
Johnny Martin 7:24
That's great. Well, I'm in talks with the Chiodo brothers to see if I could produce the part the part two of that. So it's kind of interesting.
Dave Bullis 7:32
And I think like part two would be absolutely awesome. I think movies, especially movies like that, I think now are more prevalent than ever. Because I mean, I know, you know, I'm starting to get the superhero fatigue. And I'm starting to you know what I mean? I and I know, people who work on those movies, and I want to support them. But at the same time, like you know, I am way more interested in seeing like a Coen Brothers movie. You know what I mean? Or something like that, where it's like this, this fun movie, you know, or something even something like you know, something else has come out recently. That just blew me away was three billboards. Have you seen that yet? No, I Oh, yeah. It's fantastic. But I'm sure I'm getting off track. Okay, I love it. But But yeah, it's, you know, that's why I think movies like that, you know, it just it stays in that Zeitgeist because it's such a fun movie. And you mentioned doing stunts for Titanic too. I promised Johnny I was gonna mention that too. Because I saw you did you know I saw Titanic on your IMDB and I I said you know, I'll ask about you know Titanic than that then killer clowns but I so so just uh, you know, as we talked about stunts and everything, you know, there's been like, guys like Jason Statham Hoover has mentioned that you know, stunt guys should get their own category at the Academy Awards because you know, they do a lot of dangerous work they do a lot of different you know, the car flips they break jumping through the glass all that all that stuff you know, all that all that dangerous work, you know, so you know, as a stunt guy yourself, you know, what are your What are your thoughts about stunt stunt guys getting their own category in the Academy Awards?
Johnny Martin 9:08
Well, I agree and disagree with it and the part I agree with is it Yeah, you know, the the number one genre that makes the most money in the film industry is actual movies. So it is it is all of us out there. That least what I was and But the other point of it too is that you know, you have to declare who is a filmmaker and to me to be nominated for Academy Award, you have to be a true filmmaker. And there are a lot of some people that are are not filmmakers. They are just guys it like get hit by cars and like to crash up and wreck things and all that but then there's those great second directors and stuck quarters out there that know how to design amazing action that helps drive not only the story, but the characters as well. I mean, there's nothing better than seeing a great a great action.
Alex Ferrari 9:56
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Johnny Martin 10:05
That helps tell you who this character truly is, and what he's feeling without having to say it. And that's, to me a very rare to see, like The Bourne Identity movies. To me, I'm very impressed by because they, you know, the action is really only 20%. The rest is all the acting of Matt Damon and, and you see what he's reacting to and so believable, where then you jump into Fast and Furious, which I think is, you know, amazing stunt work and all that. But it's and designed very great. But my issue is that it does it. Is there a character in that car? Or is it the car, that's been the hero? And that's, to me the point that if they do do this, they have to make it clear that it should go to a filmmaker, not because someone made 500 million in the box office on a great action.
Dave Bullis 10:51
Yeah, I see what you mean. And go because, you know, sometimes in the in movies like Fast and Furious, you know, the sort of the, the car itself, the muscle cars, the the exotics, they're like the sort of center of attention and a lot of those action set pieces.
Johnny Martin 11:07
Yeah, and that's not what the story is about, not about the car, it's about who's driving the car and where and where they're going.
Dave Bullis 11:13
Yeah, and you know, that'd be funny to actually like, turn into something like Transformers was kind of like the same thing, you know. So as you as you did your career, Johnny, you know, as you got, you know, to do more and more stunts, you started producing. And, you know, again, as we were talking, you know, it's always interesting to see the trajectory of careers. So as you go from stunts to producing, how did you make that, that sort of transition from one to the other?
