Karine Martin has more than 20 years of experience in the cinema and television industry. She has been President at Mediabiz, a group dedicated to the development, financing, and production of quality content on all platforms for the global market, since 2002. Beginning his professional career in arts and entertainment law with two major Canadian law firms, she quickly came to realize her calling was in the arts. Since making that career switch, she has been a producer, executive producer or financial producer on more than 40 television and film projects. Several of them have won awards around the world, including in Canada, where Karine received the Canadian Screen Awards for Best Dramatic Mini-Series or TV Movie for Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story.
“I did not expect to be able to take on such a versatile role in an industry that has always fascinated me. When I look back at when I started, I don’t think I ever imagined myself doing what I am doing now.”
How would you describe your role to someone who has no knowledge of what you do?
I produce both live action or animation movies and television series. I also manage a media fund. My ultimate goal is to build up a mini international production studio. We now have the financing and production components, but I want to add the operational component and really become an international studio.
What milestone kick-started your career?
When I met Claude Chamberland (founder of Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema) at the age of 27. I decided to leave my law practice in the private sector to work as a lawyer at a film production company. I started at the bottom in this new business but it was the beginning of my journey in the field of arts and entertainment.
What was the biggest risk you have taken in your career?
The biggest risk I have ever taken is when I left my job at a production house in Los Angeles and drove all the way back to Montreal to found a film financing company with my husband.
What would you describe as your biggest accomplishment that you are the proudest of?
I would say to have managed to maintain a good work/family balance with my husband and three children while having founded an international company in an industry that fascinates me.
How did you envision your career before experiencing it within its current reality?
My job has evolved so much over the years. When I look back at when I started, I don’t think I ever imagined myself doing what I’m now doing. It all seemed unnatural to me and I thought that this role was reserved for people who had a taken a much different path than mine. What I find fascinating about my industry is that I never stop learning. The industry is constantly evolving, and while I am very comfortable in my duties, I am very aware that I must keep learning every day.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your professional life?
My industry is undergoing major change right now. A big part of my job is to predict what an audience will want to watch in 2 years, or sometimes even later. You also have to be at the forefront of technological change without being too far ahead. We collaborate on very ambitious projects which necessarily often implies partnerships with several groups at the same time, for the same project. It is, therefore, necessary to manage the expectations of all partners while maintaining the success and quality of the project. I also have many personal challenges such as the many trips between our offices in Montreal and Los Angeles, while raising a family of three children.
What are the challenges for women in the entertainment industry?
In fact, my experience as a woman in the world of TV and film has been much more positive than my experience as a lawyer in a law firm. My challenges have never been related to the fact that I am a woman in the industry. But I am fully aware that for many women, there are many challenges to overcome.
Tell us about your journey from Montreal to Hollywood.
I started my career as a bankruptcy lawyer and was not very happy with my job. Thanks to a family connection, I met a lawyer specialized in the field of arts & entertainment law. He advised me to meet with the legal affairs Vice-President of a production company in Montreal who was looking to recruit a young lawyer. I was hired but I quickly understood that I wanted to develop international experience in the field. So I went back to the studio to get film financing experience. This experience allowed me to meet an American producer who was looking to hire a lawyer for his production company in Los Angeles. He hired me and I lived in Los Angeles for two years.
Since I’ve returned to Montreal, I have continued to develop my network in Los Angeles and around the world. People in the industry know me as the producer, the lawyer and the financier from Montreal. So I was approached to co-found, in association with an American investor, a company for the production and financing of International film and TV series projects. I now live between Montreal and Los Angeles.
“Failure is an excellent source of knowledge. One must see in one’s failures an opportunity to learn and improve.”
What was the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice I have received over the years has been to dare to define myself as not only a lawyer, but to also recognize my abilities as a business leader and as a creator in my field.
Who has been your greatest mentor?
The two biggest mentors have been Arnold Messer, the President & Chief Operating Officer of Phoenix Pictures Inc., and David Clark, the former President Loto Quebec.
Karine Martin is the co-founder and CEO of Mediabiz and the CEO at Starlings Entertainment. She has participated in the development and management of complex global finance and production structures in film and television projects from around the world. Her personal qualities, professionalism, and skills have ensured her the respect and support of high-level partners and mentors. It is this know-how that has enabled her to create a unique group in Canada and to win the 2017 Quebec Business Women Award in the category Executive, Manager or Professional for a Private Company. Karine is also a member of the International Women’s Forum.