Jonathan Martin Reinvents Genre Filmmaking

Jonathan Martin directs Doug Jones in "Kiss the Devil in the Dark".

Jonathan Martin is no stranger to the fantastical. The filmmaker’s short films embody an imaginative and otherworldly element that continues to win over audiences and awards. Since 2011, his films have won over 220 awards and been played at over 250 film festivals. If that doesn’t convince you, the fact that Martin started his own genre film festival, FilmQuest, may.

Launching in 2014, FilmQuest has been one of the fastest growing genre film festivals to date. Showcasing up-and-coming independent filmmakers of genre cinema, FilmQuest houses the fantasy, horror, and adventure that’s needed to create a classic genre film.

Martin always knew he wanted to be a filmmaker, emphasizing in the business of film, Martin received his bachelor’s in business from Utah Valley University. Soon after, he founded his own production company, Bohemian Industries, in 2010. What followed was a string of award-winning short films, ranging from horror to fantasy – and at most times both.

From the genre film festival FilmQuest to his short films ranging in horror and the fantastical, Martin seems to be on an unstoppable quest.  

For five years, Martins short horror film An Evening with My Comatose Mother, stood as the most-awarded horror short film of all-time with 76 awards under its belt. A story in which a young woman is tasked with watching over a mansion on Halloween night. Only soon to find the owners comatose mother sleeping upstairs. What unravels is a gory, demon-filled scene fueled by the chilling makeup effects by Amber Arcury and Luis Arias among many.

Other notable short films by Martin include Kiss the Devil in the Dark, which stars Doug Jones from the television series Star Trek: Discovery. Creatures of Whitechapel, a film Martin wrote with his sister, Rebecca Martin, has won 78 international awards. It takes a chilling new approach to the story of Frankenstein, where monster-filled tales crossover, as actress Carlee Baker plays one and the same, Igor and Jack the Ripper.

2019 will mark FilmQuest’s sixth year since launching in 2014. To provide some insight into the festival, Martin explains what makes FilmQuest unique, and how the festival has helped up-and-coming filmmakers not only make it into the industry but further themselves as a filmmaker.

To strike it big in the film industry, a lot of talent and hard work is needed. What FilmQuest can provide filmmakers with? “Connections and confidence,” Martin says. “We make it a really big deal — even though we take more films and it’s a nine-day festival — that [the films] are the best of the best sent to us. So that goes a long way because you feel — as a filmmaker — really proud of the work you’ve done. You say, ‘Okay, I’m in FilmQuest. This means something. This means I’ve made something excellent.’ So that builds confidence, and then so many filmmakers come to FilmQuest and build these relationships and collaborations and start working together. And so, they’re helping each other and they’re keeping their careers going.”

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Building connections is a given opportunity if you participate in some of FilmQuest’s events. Including an event that pairs filmmakers together to network and discuss their projects. “Last year we did filmmakers speed dating,” he says. “So we had about fifty to sixty filmmakers, screenwriters, and actors that all sat together. It was like a hen house and they had 3 minutes to introduce themselves, sell their projects and build a relationship with each other and then we would rotate the table. It was fantastic, people loved it. In fact, I’ve never seen another film festival do that.”

FilmQuest hosts genre pieces that feature both horror and comedy, action and fantasy, and everything genre film has to offer. “People don’t realize how difficult it is to make a genre piece a fantastic piece,” he says. “Because — especially before — you gotta try to scare people or at least get a reaction from them. From a craftsmanship point of view, I think it’s actually more challenging and more interesting to kind of try and make these [films]. Whether its effects heavy or special effects heavy and makeup or what have you, to just kind of create this world is a lot more interesting to me than necessarily putting people down and having them sit across around the table and argue over their love life. It’s not as interesting to me, but you can still do that with a monster on the table in between them.”

As for Martins goals for FilmQuest? “I’m happy with where it is,” says Martin. “FilmQuest will always remain a genre festival. The brand itself might become a little more inclusive in terms of filmmaking on the whole, but it’s always gonna wear its genre flag high.”

If you dare take on one of Jonathan Martins films, it’s sure to bring a reaction. One you may not expect.

FilmQuest 2019 begins this September. For more information visit filmquestfest.com         

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