Johnny Martin 11:39
Well, I mean, the whole reason why I got into science, I happen to be really good at it. So I was fortunate to stay in it for as long as I did, probably longer than I wanted to stay but but I wanted to learn from some of the top directors look better way of getting behind Tony Scott and James Cameron than to get on the set of the statement and stay on for a few weeks and say, just try and sneak on. So that was mainly my main main idea. Then when I started to watch it, I realized how much money is being overspent when people are just trying to spend money. When you look at Studio movies, you look at it, where they're spending $100 million, well, really only 50 million got put in the movie. The rest are executive charges, studio charges, and all that. So movies aren't really 100 million. I'm like, Well, why can't you make? You know, and I started seeing the decline of video, and blockbusters and all that. And I'm like, Well, where is the recoupment gonna come from. But we have to start making movies for less. And sure enough that started happening. And so when I started studying that I wanted to produce, I knew that I knew how to shoot action. I knew how to do it quickly. And that was the most expensive part of making action movies is the action. So I went to Millennium Films, Avi Lerner and I told him, Well, how much do you do your sci fi movies for? And he says 1.8 million. I said, and you shoot it where he goes in Bulgaria. I said, Well, what if I tell you I could choose one of your sci fi movies and same style, same way for 300,000. And I'll shoot it in LA, so it's impossible. And so I had my actors Casper Van Dien and Michael Rooker Kala, Bobby and say, I think he could do it, I really believe in Him. And sure enough, we pulled it off for 310,000. And movies became sci fi film of the year. And then I did another one. And I said, Can I have the 1.5? And he said, No, I'll give you 700 Because he wanted to test me. And sure enough, I did that one for seminar, and that became sci fi movie there the following year. And then it started giving me more and more films to produce after that. So it's more or less knowing. And I through my career, I've always wanted to learn every department, I thought, learning from this man, HBO Lickey that I met, when I was seven years old. The key to becoming a great filmmaker is to learn everyone's job, I learned how to do special effects, I learned how to do visual effects. I learned every single career when I when I had a day off, I'd go spend it with some some of my buddies that did another career than I did. And I try to learn it's like some ultimate filmmaker. And that's where I thought producing would be very, very good for me. And it's paid off very well for me. As far as my career, I got to be the first company to travel to China, and to CO CO produce a movie with China Film Group about five years ago in 2013, called Urban games. And I got to show them how you could pull off a movie where they thought they need 18 million. I did it for seven and a half one. So it worked out really well. They wanted me to stay there and I just couldn't stay in China. I want to come back home and do some real movies.
Dave Bullis 14:26
If you did stay in China just just sort of play like a what if game Johnny, if you did stay in China, do you think that they would have just been coming up to you with like, you know, project after project and just saying Hey, Johnny, could you you know, produce this film and produce this film in Beijing and then go to, to to like, you know, to such want to do this film?
Johnny Martin 14:45
Yeah, I was asked to go to Canada. You know, in my movie, we went to Seoul, Korea and debate Beijing and the problem I had with it. It's similar to TV in China, where the producer isn't the film Aker, it's really the director. And in TV, it's the the writer who is the producer. And so it became something where I'm a creative producer. And I'm not the kind of producer that just needs to push up numbers around and get things done at certain price, I want to be a part of the filmmaking experience and to help scenes get better. And when I went to China, it was more that I had these ideas, but the director got to override me were in my films here as a producer, I got to say what I wanted and felt that you needed to shoot this no matter what, and I got it done. And so that's why I really didn't want to stay in China for very much longer. Because I didn't want to just be a guy that did the numbers. I wasn't that I was built to make movies not to just help create movies by money.
Dave Bullis 15:41
Yeah, and I think that's very virtuous of you, Johnny, because you realize wanna stay true to yourself, you know, you don't want to just sit there and, you know, you want to make your own movies, you want to make other people's movies. Exactly. So, by the way, you know, I don't know if you do you know, Peter Marshall?
Johnny Martin 16:02
Name sounds familiar.
Dave Bullis 16:03
He's like a, he does a lot of first ad work. He's worked a lot with John Woo. But he actually was in China for a while doing different movies and stuff like that. But yeah, I just I just wanted to ask if you knew him and just in case you to ever cross cross paths.
Johnny Martin 16:19
It very well might be that do know, because I've done a few job where movies, so
Dave Bullis 16:23
Yeah, he and he's a real good guy, too. And so, but yeah, if you if you don't, though, if you don't know him, though, Johnny, let me know. And I'll introduce you to.
Johnny Martin 16:30
You got it sounds great.
Dave Bullis 16:32
So so so as you sort of, you know, gotten better at producing, you know, you're able to sort of, you know, do different things with money. You know, was your was your budget sort of rising incrementally? Or did you ever find yourself Johnny? Like, somebody would say, oh, no, Johnny, we're only gonna give you, you know, 500,000 or a million. And then when you make the and when you went to make that your second, third and fourth, they were they, you know, they just kept it at that same point, where was like Johnny willing gonna give you 50 million or 500,000? Or a million? Or do they allow you to? Or did you were able to get it to go up incrementally?
