Why She’s Interesting: In her wildest dreams, Martin envisioned herself working for a film festival. In 2010, she started out as an intern at the Cleveland International Film Festival, then worked her way up to artistic director in October. Now, she’s tasked with leading CIFF in planning its annual programming all while navigating the challenges of going fully virtual during the pandemic.
Festival Junkie: Martin attended Ohio University to study film and video production but quickly learned that she didn’t like filmmaking as much as she liked studying film. Her passion came to life while volunteering with the Athens International Film and Video Festival. “The whole time I was in film school, never once was there mention of the fact that you could make a career out of working in film festivals.”
Big Break: While working as a bar manager at Put-in-Bay in 2010, Martin revealed to a chatty customer that her dream was to work for a film festival — and then watched as, right then and there, the tipsy patron put in a call to his friend Patrick Shepherd, CIFF’s associate director, and left a voicemail imploring him to give Martin a shot. “I woke up in the morning and thought, OK, this guy’s never gonna call me, but he called me two weeks later, and the rest is history.”
Movie Buff: She credits the cinema of her childhood with forging her love of film, recalling her ‘90s-era Quentin Tarantino phase with True Romance and Natural Born Killers and frivolous but witty teen flicks like Clueless. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which came out during her senior year of high school, most heavily influenced her scriptwriting voice and her love of the film genre she calls “subverted romance.” “Movies, for me, were always a really great escape but also helped define who I was.”
Blockbuster Event: In pre-COVID times, Martin’s job was travel-heavy, taking her to as many as 10 film festivals per year to scout for films to bring back to Cleveland. One of her favorites is the Toronto International Film Festival which takes over the city during its annual run each September with events all around town. “Ultimately I hope for something like that for CIFF in the future.”
Palate Cleanser: Martin watches between 500-600 feature films each year for work. So her husband, Lawrence Stepp, sets aside a number of TV shows such as Tiger King they can binge-watch together in the spring or summer when Martin isn’t as tapped in to film. “It’s nice to have a little buffer and a chance to just watch things for entertainment.”
Three and Out:
What’s one thing people don’t know about you?
My husband and I both have a thing for waterfalls. We eloped at La Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica.
What’s inspiring you in life right now?
The Black Lives Matter movement is inspiring me in a lot of ways. They’re working to make us all better. There’s an insane amount of work to be done, but I have a lot of hope.
What is one new hobby or activity you’ve picked up in the last year?
I had to walk [my Border Collie Savannah] a bunch, which turned into me actually exercising again every day.