By Kerri Quinn
When award-winning filmmaker and adventure photographer James “Q” Martin describes his creative process, his persona changes from easy going and relaxed to intense and focused. He leans forward, taps his foot, clasps his hands together as he chooses each word slowly, deliberately. “There’s the decisive moment, a magical moment, when the darlings are cut away, lying on the floor and I find the narrative thread,” Q said. “That’s when I know I have a documentary.”
Passionate and determined, Q is dedicated to creating projects that promote conservation efforts and protect our natural resources. Since 2009, Q has traveled extensively to more than 30 countries spanning six continents, documenting the stories of world-class athletes, artists, conservationists, filmmakers and scientists who have inspired him. “Through the projects, I continue to grow, learn and become more aware of the world around me,” he explained.
Q’s own story began in 1997 when he decided to take time off from school to travel. He left Flagstaff, Arizona, and went to Central America to study Spanish and immerse himself in the culture. It was there he met photographer Xavier Chanut, who encouraged him to pursue his passion for photography and telling stories.
Because of his strong ties and connections to the Southwest, Q returned to Flagstaff and began Q Media, a fully-staffed production house. Since its inception, he has created stories and images that depict the complexity of the environmental issues facing our local, national and global communities.
In 2015, Q traveled to Patagonia National Park in Chile to film “Mile by Mile: A Film about Trail Running and Conservation for Patagonia.” The film follows three ultra runners as they run a rugged and undeveloped 160km route to celebrate and highlight efforts to rewild and protect the landscape of this pristine park.
Appealing to the hearts and minds of his audience, Q’s projects remind us to be stewards of the environment and protect what’s close to home. In his case, that is Grand Canyon National Park. In 2016, he made “The World Beneath the Rims,” a film sponsored by American Rivers that examines how the work and the lives of three artists — a painter, a writer and a photographer — are shaped and influenced by their relationships with the Canyon.
Another important part of Q’s work is collaborating with other filmmakers. He is currently working with national award-winning producer and director Jayme Dittmar on “Paving Tundra.” The focus of this film is to protect and preserve the Brooks Range, North America’s most rugged wilderness and one of Earth’s largest roadless areas. In 2013, the State of Alaska proposed building a 225-mile industrial access road to facilitate the construction of an open-pit copper mine near the village of Ambler. One of the critical questions this film poses is: What is progress? These filmmakers are sending a clear and distinct message to the audience: Examine your choices, reevaluate what you honor and protect, and take action.
“Every film is a mini-dissertation,” said Q. “Through these projects, I continue to grow. The greatest gift of all the work I have done is seeing places protected and watching other people take initiative to be better activists.”
Kerri Quinn’s Ph.D. is in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Mississippi. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Santa Monica Review, and descant. She lives, writes and drinks too much coffee in New York City and Flagstaff, Arizona.
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