Darnell Martin is the first African-American woman to direct a film backed by a major studio. While Ms. Martin has downplayed the distinction in the past, she has gone on to an active career on the small screen while scoring some big screen projects as well.
Martin was born January 7, 1964 in the Bronx. Her mother, a white Italian woman, was a dancer. Her father, a Black attorney, was seldom around during her youth so her mother primarily raised her. Her diverse upbringing in the New York borough would later inform her film work. In interviews, Martin proudly speaks of both her Black and white heritage. After attending Sarah Lawrence College and the New York University Film School, Martin began working on music videos.
After she filmed her acclaimed short film, Suspect, Martin joined forces with Columbia Pictures to release her big screen debut, I Like It Like That in 1994. The film starred Lauren Velez, Rita Moreno, and Jon Seda. In a 1994 interview, Martin revealed that the original title of her film was Blackout, but that the studio changed the name before release. I Like It Like That was critically acclaimed if not a commercial blockbuster.