Wild Horses

Stephanie Martin

How did you get into directing?
After 10 years of working as a cinematographer I came to the realization that I wasn’t making the sort of films I aspired to make. I decided to move towards writing and directing projects I had a passion for. With this in mind, I sat down with a friend and wrote the script of Wild Horses and then applied to the AFI Directing Workshop for Women (DWW). With its emphasis on women who have at least seven year’s experience within the film industry and who are transitioning into the role of director, the DWW program was exactly what I was looking for.

What is your most recent project?
Wild Horses and the birth of my daughter, Madeleine Bridge Martin Richardson, born on April 3, 2013.
The cause of America’s Mustang horses has been close to my heart for years. Because of controversial mismanagement policies, our wild horses are being eradicated (down from two million in the early 20th century to about 35,000). I am currently writing a feature screenplay based on this issue.

What is the best part of being a director?
I enjoy the entire process; from coming up with the initial idea to the research phase and pre-production through postproduction. I love developing the storyline and then diving into a new world.  I also love the communal aspect of making a film.  Bringing people together, being surrounded by the most talented and visionary filmmakers—the whole process of making the film is as important as the final product.  Being at the helm of such an undertaking is something I so thoroughly enjoy I hardly consider it work, it is a job I look forward to every day.

What is the worst part of being a director?
I have to say that the worst part is worrying about the budget even though there is also a positive aspect to that. Through the fundraising of my latest project, I came into contact with many people who greatly supported the film.  I am thoroughly involved in the financial side of things and I don’t take anything for granted.  Every decision is a choice and that choice will have an impact.

What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
I am focusing both on my career as a film and commercial director. I actually think that having my feet in both worlds makes me a stronger director as does my work in Cinematography.

Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates most with you?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that to be frightened is not something to be frightened about. Every experience is a new one. It doesn’t matter how many films one has made, how many accolades—you walk into each new job as if it were the first, with an open mind and an open heart.

I don’t have a mentor per se but I’m very fortunate to have studied such directors as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Marc Forster at work on a daily basis. I’ve also had the possibility to work with cinematographer Robert Richardson and in commercials, with Erich Joiner of Tool.  Besides being extremely talented, Erich creates an atmosphere on set based on respect and kindness that allows creativity to flourish.

Who is your favorite director and why?
Michael Mann, because of The Insider. In this film, he selected the best individuals in each department to carry out his vision of story and communicated this flawlessly in the shape of an incredible film.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
As far as films go, I gravitate towards films with a political message like The Insider, All the President’s Men or films with an emotional resonance like The Hours or The Piano, both films in which music is almost a secondary character.

I tend to respond to commercials that rely on the visuals to tell a story. A few that come to mind are Louis Vuitton “Journey,” “Coming Home” by Anheuser Busch and “Hope” by Budweiser. In addition, I’ve always loved the US Air Force and Navy Commercials because I’m a sucker for the action and the adrenaline of those spots.  A few years ago I photographed a Border Security show for Primetime TV and wrote three spec spots for the different Border Security Agencies.

Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I was born in Sao Paulo and raised mostly in Buenos Aires.  While studying French and Political Science at Wellesley College and working as the campus videographer and projectionist, I decided to turn my passion for film into a career. Following graduation, I moved New York where I began my career in film as a set lighting technician in independent films before attending the American Film Institute to earn my Master of Fine Arts degree. As a cinematographer, I’ve worked on features, shorts, documentaries and commercials all over the world, amongst them Daniel Myrick’s The Objective and most recently on Ryan Murphy’s Eat Pray Love and on Marc Forster’s World War Z.