Johnny Martin 17:05
Well, I after I do those two, two sci fi movies, that's when an obvious way to do it third, and I said, No, I want to step up to a budget where I could actually make a film that I believe in not just having to put it together and do whatever I could for the money. So immediately there, I jumped up to the five to $7 million range. And I did three or four, Cuba Gooding Jr, movies that he started, it was just right when Wesley Snipes went to jail, and Cuba was right there to fill in for the next grade action hero where I was hoping to try to get these dramas and rewrite them into, you know, action pieces, but not action movies where, you know, it helps to book so I'm a real big fan of Cuba Gooding, and I just wanted to see him just raise his career up by not being sold out as an action stock, but being an action quality actor. And so that's what I started doing. I found a niche in that spot. And that's where I realized that if you have like to point one to 2.5 below line, that's where most movies today are being made. Everyone gets caught up in numbers. And they think that you know, I got $11 million budget, I guarantee that $11 million budget still has a below the line to make the movie around 2.1 to 2.9. You know, just because it fluctuates. I've done movies for seven millions and 9 million to 12 to 13 million. And yet the below the line is still around 3 million or less. That doesn't change because you know, you know, today's movies, because there is no payoff in in VOD as blockbuster I mean, excuse me, Netflix isn't buying as much as, as we thought they would. And China stopped buying all together. You know, it really makes it hard for anyone to recoup. So I was lucky that I found that niche because right when I started really getting further and further into it, that's when I realized that all the movies have to make that unless they're sequels, or they're a Marvel comic, you know, all the rest of the movies are still being done at this level. And the problem is a lot of the studio guys don't know how to do movies at this price. You know, they don't know about sales. That's what Avi learned taught me. You know, what each country buys films for what every actor is worth and how much you have to make movie his goal all along was always make a movie. For what you can pre sell this movie lower by a million dollars. And then you can make that movie for that and know that you always have a million dollars. And no matter what the movie is, you have as a great producer yet to figure out how to do that movie for the money that's going to make the company money. So that's what I learned. And so now basically, I'm still doing the same I mean, my movies 11 million, but yet still below the lines are still under three.
Dave Bullis 19:38
And that's a great bit of voice. By the way, Johnny, I really liked that. That advice because, you know, just how it ties in, as well. You know, just with with just this podcast, you know, I've had filmmakers on who've done their first movie their second movies or third movies, and some of them have made a comedy as their first movie.
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Dave Bullis 20:06
And one of the things that we talked about on here, they said, David, when wherever we go to like foreign sales agents, or we go to do VOD, or to any of these, like aggregators, like, you know, you know, there's, there's tons of them out there, but they got any of them. They always say, well, who's in it? And they go, Well, you know, it's nobody, when they say, we can't really saw a comedy as your first movie with a lot of unknown actors, and expect it to get a wide release. So they always said, you know, go out and make a horror movie instead. What do you think about that advice? So just to make a horror movie as your first movie?
Johnny Martin 20:42
Well, I think the advice that that person said is even worse than what we all thought today. And then nowadays, you know, 80% of movies that are being made are being made by independent not studio studios, just by our movies, throw their name on it. And now everyone thinks I gotta Lionsgate movies like no, I did it through Patriot pitchers. And then they just bought it at the end for 2.7 or 2.8. But now it looks like it was a Lionsgate movie. So knowing that, yeah, I mean, we can't even sell movies. And since we're in the independent world, we're not fortunate to do movies. Without cast, I mean, that we can't even sell it and get our domestic out of it. So we have to have a cast. So if you try to make a movie without an actor, and you think you got gold, well guess what's probably gonna end up sitting on a shelf, or it's gonna be sold to a distributor that that will prove that you never made a dime when he made all the money. So you should never ever try to get horror movies. It's very tricky. It's like a good example is what happened to me is that I need to show everyone I could direct everyone knew I could produce everything. I could do action, direct action, but they didn't know if I could direct a film with actors. So I went ahead and wrote a movie about my friends that I grew up with that we used to go to the scary house when we were kids. And we had this, you know, hell gang. And we I created the story around it. And I shot at the original house that we used to sneak in at night. And I made it sound foolish because down footage was dead while I started getting the news from everyone, that sound footage was going to die sooner or later. So I had to rush and get this movie into editing and, and post and clean it up and get it ready. And by time that I was ready to sell it. I missed the window by about a month. Everyone said, bounce, which is too many people did it because it's cheap to do. So you know what we're done with it. So now they're done with it. So what am I going to do with this movie now? Well, I went back, I rewrote it, and I borrowed it another 50,000. And I changed it into a mix of sound footage and real footage of a real film. And now that movies done very well for me, as very, like I did it with kid actors from Disney Channel, and all that where, you know, you could get them at scale. And at least they're there. They're not known names, but at least they have a resume that you can at least put on a poster. And that's what I suggest you doing, you know, if worst comes to worse, and you can't afford an actor or can't get an actor, you know, always turn to a TV star, because at least they got some kind of clout to them.
Dave Bullis 22:59
Yeah, and with with TV being so prevalent nowadays, you know, there's a lot more to TV stars out there. Because, you know, on Netflix alone, there's like, what 300 shows? The episodic shows now? What, you know, yeah, there's, there's a lot of, you know, Amazon, and you have your cable package, and then you have Netflix and and all the other channels. You know, there's a lot of episodic content up there now.
Johnny Martin 23:19
Yet well, and the problem with all this is 10 years ago, Blockbuster would hold on to your movie forever. I mean, you you could go in there and get a movie from 20 years ago, nowadays, where do you go other than the number one distributor in the world and that's Walmart, Walmart, believe it or not, is the number one destroyer because they hold on your movies for years and years, they put in that $5 bucket. And if you can be thrown in that $5 bucket, you're the luckiest producer in the world, because that's where the money is to be added. Because they can keep it in that book bucket for three years where Netflix is lucky, the whole lot. If you get into Netflix could hold on your movie for only three months. Redbox, you're lucky to be in it for months. So there's nowhere that has a lasting way of selling your movie other than Walmart right now.
