Music and movies — beautifully strange movies — have always gone hand-in-hand for Melanie Martinez, whose feature directorial debut, “K-12,” will have a one-day-only theatrical engagement on Wednesday ahead of its worldwide streaming launch Friday.
Martinez was 16 when she debuted in 2012 on NBC’s “The Voice” with a downbeat acoustic cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” The next year she launched an Indiegogo campaign to film her first music video, for her first single, “Dollhouse.”
The next year, she signed to Atlantic Records, which released her debut EP, “Dollhouse,” from which the song “Carousel” was used for an “American Horror Story” Season 4 promo. This was followed in 2016 by her debut LP “Crybaby.” Through it all, she kept pitching ideas for videos, and her label trusted her to direct them.
That led to 13 videos in total chronicling the life of Crybaby, a young, childlike character who is an alternately cute and macabre mirror image of Martinez, who plays the character. Crybaby is also the star of her new feature film and album of the same name, “K-12,” which chronicles Crybaby’s school years at a pastel pink boarding school in the clouds, where she stumbles through a series of childhood and adolescent disasters.
“I think it’s really hard for any major label to trust an artist who says ‘I wanna direct’ …and they really trusted me,” Martinez told TheWrap. “They could tell that I was really passionate, so they were super supportive.”
Not that it was easy for Martinez, now 24. “Shooting the film was so stressful for me… my call time was like three a.m. I was getting out of bed at like two-thirty, trying to make it there by three, just to get hair and makeup and I had to get my full arms just airbrushed.”
She made a point of airbrushing her many tattoos, which are cartoonish, childlike and comically morbid, because Crybaby is meant to be more innocent than she is.
“I really wanted to show the difference between me as a person and Crybaby as a character. I wanted to keep that very separate,” she said.
What was the hardest part?
“Stepping into my own confidence, and stepping into that role of being a director, and not letting people step on my toes, and sticking up for myself on set… those are huge things for me,” Martinez says.
“Now I’m finally able to release a feature film into the world, which is so crazy to me, I can’t even believe that it’s real.”
Watch the full exclusive video above.
“K-12” is out Thursday.