Martin Jones ’86 has been a filmmaker since he was 10, when he picked up a movie camera at a family reunion and shot through four reels of film. He used his mom’s cutting shears and Scotch tape to put it together, taking the weekend to figure out the optics of the projector. (Hint: the film goes in upside down.)
Jones took to storytelling through images and—more than 30 years later—has never stopped.
In December 2019, he became the new director of Austin Studios, a nonprofit run by the Austin Film Society. There, he leads the ecosystem of studios at the 20-acre production facility.
The facility sits on 20 acres of former tarmacs and runways, part of the old city airport before it moved to the south side of Austin. The old hangars are now sound stages and production facilities for TV series and movies—scenes from Spy Kids and Alita: Battle Angel have been filmed there. When he first stepped onto the lot and saw all the trailers and activity, Jones knew this was his Shangri-La.
Jones grew up in Columbus, Ohio, but he wasn’t interested in attending Denison, at first, because it was too close to home. It was Clifford Tyree, former Denison trustee and Jones’ godfather, who convinced him to go out and have a look. All he had to say was, “They have a cinema program.”
“My ears perked up,” Jones says. “The beautiful thing about cinema for me is I truly discovered the thing I love to do, and I get to do it on a regular basis. It never grows old,” he says. “There’s something really thrilling and exciting about the hustle and bustle of the creative process unfolding.”
Throughout his career, Jones has taken on just about every job there is in the film industry. He’s been a film producer and made music videos. In Virginia, he was a partner and GM at New Millennium Studios, and he produced commercials out of Dallas for global brands like Jeep and Chrysler. And before arriving at Austin Studios, he was CEO of MetroEast Community Media in Gresham, Oregon, a public access facility in greater Portland.