Dave Bullis 24:05
And that's a very good point, Johnny, you know, I was uh, one time I was actually at a film producer sort of seminar and they also talked about you know, what the cost of shelf space is. So if you walked into a target at Best Buy a Walmart and you start looking around the movie section, you know, each time the cover is horizontally versus vertically you know what I mean that the cover is facing out towards you and you can see it versus if you just see the spine you know, there's a huge cost difference between those two because it's about shelf space and you know they have that we have what I level of one goes to first they have hey we're talking about all that stuff. And you know you now you know with with blockbuster gone and you know now it's just you know Netflix and you know like you said Walmart you giving him that bin now that bins a whole nother you know, almost like another revenue cycle or another opportunity. You know what I mean? And that's sort of, I know what you mean too, but going into that bin, I've seen tons and tons of movies that I Some friends of mine has made movies and I've seen them in there. And they said, you know, that was actually good because people do actually buy from those from those big barrels of of movies.
Johnny Martin 25:09
Oh, yeah, it really is. I mean, that's, that's really that's the only place that people, you know, our film watchers, the real filmmakers go to that buggy because they want to watch something new and they want something that they can buy three of them instead of going to the theater and having to pay for one movie.
Dave Bullis 25:26
Yeah, and, and yeah, then Joseph died just to sort of just to sort of reminisce, you know, we talked about blockbuster, I remember going there to a lot and I wanted to ask, you know, do you think that the blockbuster in any way, shape or form is going to come back? Like where you could actually just go to a store with with your friends and actually just, you know, actually rent physical movies?
Johnny Martin 25:48
You know, what, I wanted to open up one so bad, but every time I do I do the research. And you know, the problem is, you know, like, my daughter's right now, even though I'm in the business, I'll catch him watching a movie that's in theaters here right now. Because everything's being pirated. Everything's online, everything's free now. I mean, you could really watch anything, you want it anytime for free. So why would you need to go out when you could just download it, or get it online. And that's the problem is, is that, you know, I used to love going to the blockbuster with my kids. And that's going through every movie. And that was fun. And now it's that here, that time is gone. And it's really hurting families. And that's what movies are all about. Movies are all about bringing families together and enjoy an experience a dream, you know, and now it's just a matter of do they have time to watch one and that's where it's, I really miss blockbuster. And I think the film industry is really hurting because it's gone.
Dave Bullis 26:45
Yeah, it's, I know, there's a lot of piracy out there. And I also wonder, too, as we talk about net neutrality, you know, how much that will play into it. Because if you're paying more for your internet, if you're paying more for certain features and packages, you know, going to those those torrent sites is not going to be as readily accessible as it is now as if net neutrality goes away.
Johnny Martin 27:10
Yeah, yep. Well, on the other thing, gotta remember is that you own a block, Buster, you got to buy how many DVDs? Were online, you just need a copy of the movie, and you don't have to make anything anymore. Yeah.
Dave Bullis 27:24
Yeah, but it would be fun, though. It just in a best case scenario, to just own a blockbuster or something. Almost like what Tarantino used to work at, you know, what, it was a video archive?
Johnny Martin 27:36
I totally agree. I think it can still work in certain cities. I really do. Because a lot of people don't want to go on the internet, you know, just finding the right the right town like LA is not the right town. But maybe somewhere in in Spokane, Washington, or Boise, Idaho, Idaho, maybe the perfect spot for that.
Dave Bullis 27:55
You know, there's still a few blockbusters left, and they're all in Alaska.
Johnny Martin 28:01
Really, I believe that See, there you go. People don't want to be hibernating in their house, they want to get out. That's great. Love hearing that.
Dave Bullis 28:09
Yeah. And also, because, you know, the, the internet, they're slow as well, but do it? Yeah. And you know, you're right. I do want to get out. But that, you know, they were able to go out and then you know, go to the blockbuster. And you know, they don't have to stream it or anything, they can just, you know, play away from the blu ray or the DVD. And when I when I did read that, you know, I started saying, You know what it makes sense, you know, show your, you know, I don't know how populated Alaska is and you know, but I know it's it's not that populated. You know what I mean? It's you know, when you think of Alaska, you think of igloos and polar bears.
Johnny Martin 28:41
Dave Bullis 28:44
So your journey, as we talked about, you know, getting back to this, I'm sorry, now, I started get off topic again. But as we, as we go back to talking about, you know, your career and you and producing and everything, and you said you had to prove that you had direct. And I think that's very, very critical. Because I think that's, that happens to a lot of people. You know, I think that's, that's one of those, you know, it's unique to everybody, but it's also universal at the same time, because people want to see what you're capable of, they want to see what you can do. So So you made the horror movie delirium. And, you know, what, what was your experience, you know, just just getting that made, in terms of, hey, this is the movie where I'm going to show everybody what I can do.
