T. J. Martin

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T.J. Martin
Copy of 3819-NVFF-2017-XSiGHT.jpg
Martin at the Napa Valley Film Festival
Thomas McKay Martin Jr.

(1979-09-07) September 7, 1979 (age 41)
Alma materFairhaven College
Western Washington University
OccupationFilm director, television director, film editor, commercial director

T. J. Martin (born Thomas McKay Martin Jr., September 7, 1979) is an Oscar and Emmy award winning American filmmaker. Martin's film Undefeated (2011), for which he was co-director, co-editor, and co-cinematographer, won the 2012 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. His film LA 92 (2017), for which he was co-director and co-editor, won the 2017 Primetime Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking.

Martin is the first film director of African-American descent to win an Oscar for a feature-length film.[1]

Early life[edit]

Martin was born on September 7, 1979, in Seattle Washington to Tommy Martin and Tina Bell, guitarist and singer, respectively, of the late punk/early grunge Seattle band Bam Bam.

Martin graduated from Roosevelt High School and went on to attend Fairhaven College at Western Washington University, where he studied American Cultural Studies, graduating in 2005. While there Martin co-directed his first film, the feature documentary A Day in the Hype of America (2002), concerning the hysteria around the Y2K problem, which won Best Documentary at the 2002 Rhode Island International Film Festival.[2]


Feature films[edit]

In 2007 in Los Angeles, Martin met future directing partner Daniel Lindsay, when they collaborated on the feature documentary Last Cup: Road to the World Series of Beer Pong, directed by Lindsay and edited by Martin. The film was distributed by Morgan Spurlock's company Warrior Poets.

As co-directors, Martin and Lindsay next made the feature documentary Undefeated, which chronicles the football team of Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee. The film focuses on the lives of several of the players and their coach, Bill Courtney, over the course of a single season.

Undefeated premiered at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival and was purchased by The Weinstein Company for North American distribution just hours after the first screening.[3] Released to near universal acclaim, the film went on to win the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 2012. Undefeated holds a 96% rating on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

In November, 2012 Martin was listed on Ebony Magazine’s Power 100 list.[5] That same year he received the award for “Outstanding Achievement in Directing” from the Seattle International Film Festival.[6]

On April 28, 2015, Martin gave a talk at TEDx on Orcas Island, Washington, titled “Reimagining America’s Culture Narrative”, in which he discussed race and diversity in the film and television industry and mass media more broadly.[7]

In 2017, Martin and co-director/co-editor Lindsay, made the documentary feature LA 92. Composed entirely of archival footage, the film explores the days of civil unrest that followed the acquittal of four LAPD officers captured on video beating motorist Rodney King—the events commonly referred to as the 1992 Los Angeles riots. LA 92 premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and made its broadcast premiere shortly thereafter on the National Geographic Channel. The film was named by several publications, including Rolling Stone and The Playlist, as one of the best documentaries of 2017.[8][9] In June 2017, LA 92 won the Primetime Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking.[10] The film was shortlisted for Best Documentary Feature for the 90th Academy Awards and holds a 97% rating on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.[11]

In 2021, Martin co-directed a documentary film about the life of Tina Turner, titled Tina, for HBO.[12] More recently, he signed a first look deal with Imagine Documentaries.[13]


In 2015, Martin co-directed a documentary special titled I Am Dying, which was produced by Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck and Mary Lisio for the National Geographic Channel.[14][15] The film chronicles Renee and Rita Heidtman as Renee loses her life to terminal breast cancer while her sister Rita cares for her.

In 2018, Martin co-directed "Territorio De Zaguates," episode five of the TV series Dogs. The show is an episodic television show exploring the relationships between humans and dogs. The series premiered on Netflix in November 2018.[16]

Other work[edit]

Working officially as the directing duo Martin + Lindsay, Martin and Lindsay have continued their work across various platforms including short films, television, and commercial work. Their short film My Favorite Picture of You (2014) screened at numerous film festivals, was featured on The Atlantic and Vice, chosen as a Vimeo Staff Pick, and nominated for a Webby Award.[17][18][19][20]

