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How Atlantic Records Helped Bring Melanie Martinez’s Film Fantasy to Life

The kaleidoscopic "K-12" arrives at YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes following a Los Angeles premiere.

Melanie Martinez
tadashi ikeda

Melanie Martinez is taking her fans on a fantastical trip. In her directorial debut, the singer presented “K-12” in Los Angeles Tuesday (Sept. 3), ahead of the film’s worldwide one-night-only release on Sept. 5. The colorful feature-length production was financed by Martinez’s label, Atlantic Records, totaling an investment of $5 million to $6 million, she estimates.

A coming-of-age fantasy tale, “K-12” follows the character Cry Baby, played by Martinez, to a boarding school whose student body includes kids with magical powers, evil adults and angels who descend from above. As the story unfolds against a kaleidoscopic backdrop (Fernanda Guerrero served as production designer), real issues are tackled, including bullying, transphobia and gender inequality.

Showing societal conditioning was a big goal of mine,” Martinez told Variety at the “K-12” L.A. premiere. “I thought it was the perfect metaphor. School being like this thing that we have to go through and learn from when actually the learning come from experiences and just, like, life.”

The film also serves as a visual accompaniment to her forthcoming of the same name, with scenes set to match songs, as when Martinez adorns the top of a giant cake in “Strawberry Shortcake.” Keeping with the food theme, “Orange Juice” features just that flowing out of actress Zion Moreno’s head as a visual.

Atlantic backed the idea whole-heartedly, with chairman and CEO Craig Kallman and chairman and COO Julie Greenwald coming aboard as executive producers. “They were totally supportive of it,” says Martinez. “At first, they were like, ‘We can do $2 million.’ But as I was cutting down scenes, I realized there was only so much I could cut before compromising my vision and the story.” Hence the higher price tag in the end.

Martinez also plans to integrate the film into her tour, which kicks off Oct. 13 in Washington, D.C. Putting action to her activism, the singer has partnered with Plus1 to donate a dollar from each ticket sale to The Trevor Project. “My main goal and intention with creating art is that people have something that can help them get through with whatever it is that they’re dealing with,” she says. “Something that can help them heal.”

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Getty Images for Melanie Martine

Following the film’s theater debut, fans can watch the full movie on YouTube, Amazon and iTunes beginning Sept. 6. Additionally, the singer will be releasing a series of premium music videos and a four episode mini series set within the “K-12” universe on YouTube. Martinez also said she’s in talks with the streaming site to deliver a behind-the-scenes documentary detailing her directing experience and including interviews with members of the cast as well as costumers, choreographers, stylists and Martinez herself, which YouTube says fans can expect in January.