Johnny Martin 29:23
Well, the thing is that, you know, going back to old subject is that, you know, people don't want to be your first try. They just won't do it. And no matter what script you have, you know, that's their career on the line. So that's why you have to be able to show and prove yourself. And that's what's tricky is it you know, unless you have you know, everyone doesn't look at your movie, as $100,000 movie or $200 movie, they look at it as as a movie. So you can't tell someone Well, this was only this. That's why I did this. They don't care. They only care. Did you make a quality movie, not caring about your budget or anything else? So now you're competing against that.
Alex Ferrari 29:59
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Johnny Martin 30:08
Which really makes it hard. So when I did my movie, the background that I had was the most important learning every one's job. Because once I did that, that allowed me to have a six man crew. That's all I shot my movie with. I didn't have any more than that I knew what I needed to do. I prepped it, PrEP is the most important thing where today's movies, they don't give you prepping where they give you four weeks to do a great movie, it needs to be prepped so great. And having every backstop every way I have a problem happens and ready to make change anytime. I don't think I've ever shot a script that we shot to the script itself. There's always a moment where you think, oh my god, what if I did this, and you have to be prepared for that. And you have to have a great team behind you. Remember, when you're directing your number one thing that you should be doing at that moment is finding the right DP for you. Because you're not just making the movie his eyes behind that thing. And he needs to move that camera. No director ever says okay, no, move that camera here there. And that's great. But you got to find moments through the dialogue that gets you to that other character to not cause this delay of a cameras before a hard cut. And that's why it's so important to hire as a finding that perfect soulmate that you could find in a DP that you guys think like imagine to like, and you guys could pick the shot perfectly. And know that he you have, he has free range to do whatever he wants to do to find that as well. It's a partnership. And that's what everyone wants to say, Well, I did this movie with I mean, every movie I've done, I've done with my DPS. I have to DPS I trust wholeheartedly. And I don't want to do a movie without them. Because we'd know each other we know what we both like. And so I would suggest that to everyone and product, know what your product is, I mean know what is going to sell for the next four years don't don't like sound foolish for me when I made the film, which I did the worst mistake because I created something that was hot at the moment. I didn't look into the future. And that's what you need to do. If I could do a found footage, imagine how many other films are gonna be sound footage. So what can I do? What can I do to be different because that $200,000, the only thing is going to make you stand out is if you have something that's different and new and fresh. And so that's what you really have to consider just don't go out shooting mood to show that you have you know how to direct because no one's going to the only time someone's gonna tell you that you're a great director is when they love your movie. Not love your shots. Love your movie.
Dave Bullis 32:32
Yeah, and that's a good point, Johnny, you know, and it's always about that, the whole experience, right? And you mentioned building a team. So you know, just about finding the right director cinematography, so you know how to work together, I couldn't agree more. I've been a part of film sets like that. I've seen film sets like that, where, you know, they want to hire somebody because they got a nice camera, or they want to hire somebody because they can talk the talk. But you know, when it comes time to when it becomes crunch time. It all sort of falls away. Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, and you know, and also, we talked about just standing out from the pack, I think that is, you know, obviously it's more important than ever, you know, because right now, it's a war of eyeballs and ears, right? You know, it's a war of, you know, how can I get my movie seen and by making it you know, as unique as possible, not sounding like something is someone's already has already seen with you, as we talked about found footage. That's why I think proud of my activity really found that niche, even like The Blair Witch Project, as well, The Blair Witch Project, they really were able to capitalize on the fact that the internet was so new, it was in an infancy stages. And, you know, everyone really believed in it. And the marketing was brilliant behind that, because it made it seem like it was a real mystery that and this movie was going to be you know, you're watching a documentary, you know, and then with paranormal activity, it was a, you know, I think they did something similar, but they were able to just capitalize on this, and he made it free, even cheaper than the boiler, which was we, I think, or made it for what 13,000. So it's like, you know, standing out, you know, just finding that niche and standing out is sort of key. And I think, you know, to do that, rather than just, you know, reverse engineer it, I think that the way to do that is, you know, find what movies you like, and write a script that you'd like to see and go from there. And then sort of use your what resources you have, and then see how you can get it to sort of fit in that context. So you're not looking going out and going well, I need to you know, go out and rent a yacht to blow up or something like that, you know, it's stuff you have you it's stuff that you have access to, that you can use to make your movie.
