Raised in a prominent artistic family, confronted with tragedy at a young age, Karine Martin has channelled all her energy into becoming stronger, braver, and better. Years passed before she reconnected with her first passion for the arts and the creative process —a passion that continues to sustain her to this day.
Martin had to show courage and take a big risk to have the door she believed closed forever open back up onto a world of heart and soul. The daughter of two artists, a record producer father and singer mother, she lived the first few years of her life in an environment she describes as very colourful. “The sudden death of my father, who committed suicide when I was nine years old, taught me some basic values: the importance of family and of keeping it together during difficult times.” The resilience of her widowed mother, who then started her own business, showed her that there is always a solution, a way out. “My mother made sure that we had nothing to do with the arts,” she explains. The arts, ever-present throughout her childhood, suddenly became an evil to be avoided at all cost. Martin grew up and became a lawyer, practising bankruptcy and insolvency law at a large Montréal firm. “I was sick at heart. My work had nothing to do with my true passion or how I wanted to live.”
Then, suddenly, everything fell into place. She discovered that law can be associated with the arts world; a chance meeting with Claude Chamberland led to him becoming her mentor over a bowl of pad thai. He advised her to change jobs, and she was hired by Allegro Films. Martin’s sudden career switch brought her to a place that better suited her temperament. Her encounter with Jean-François Doray—who would become her husband, partner, and business associate—was a defining moment. But Martin still wanted more, and she would get it. She made the big move to Los Angeles, where she worked for a German-American firm until the events of September 2001 precipitated her return to Montréal. She and her husband founded Mediabiz, a firm that has slowly grown into a key player both here and internationally. “We now have a small media group based here in Montréal and in Los Angeles. We are no longer simply consultants: we are producers, backers, and we raise our own capital.”
The key to her success? Her genuine passion for artists. “I am just as interested in a street corner violinist as I am in Christopher Nolan. I am passionate about the creative process, the artists who spend hours, months, or even years delving into a story, producing sounds or making music with the power to move and inspire us.” Having spent time with many artists as a child, Martin has developed an extraordinary ability to listen, a skill that serves her well in her many producing projects. “I have great respect for the people who deliver a piece of work. I understand the pain involved— the sense of accomplishment when the finished product is delivered and the disappointment when, despite all efforts, the public doesn’t get it.” When she talks about movies, she does not focus on the resounding success of a film, but the long line of artists who bring it to life. “I find cinema especially fascinating because it’s like a relay race. Writing a book or screenplay is already a whole process. This work is then passed on to a producer, who looks for other artists to bring it to the screen. Thanks to the combined efforts of all those involved, when we see the finished movie, we are moved, not just by the script or the cinematography, but also by the music, sound, set design, and costumes.”
Creativity and the creative process can be fragile and are often subjected to the dictates of the day. A moment too soon or too late, and the opportunity may be missed. While some messages will touch people’s hearts and rally broad support at a certain point in time, others will be seen as too avant-garde. When the work creates a movement, stimulates conversation and questions, and touches many people for the same reasons, the art has done its job. “When I was given the Rocketman script seven years ago, it really moved me. However, no one wanted to distribute it; there was no appetite for that kind of story.” Seven years later, the film found its audience.
It can be challenging to pursue one’s passion, especially when it is closely tied to one’s work, but Martin is living proof that it is possible. “You can’t be afraid to fail. Success and failure are both important. You have to find the positives. Learn to manage failure, get back up, and not care too much about what others think. It’s a struggle every time I take on a film or series. I have to convince the private partners. It’s important to take risks. I have had my share of failures, but also many successes.”
A few of the productions Karine Martin has worked on
The year 2020 enabled Martin to step back a little. Travel restrictions meant she could spend quality time with her family in Montréal. “The pandemic helped me achieve a work-life balance that I didn’t necessarily have before.” She followed a regular schedule, walked her dog, and spent precious time with her children, notably helping her daughter Clara with her homework daily. However, even though family is her number one priority, Martin was not content with domestic bliss. “We decided to expand, to open other divisions, and do more in the field of technology.” She has hired people to help her, and will soon fly to Los Angeles, the epicentre of her work. This time, her family will follow where her passion takes her. “Ideally, we’ll spend four months a year in Los Angeles—one month per season—and eight in Montréal. We’ll find a way to adapt.” Who knows, with her determination, she might just make it work.