Yap Mennen: Martine Jean of Melange Media
Jean left law practice in Ohio to pursue her dream in Hollywood, and founded Melange Media, and like its name indicates the company delves into all sorts of mediums, whether film or television. Jean was born in Cap Haitien, and grew up in that city as well as Port-au-Prince before coming to the United States. As she worked as an attorney, she was pursuing acting on the side, earning herself several spots in commercials and industrial videos. Theatre was also a big part of Jean’s life, so it was only a matter of time before films would become a part of it all as well. Jean auditioned for a film about a superhero who discovers that she has super powers after a lab experiment. It turns out that the script would mirror her own life. She imagined that she wouldn’t get the part, as she didn’t feel that she physical fit the character’s profile. But the audition and casting folks thought otherwise. They were immensely impressed; turns out that Martine Jean had acting superpowers that she didn’t know about.
The part in that film was followed by a part in another project called Johnny Appleseed. Jean finally relocated to California, but was still a practicing attorney on the other side of the coast! Upon arriving in Los Angeles, her focus changed from acting to writing and producing, and she’s been doing that ever since. Her latest project is The Silent Treatment, a silent black and white film with a cast she dubs “some amazingly talented actors”.
Jean knows that in Hollywood, your business value is not based on your past glories, but on current projects. At the moment, she’s writing a project for a major production company that is soon scheduled to go into production.
How did Melange Media come to be? Melange Media came to life after I’d had a brutal year. My previous production partnership was not working out the way I imagined it would. I had some health and other personal matters to tend to. I hit a wall. It felt like I hit a plateau before even starting. It’s funny, in L.A. you can spend years begging people to read or option your scripts, but at some point, you have to make a decision to shoot your own films. It’s not easy at all. In fact, even though I’ve produced for other companies, I’m still learning. I’m constantly learning.
The biggest obstacle to making your own movie is funding, finding the investors who believe in you enough to give you money to shoot a film. That’s why you usually start with a short film. A short is kind of a business card. It’s like a preview and it tells people what you can do. So, it’s with those things in mind that I decided to start Melange. I have a diverse background and I wanted that to inform my work, hence the name Melange—which means mixture.
The tagline for Melange Media is ‘Bringing Quality Entertainment to Life’. How do you go about fulfilling that mantra in every film venture? The tagline came about because we wanted to focus on quality and not quantity. That’s something we strive for every day. That’s our goal and we do our very best to attain it. It’s all about how passionate you are and what sacrifices you are willing to make for the love of the art.
You have a project on the Horizon The Prenup. What type of project is it? The Prenup is actually a tv show, not a movie. It’s currently under option and we’ve had several meetings at networks about the show. I can’t discuss the details, but I will tell you that it’s a lot of fun and hopefully it’ll come to a TV near you soon!
What is it really like in Hollywood? Hollywood is interesting. The business is not what I expected before moving here. In a way, it is what you make it. You have to move here already grounded and centered. If you already have family or close friends here, then that is wonderful. Behind the glitz and glamour, Hollywood can be little ruthless, so my advice is to keep your circle small and tight. Make sure it includes people you’ve known for a while and whom you trust fully. Living here is great. L.A. has everything a person would want: beaches, nightlife and great weather. For those who are into winter sports, just go up the mountains and there is plenty of snow for skiing and snowboarding. Once you’ve learned the traffic patterns, driving is not too bad either.
Do you think that technology will one day render movie theaters obsolete? I sure hope not! Movie theaters are not just about the movie itself, they are an experience. Popcorn, drinks and raisinets … and then just sitting in a huge theater and experiencing a film with complete strangers. It’s amazing to me.
What goes into running Melange Media on a day-to-day basis? The most important thing to do on a daily basis is network. This was hard for me. I enjoy going out occasionally, but I don’t like going out with the intent to network. At some point, I had to learn that the entertainment business is seventy five percent who you know. You can have the greatest, Oscar-worthy script. If your mom is the only one who’s read it, then you’re going nowhere fast. On a daily basis, we network as much as possible, we set up meetings, we pitch projects to different networks or to the huge production companies and we watch movies. That last part is very important too. It’s like a basketball team, studying another team’s film so they know what to expect at the next game. We try to be aware of what’s out there or what’s coming and from whom. We are constantly studying and improving.
Do you have any projects planned for Haiti or for the Haitian community in the USA? I am working on a couple of scripts that center around Haiti. They are far from being in production and I would need the funding to bring them to reality. I also had an idea a couple of years ago that I hope to one day make bring to life. I would like to develop a program where we would select a few up and coming Haitian writers, directors, producers every year, bring them to Hollywood for 2 weeks of training with the big, award winning filmmakers in Hollywood. Real, hands-on training. And hopefully at the end of the program, give each filmmaker a camera or other equipment they would need.
After music, movies are the universal language that allows us to communicate with others. As Haitians, we have such a passion for the art of filmmaking. There are so many films being made either in Haiti, Miami, NY and Canada by Haitians. Sometimes, I’m amazed at what Haitian filmmakers are able to accomplish with little to no resources! A lot of Haitian filmmakers simply lack the resources to make their films the way they would like to make them. I think a program like this would be a wonderful opportunity for them.
Is it necessary to live in California to thrive in the cinema industry? I don’t think it’s necessary to live here. Tyler Perry lives in Atlanta and his movies do amazingly well theatrically and on DVD. With that said, I think L.A. and to a certain extent New York are where you make the big connections to advance your career, so it would be wise to be in one of those places at some point.
As someone who has so much experience in the industry, what counsel can you offer to someone who’d like to follow in your footsteps? I don’t think I have very much experience at all. I do have a lot of drive and passion. I also have a lot of fight in me and you need all of those, at a minimum, to survive in the industry. My biggest advice is if you want to make movies, start wherever you are. When you’re first starting out, you don’t necessarily have to be in Hollywood. If you’re in Haiti or in Idaho, start there. Shoot your short films, submit them to festivals, get some credits on IMDB, so that if and when you decide to move, you’ve already got a body of work and some experience.
What’s the next big thing at Melange Media? Next on our agenda is submitting The Silent Treatment to film festivals. Personally, I am writing a feature film script for another company. The story is titled Bits and Pieces. The title may change, but hopefully that film will be in production before the end of the year. We’re excited about what the future hold!