Johnny Martin 34:34
Well, and the most important thing is like when I say find find something new and fresh. You have to be willing to get ready to change your whole thought pattern of that because it could fall on you could fall on your face by but by doing that just as fast as you get successful. And by what I mean by that is that when I made my movie, I knew I had to be different so I wanted to make standby me meats a horror movie. I wanted five characters now made These guys hang out with each other for for three months, I filmed them for three months, just hanging out until I knew they were best friends and wanting to hang out with each other. That's when I made the movie. And that's how I knew it was gonna get that stand by me moment, it was more about character. And so I made this movie, it was head scares in it and had these great moments. And when I made it, I turned around and people you know what, when they got that title horror on there, and you're not delivering, or my idea was great, and it looked great, it won some some festivals. But at the end of the day, when people buy it, they said, Johnny, we don't know how to categorize this movie, we don't really know how to sell it, because it's not really a horror, and it is. So we don't know what to do with it. So that's when I had to go back not only to change it out of sound footage, but I had to put more scares in it and cut out a lot of the dramatic parts, where I built these characters. So a lot of stuff I truly believed in, I had to change because at the end of the day, it's not about what I think is perfect. It's what you know, the audience and what the buyers and distribution companies thinks it's good.
Dave Bullis 35:58
Yeah. And and, you know, again, as we talked about sort of selling, it's sort of like, you know, exactly what is everyone looking for? What is everyone buying? How do I get people to buy this movie? And, you know, as we, as we talked about your your second film that, you know, in the past couple of months, because again, in the pre interview, we were talking about how the past couple of months have been actually, you know, really good for you. You know, not now delirium is coming out soon, which is the movie we're just talking about. And now you have a second film that's coming out Avengers a love story with Nicolas Cage. So how did you go about, you know, getting that film? Johnny, did you put that together? Or was that something that was sort of pitched to you?
Johnny Martin 36:34
Well, no, it was a great movie, they, Patric pitchers asked me to produce it with Nick Cage, who I've been friends with for 20 years. And I met him during God and 16. We did a lot of movies after that together. And so I was producing it, the director, I didn't believe and I didn't think he could pull it off for what I had. So I basically had to fire him. And Nick wanted to direct the movie himself. And I said, Great. So since medium had this great collaboration together, you know, he was so busy with his schedule, and I would, you know, he called me up, he goes, Hey, can you start the shot list? A, you know, show me the locations I'll pick, and all this stuff. So we're working hand in hand, and then, you know, when when when the budgets start getting tighter and tighter and tighter, you know, I had to cut days out of movie and I told him I, you know, you have just moving 21 days. And he said, that's gonna be very hard for me to do plus my schedule. Johnny, I don't know if I could pull it off. Why don't Why don't you do it? And so everyone agree. There's the producers. And everyone said, Yeah, John, Donnie should do it. He knows the movie The best. Then DGA stepped in and said, Nope, Johnny can't do it. Because he's a producer on the film. And by Directors Guild rules. You can't take over a movie for a director if you're the producer. So we didn't have a director. We were supposed to start shooting in 48 hours and eight hours before we started shooting the DJ, my producer, my financier, God, his attorneys after the DGA. And they finally agreed that I could direct the movie. So I didn't have that much warning that this was my movies. And it was about rape. And it was a sensitive story. And it was very hard. So I just worked every every night. And every day I was off to prep this movie, you know, for every day. And it was a really hard, hard movie. But I'm very proud of it. And Nick is very, very proud of it. And I think we pulled off something special.
Dave Bullis 38:20
So when you mentioned prepping even on your days off, Johnny, was that more like you were in your producers hat like you're thinking to yourself, Okay, well, is this location really locked? You know, what could go wrong? What else am I going to need? Was it stuff like that?
Johnny Martin 38:33
No, I already you know, I do that. I mean, like when I direct like when I grew up, my last week hanging out, everyone else might hear my deal in my head is I'll go produce it for the first two weeks, and I'll get everything handled with unions everything else. And and didn't make all the deals, but then I shut off from my producer at take that off, and I go dry it into direct. And when I did this on vengeance, it was about seeing seeing the scenes, I usually have this weird thing that people make fun of me for but I could see things I could see scenes. In my head go around me I could see cars pass by my body when I'm just standing there looking. So I like to close down a street and fit in the middle of the street and and look at it and find the scene. And when I see that then I could really picture where all my cameras could go and all that. And that's why again saying a great DP can visualize your story because as I talk out loud, he's seeing what I'm seeing now too. So I had to make this movie it was next movie and I had tried to find out how to make it mine where I could believe it. You know, shooting a rape scene is very sensitive, and it's very hard to shoot rape scene because people get so disturbed by it that that your movie could be ruined by a bad rape scene by making it too much. And so my rape scene this movie a little girls watching her mom getting raped and I thought the way I could do this and make it violent, that need to be violent because we needed to know why these guys should get what they get by the end of this movie.
Alex Ferrari 40:01
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Johnny Martin 40:10
That I said, what better than to show a rape scene through the eyes of this girl and what her visual is and what her pain is that she's feeling, and very show very little of the rape itself. And that's was different than next version of it. And that's where I brought mine. So that's what I do during prep, to try to prepare what I feel the movie should look like.
