Debra Martin Chase, award-winning producer of films such as “The Princess Diaries” and “The Cheetah Girls,” said she was motivated to create diverse roles for women because she didn’t see many people who looked like her on the screen.
“I’ve always loved film and television, but I didn’t know anyone who looked like me who was in the movie business,” Martin Chase said at a lecture hosted by the College of Fine Arts.
Martin Chase spoke about being the first African-American female producer to have a deal at a major studio, as well as her experiences producing many major film franchises including “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and “Cinderella.”
“I was motivated to produce these movies because I was the kid who grew up watching television and didn’t see myself,” Martin Chase said. “I knew what it would have meant for me to have watched a black Cinderella.”
Martin Chase said she wanted to bring more girls of color to television so audiences could see themselves represented in those roles.
“Producing is not easy for anybody, but I told myself that I would rather fail than say to myself, ‘If only I had taken my shot,’” Martin Chase said. “I just didn’t want to have any regrets.”
Martin Chase emphasized perseverance in the film industry to an audience of majority radio-television-film students.
“When I looked for movie ideas, I tried to find the universal in the specific,” Martin Chase said. “I looked for stories that would resonate with all people, because that’s what good movies are about.”
Danielle Galvan, radio-television-film senior, attended the event at the Liberal Arts Building and said the movies Martin Chase produced have resonated with her, specifically because of the diversity in all of her stories.
“I think that a lot of the stories that she’s been a part of putting out have represented different backgrounds of women and young women, and I really admire what she’s done,” Galvan said.
Natasha Cosme, theater studies freshman, said she hopes to apply the insight that Martin Chase provided as a minority woman into her future career in the theater community.
“The movies that she has produced have really shaped my childhood,” Cosme said. “Growing up as a young girl, looking up to the female (actresses) in her movies was really important to me.”