North Louisiana Artist Reflects on Life & Career; Kirk Martin Profiled
A frightening brush with danger on an industrial site changed Kirk Martin’s life and career. The incident prompted the Northwestern State University alumnus to use his skills as an artist inLouisiana’s growing movie industry and today is finding success in a field he always dreamed about. One of his projects, "Arachnoquake," will debut on the Syfy Channel this weekend.
"It was the best decision I evermade. It is a struggle getting started and this industry can be mean and cold. I moved without a job but I saved enough money to get by for a good while," he said. "I knew the risk and the struggles ahead from the beginning but I kept in mind that it would be worth it in the future. Without failure there is no success. I have fail and succeeded."
Martin graduated from Northwestern State in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in fine art with a concentration in graphic communications, but found work in another field.
"After I graduated from NSU, I worked at a natural gas and oil well service company in Coushatta where I had a lot of close calls with injury or possible death. One particularly close call changed my mind about what I should be doing to make it as an artist and a professional in my field," Martin said. Within a few months, Martin moved to Baton Rouge to pursue his dream.
"I started doing internships randomly with no pay and did some extra (background) acting work on a few different shows, strictly because I needed money," Martin said. "Then I got an email to be a props assistant on a show and said yes, even though I didn't get paid. The producers of that movie backed out and shut it down while we were in preproduction. The props master from that show brought me on to a Syfy flick the next day, where I did some graphics for them and the art directordecided to pay me as an art production assistant. I basically was a jack-of-all-trades. I did graphics, props, built sets, painted and aged walls and a lot of little things that I couldn't have done if I didn't get my BFA from NSU."
Once that show wrapped up, Martin stayed in touch with co-workers and created graphics for other movies they were working on. The company Martin works for, Active Entertainment, contracts with the Syfy Channel and he has worked on five different movies as a graphic artist, illustrator for costumes, set dresser, on-set dresser, set construction, scenic painter and other uncredited positions.
"Since December I've been on full throttle with working and they love my graphics and I constantly surprise them at what I can do and do well," he said. "Everything I learned from [Professor] Michael Yankowski and NSU, especially from the fine and graphic arts classes, have helped me with a lot of things in the film industry."
As an undergraduate, Martin made a movie for an independent study class based on tales of a notorious band of late 19th century Louisiana outlaws.
"It’s a Civil war era film that takes place during Reconstruction called ‘South Hills’ starring my brother and a friend. It’s really amateur because I had no experience in this line of work, but it turned out all right. I’m proud of it. I made everything as original as I could, all the way down to the music I composed for the soundtrack."
Martin’s work can be seen in a Syfy film, "Arachnoquake," set to air on the Syfy Channel at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 23. The film stars Edward Furlong, Tracy Gold and Bug Hall. He worked on "American Horror House" starring Morgan Fairchild, "Heebie Jeebies" and "Winged Terror." He recently began day playing with Louisiana Media Productions on a film called "Pawn Shop Chronicles."
"Being an artist is always going to be a struggle and an unappreciated profession. I've accepted that anddon't worry about it. I just keep making things look good, get paid and people wonder, ‘How do they do it?’ In this business when sets aren't ready or ‘right’ the art department gets all the blame, but when they are ready and look good we never get any praise for it. It’s the nature of the business and I am learning more everyday."
Martin said many opportunities exist in the film industry and he encourages student artists to follow their dreams.
"Louisiana is making a lot of shows, from Shreveport to New Orleans and all in between. You can make a career doing things that seem like unattainable dreams without moving out of state," he said. "The advice that I would give a student wanting to pursue a career in the film industry would be to save money and make a decision on where you want to live, whether Baton Rouge, Shreveport or New Orleans. Save a lot of money because the work is unpredictable and sometimes unreliable. I had to do some extra (background acting) work just to help pay my bills for a few months. If you can manage your money well then you will be all right but if you can’t then your going to have problems.
"I love my job. It’s something I always wanted to do but was always been something that was unattainable in my mind," he said. "But the dream was attainable after all."