Michael Martin can’t yet pinpoint all the challenges of a screenwriting career. After all, compared with his last job — as a construction flagger inside the New York City subways, setting up lights to protect the track workers — “everything is better than that,” he says. (The MTA tried to fire him for having a second job before he finally quit.) Still, he admits his new career as a much-coveted scribe also has its drawbacks.
“It’s a lot of hours,” he says from the set of “Brooklyn’s Finest,” his first produced script, directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Richard Gere and Don Cheadle. “Because you’re doing what you love, you don’t mind it so much. But I’m exhausted. I haven’t stopped writing and taking meetings.”
Martin is a newcomer to the entertainment industry — so much so, he says, “My grandmother said to me, since I’m a writer now, my handwriting must be good.”
He grew up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York; his mother was a nurse’s assistant at Brookdale Hospital; in high school, his primary interest in film was “bootlegging movies for extra money,” he admits. When a guidance counselor suggested he take a film class, Martin’s path was set.
He studied film at Brooklyn College. After a 2005 car accident, he submitted “Brooklyn’s Finest” to a screenwriting competition for the money. It didn’t win, but it landed in the hands of producers. Soon after, he signed on to write “New Jack City 2.” And, within months, “Brooklyn’s Finest” was packaged and in production.
More recently, he landed a gig at Lakeshore to write “Descendants,” a supernatural thriller about people who have inherited electromagnetic powers. According to Len Wiseman, a producer on the pic, Martin brings “a strong sense of reality to his characters,” he says, as well as “an understanding and enthusiasm of genre films.”
While Martin maintains an interest in urban strife and crime stories, with scripts and ideas ranging from a cop drama about the Irish mafia to a subway-set miniseries, his inspirations are loftier. He cites Vittorio De Sica’s Italian neorealist classic “Umberto D.” as a vital influence on “Brooklyn’s Finest.” “Movies like De Sica’s really bring out character and place and I want to do that for New York,” he says. “I’ve grown up in New York City, I know New York City, I know the people, and they have stories that are bigger and broader than what most people would think.”
Influences: Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini and Vittorio De Sica
Favorite unproduced script: “The Smart Money,” about a conman who rigs the Super Bowl.
Up next: “New Jack City 2”
Reps: Agents: Lars Theriot, Sophy Holodnik, Todd Hoffman at ICM; managers: Ben Tappan, Bernie Cahill at ROAR Entertainment; attorney: Joan Vento-Hall