Dave Bullis 40:32
Yeah, and I think that's a good point, too. Because, you know, there are movies that have very violent, very violent rape scenes, you know, like I spent on your grave, irreversible Straw Dogs, just to name a few. And you know, and again, you were mentioning, you know, doing things a little bit differently. And I think the way the you did it, it definitely sounds like, you know, obviously, you're taking a very touchy subject very, you know, hard subject. But it's a different way to sort of show this narrative rather than obviously, that the graphic rape like I was just in three movies I just mentioned.
Johnny Martin 41:06
Right! Absolutely. You're right.
Dave Bullis 41:08
So so as you know, and you mentioned, your your third movie, by the way, and I, this is actually the movie that got us talking to Mr. Keigh was, is hanging man. Again, I saw the poster and I said, Wow, that looks awesome. And again, Michael, you know, just introduced us out of sheer luck or law of attraction, whatever you want to call it. But, you know, as we talked about hanging man, I wanted to ask you, what is it like? Well, I wanted to actually, I want to ask what it was like working with Al Pacino. But I also want to ask you, though, to Johnny, you know, how did you go about with this movie and getting this made? With hanging man? Did you know Was this another project that you were able to get made by yourself? Or was this pitch to you?
Johnny Martin 41:50
Well, after I did the vengeance, a love story, hanging man was in the company, a patriot. And so they had a director already attached to it. And when Michael of the financier saw the movie vengeance, he said, I want you to do hanged man. And so I had to talk my way into RL Rifkin, who was the other producer, and he didn't really want me because he already had his director. So it was a struggle. And Michael said, Well, I'm not going to finance it unless Johnny directs it. And he goes, well, well, well, it's not our decision. It's a it's out. It's Alba chinos. So out here Alba Chino, you know, didn't want to set the meeting. He said, Well, let me see what he did before. And he watched my the Benyus, the love story. He stopped after the rape scene and called and said, I'd like to meet him, because he was blown away by how I treated the rape scene. And he didn't watch the rest of the movie, which was funny, he just wanted to see something that really caught his eye. And so the scariest day of my life is knowing I'm gonna go meet the number one filmmaker of all time and the iconic Alba Chino, you know, how can I top this? And how am I going to talk this man who's worked with Scorsese, and Salman and Coppola, and let him think that I'm as good as them, you know. And there's one thing I have, and that's passion. I don't care about the money, I don't care about anything else, but to try to make a film that is emotionally that gets people emotionally involved. And that's what I am almost here. My favorite movies are like miracle and rocky and all those movies, not, you know, great action movies. And so going in there, I guess I gave out a pitch that he just said, Your energy is so big and you believe in it's so much your words. And before we knew it, we were doing lines opposite of each other. And and he would do he was when I say this, and I come back with a line right after that. And, and he would come back to me and we started an improv thing. And before I know it has gone there every day, and we were doing improv and finally he'd call me at two in the morning, go, okay, this person with two lines, Johnny, the carpets in the police actually caught number two, and he was yeah, he was where were they born? I go Minnesota. He was from a single families and know their family is still married, but they're having problems, as it was what we thought of what the characters would be. So when we got to the set, he was able to focus differently on each character, knowing what they went through in their lives, even if it was a one line character. And that's what really made this movie so amazing is because it just became so real. And to work with Al Pacino. Probably any drug any director in the world should be as lucky to have the moment that I had with this man who's probably the most incredible actor and human being I've ever met.
Dave Bullis 44:38
Yeah, I mean, I just want to get that's one of the questions I want to ask about working with Al Pacino was, you know, I mean, obviously there had to be some kind of almost like intimidation because you know, Al Pacino has been in so many freaking movies that have just, you know, skyrocketed like, you know, Serpico and and, you know, which where he played a detective also. And I mean, that's what I was going to ask is, you know, if ever if he ever or just, you know, not not like coming with an ego, but just the fact that, you know, hey, look, it's Al Pacino. I mean, this man has just made so many awesome movies. And it's like, you know, how do you direct somebody like that has worked for Scorsese and stuff like that, you know, it's just like, well, you know, you know what I mean? So, so that's good, Johnny, I'm glad that, you know, you were able to sort of find that, that core and again, you know, you're passionate, you know, what you're doing? And, you know, so I want to ask you to, as you're sort of going back and forth, forth with him. And he asked you to where was this character born? You know, that's just you add, let me I mean, what would have happened just as a whatever, if you would have said, our I don't know.
