Denver filmmaker Jonathan Martin will release his first full-length film this year, The Confrontation Project, a look at the heated relationship between African-Americans and the police told through rhyming dialogue. It's his most ambitious project yet.
Martin got his start dabbling in video when he was playing college football at the University of Northern Colorado Greeley. He dug up a video camera from the basement of a house he rented and started writing and recording comedic shorts and sketches.
“I called them Chronicles of Boredom. It was like a poor college kid's version of Key & Peele,” Martin recalls. “My teammates and other students started to watch them, so I kept making more and more. My skills barely got better, and the videos got more complex.”
Soon, his newfound hobby of editing videos on free software became profitable. “One day, someone threw me fifty dollars to edit something for them,” Martin says. “Next thing you know, it was $300 to shoot something. One day, you look up and realize you’re not a kid anymore and you’ve built a successful video production company.”
In 2012, he formed Black Sock Productions in Denver to produce music videos, narratives, commercials and weddings. The company got its name simply because Martin always wears black socks. He also describes his company as a black sock in a world of white socks — you can’t help but notice it.
“This company stands out because it’s never just about putting visuals on screen,” Martin explains. “I am a storyteller first. I think it's like the difference between saying a punchline and telling a joke. My company has a motto: Life is a movie; film it like one.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a company, artist, wedding couple, etc.,” he adds. “Whatever it is that you want a video for, it’s because it’s important to you. What story do you want to tell or show the world? Black Sock Productions strives to tell it in a way so beautifully [and] so captivatingly that people give it the same respect and time they do a movie. Why? Because we told a great story.”
Martin finds inspiration in the films of Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher and the Coen Brothers.
“Sometimes those stories have twists,” Martin says. “Sometimes the story is told out of order or from different points of view. For me, that's what I try to copy — telling a good story. Everything else is just personal taste as to how you do it. Whether a movie takes place in a single room or across a universe, the story is the common link that inspires me.”
Business for Black Sock Productions boomed during 2020; Martin has worked with rapper Claygo, Centennial's 212 Performance Gym, Castle Rock's Studio 38 Tattoo and Gallery, the Relentless Volleyball Club and more.
He produced a short documentary for the Denver Art Museum about artist Senga Nengudi and her exhibit Topologies. In it, she tells the story of her life as an individual and as an artist.
“The cool part about working with Senga and the Denver Art Museum is that you really get a sense of just how many different artists are out there,” Martin explains. “I had never gotten a chance to work with someone like Senga, and hearing her talk about her process was fresh and inspiring to me.”
In between client shoots, Martin has been working on The Confrontation Project, which was written by Oregon writer Ahmad Pasley, who describes the film as “presented by pro-police and pro-BLM individuals.” This film is a story Martin knew he needed to tell when Pasley reached out to him. When they met face-to-face, they shared a common vision.
“I want to tell this story because I think in media today, it’s either white or black,” Martin conveys. “Media doesn’t do a great job of showing the gray. People have one way of thinking, and then they try to cram their thoughts in your face as if it’s the only viewpoint that has any merit.
“The Confrontation Project explores the relationship between law enforcement and the Black community through multiple viewpoints,” he continues. “I'm Black, and I have a lot of cops in my family. If anyone knows about the gray areas of life, I think I might.”
The film is still in pre-production. Pasley and Martin recently shot a trailer as a proof of concept and are looking for investors. They also started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $50,000, and so far, they’ve raised almost $6,000. The plan is to shoot the film on location in Portland, Oregon.
Martin hopes the project reveals a significant truth about the timeless conflict between right and wrong.
“The biggest takeaway I want people to have is a sense of personal responsibility,” Martin declares. “I want people to understand that it’s never been about Black versus Black, White versus Black or Blue versus Black. It’s about good versus evil. I feel like I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. Every job, film and video I have done prepared me for this.”
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