Martin and Lindsay have co-directed television commercials for clients that include Starbucks, Comcast, Gatorade, Facebook, Toyota, Prudential Financial, Hallmark Cards, the United Negro College Fund, Honey Maid, Google and the New York Times. The “This Is Wholesome” campaign, directed for Honey Maid, garnered both controversy and praise for its portrayal of parents and their children that include a single father, an interracial couple, and a gay couple.[21][22] In 2020, Martin and Lindsay's "The Truth is Worth It" campaign for the New York Times swept the commercial awards circuit and nabbed a Clio and two Grand Prix Lions for Best Film and Film Craft at Cannes Lions.[23]


Year Work Award Result
2002 A Day in the Hype of America Rhode Island International Film Festival - Best Documentary Won
2011 Undefeated[24][25][26] SXSW Film Festival - Audience Award Nominated
Southeastern Film Critics Association - Wyatt Award 2nd Place
Houston Film Critics Society Awards - Best Documentary Feature Won
Philadelphia Film Festival - Audience Award Won
Indie Memphis Film Festival - Audience Award Won
Chicago International Film Festival - Audience Choice Award, Best Documentary Feature Won
DOC NYC - Special Jury Award Won
2012 Broadcast Film Critics Association Award - Best Documentary Feature Nominated
Black Reel Awards - Best Documentary Nominated
Academy Awards - Best Documentary, Feature Won
2013 Christopher Awards - Feature Films Won
2017 LA 92[27] Primetime Emmy Awards - Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking Won
International Documentary Association - Best Feature Documentary Nominated
International Documentary Association - ABC New VideoSource Award Won
Seattle Film Critics Award - Best Documentary Nominated
Black Reel Awards for Television - Outstanding TV Documentary or Special Nominated
2018 Awards Circuit Community Awards - Best Documentary Feature Nominated
Cinema Eye Honors Award - Outstanding Achievement in Editing Nominated
American Cinema Editors - Best Edited Documentary Feature Nominated


  1. ^ Berry, S. Torriano; Berry, Venise T. (2015). Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. xxix. ISBN 978-1-4422-4701-7.
  2. ^ "Rhode Island International Film Festival Awards for 2002". Retrieved 28 January 2017.
  3. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (March 14, 2011). "SXSW: Gridiron Documentary 'Undefeated' Scores Big Weinstein Company Deal". Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  4. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes Undefeated (2012)". Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  5. ^ "EBONY Reveals 2012 Power 100!". Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  6. ^ "SIFF Facebook Page". Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  7. ^ "TJ Martin". Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  8. ^ Fear, David (December 15, 2017). "10 Best Documentaries of 2017". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  9. ^ Kiang, Jessica (January 3, 2018). "The Best Documentaries of 2017". The Playlist. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  10. ^ "Nominees/Winners". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  11. ^ "LA 92 (2017) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 18, 2018.
  12. ^ White, Peter (February 10, 2021). "HBO's Tina Turner Feature Doc To Debut This Spring; Universal Pictures Content Group Takes World Rights". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 6, 2021.
  13. ^ "'Tina' Filmmakers Sign First-Look Deal With Imagine Documentaries (EXCLUSIVE)". www.yahoo.com. Retrieved 2021-05-14.
  14. ^ "I Am Dying". Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  15. ^ Heidtman, Rita. "Why My Sister Allowed Her Death to Be Filmed for TV". Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  16. ^ Lindsay, Daniel; Martin, T. J. (2018-11-16), Territorio de Zaguates (Documentary), Zipper Bros Films, Disarming Films, retrieved 2021-03-24
  17. ^ "My Favorite Picture of You". Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  18. ^ "My Favorite Picture of You". Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  19. ^ "A Film Explores Memory, Love and Identity at the End of Life". January 22, 2014. Archived from the original on June 11, 2016. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  20. ^ Bowers, Jeffrey (December 16, 2014). "The Best Online Short Films of 2014". Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  21. ^ "Nabisco's Gay-Inclusive Honey Maid/Teddy Grahams Commercial Slammed By One Million Moms". March 20, 2014. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  22. ^ Solomon, Andrew (April 5, 2014). "HONEY MAID AND THE BUSINESS OF LOVE". Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  23. ^ "'The Truth Is Worth It' Wins Two Cannes Lions Grand Prix Awards". The New York Times Company. 2019-06-19. Retrieved 2021-03-24.
  24. ^ "Undefeated Awards". imdb.com. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  25. ^ "And the winner is..." November 9, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  26. ^ "AWARD WINNERS ANNOUNCED FOR THE 2011 INDIE MEMPHIS FILM FESTIVAL". November 6, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  27. ^ "LA 92 Awards". imdb.com. Retrieved February 18, 2018.

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