Johnny Martin 45:40
Well, the thing is that I prepared myself so well, that I, I knew everything that I need, I read that script 18 times before I met without, and I was involved with everyone I knew where they were in the scene. I already picture the set every pitcher, who they were, how they carry their shoulders, how they walked, and everything else. So I mean, great part about hanging man is that every role drove the story. So it was easy to know, what emotions these people felt. It's like the in my opening scene when we find the first thing. You know, everyone say, well, Johnny, this girl's so weak, you know, why isn't she supposed to be a cop? I said, yeah, she's a beat cop work and two in the morning shift. And, and you know, and she works a schoolyard. And so, to me that that character needed to be a little bit weaker. So my lead character, Rooney could come into this movie, and be strong and not be compared to another cop. And so it was stuff like that, that made me realize that when I met out that I really thought this stuff out. And I already pretty much knew I didn't know the backstory so much, which I learned a lot. But I pictured this girl was wounded somehow, and she was weak. And so what would that lead to? And that led to what her family likes would be. And so al brought it more out in me as well. You know, but we did a lot of rewrites from it from from the prep, it was an everyday meeting everyday talk by prep the movie, so it was really quite interesting. And he wouldn't allow stuff that he felt that the audience would stop it, it's very bad. He said in the editing room with me price seven days, didn't say a word just hung out with me to watch see how we were doing this. And you know, at the end of the movie, I told him out, I know, you thought we made seven. But it's a character piece about for for people struggling with their lives to find out how they can help each other. And that's what the movie kind of is, again, I'm all about relationships and movies, and I know that everyone's gonna go see it probably is gonna go into Oh, my God, this is another seven because that's what the trailer looks like. And it is it's like a seven. But it's more about having a relationship with with these actors. More than the normal seven kind of movie.
Dave Bullis 47:43
Yeah, and, you know, I have the I haven't seen the movie yet. But I actually, I actually ordered it on Vudu. And it's out early on night right now. So I'm actually gonna watch it Not tonight. But tomorrow. So I can't wait. And I saw it was up there. And I said, Oh, I said, I actually ordered it. I was like, You know what, I'm gonna have Johnny on the podcast. And I thought it was gonna watch it, but I didn't. But I made sure to order it. And by the way, everyone, I'm going to link to that in the show notes hanging man on Vudu, it's actually out before it's in theaters are the same time it's in theaters yet? And which I think by the way, Johnny, I think that's a really good idea for a lot of films in general. Because it sort of gives you, you know, so a different form of access, you know, in case you know, the movie isn't playing around you, or if you know, there's not a theory like around you. I've always said this is a really good idea that I you know, I mean, as we talked again, about VOD, and everything else, I always think it's a good idea for a lot of films to do that. Is it to come out either at the same time. It's in theaters, or even surely then after you know what I mean.
Johnny Martin 48:49
Right, exactly. I totally agree with you.
Dave Bullis 48:53
And so Johnny, you know, as we, as we sort of, you know, have been talking for about 45 minutes, you know, is there anything in closing that you want to talk about Johnny or anything that we get a chance to discuss?
Johnny Martin 49:05
You know, half the reason why I do these, these interviews at all as because, again, I cared about movies. And the worst thing about this, this business is failure, and how low it can really bring you and how easy it is to quit this business. And there's so many people that are more passionate about films than probably anything in this world. And I just have to tell everyone is that you know, knowledge is everything. And the key thing you got to be as the smartest guy in the room learn more than the guy that you're meeting and learn everything you can about him him as well. I mean, no have the knowledge of knowing his work and how it compares to your work. But people you know, the ego gets really big in this industry, and that is what destroys people unfortunately.
Alex Ferrari 49:52
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Johnny Martin 50:01
So I just sent say, knowledge is everything and learn as much as you can before you are ready to go out there, you get one chance at this. Don't Don't blow it just because you get that opportunity to be ready for your opportunity.
Dave Bullis 50:14
You know, Johnny, that is that is absolutely great advice. You know, always be ready and always learn as much as you possibly can. And Johnny, we will find you out online.
Johnny Martin 50:25
Well, themartinifilm.net themartinifilms.net that is, I have a website that explains my story and my whole career from stunts to acting to producing. I'm going to start the opening up seminars of how to raise money in and help people in Georgia, all my crew members and all that they want to become better filmmakers and even more filmmakers. So I'm going to start putting on seminars, how to go about putting together films and all that hopefully, I'll have that recorded. And I do have an upcoming movie with our friend Michael Key Hill, which I gotta tell you I'm very very proud of and I cannot wait to get started on this thing in the movies called judge not I think that is more like the seven that that everyone wants to see. It's really dark and gritty. And that's kind of like my genre that I want to go with like David David flinch. pincher did.
Dave Bullis 51:17
That's really, really cool. And you're Mr. Keyhole together. That's, that's gonna be interesting. Because, you know, again, because Kiko knows everybody and, you know, yeah. I'm very excited. Yeah. And you're genuinely when you are doing those seminars, let me know. And I will add them to the show notes as well update them. You know, everybody, everything that Johnny and I talked about on the show, in this episode will be on the show notes at Dave bullas.com. Twitter, it's at Dave underscore Bullis. Johnny Martin, I want to say thank you so much for coming on.
Johnny Martin 51:52
Thank you very much, Dave. Very nice meeting you all!
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