Debra Martin Chase
DEBRA MARTIN CHASE is an entertainment industry icon and trailblazer as the first African American female producer to have a deal at any major studio—EVER. She is also the first African American woman to produce a film that grossed over $100 million. To date, her films have grossed over a half billion dollars at the box office.
Chase’s work has garnered Academy Award, Emmy Award, NAACP Image Award and Peabody Award nominations. Her company, Martin Chase Productions, currently has an overall deal with Universal Television, a division of the NBCUniversal Television Group and previously had one with The Walt Disney Company from 2001 to 2016.
Prior to that, Chase ran Whitney Houston’s BrownHouse Productions from 1995 to 2000 and Mundy Lane Entertainment, Denzel Washington’s production company, from 1992 to 1995.
Her next studio film via her Martin Chase Productions banner is Harriet, based upon the life of the iconic Underground Railroad conductor and spy, Harriet Tubman. Directed by Kasi Lemmons from a script by Lemmons and Gregory Alan Howard, the film stars Tony Award winners Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom, Jr. along with Joe Alwyn and Janelle Monae. The film will hit theaters nationwide on November 1, 2019.
Also on the film side, Chase has produced three beloved multi-film franchises — The Princess Diaries, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Cheetah Girls. The Princess Diaries and its hit sequel grossed over $300 million in worldwide box office receipts and launched the movie career of actress Anne Hathaway.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movies have becomes beloved cult classicS and began the career of Blake Lively. The Cheetah Girls 2 was the most watched movie debut in the history of The Disney Channel.
Chase has also produced “Sparkle”, a dramatic musical starring Jordin Sparks and the late Whitney Houston; Just Wright starring Queen Latifah and Common, which won the NAACP Image Award for Best Screenplay; Courage Under Fire starring Denzel Washington; and the perennial holiday favorite, The Preacher’s Wife starring Washington and Houston.
Her television credits include the iconic and ground-breaking Emmy Award winning Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella starring Brandy and Houston; the Lifetime television series Missing, which had the most watched series debut in the network’s history; the Disney Channel’s original musical Lemonade Mouth that starred Naomi Scott and was nominated for a Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directing – Children’s Programs; the Academy Award and Emmy Award nominated and Peabody Award winning documentary Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream, ABC Family’s first musical, Lovestruck, which starred Jane Seymour and Chelsea Kane; and Zoe Ever After, a romantic comedy sitcom starring Brandy which aired on BET.
Martin Chase Productions’ partnership with Mattel’s American Girl Company to develop and produce content around its products and merchandise resulted in five movies that were distributed by Universal Home Entertainment and aired on NBC or The Disney Channel. An American Girl: Isabelle was nominated for a Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directing – Children’s Programs.
Chase graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude from Mount Holyoke College and the Harvard Law School. She was a Guest Fellow at Princeton University in their Screenwriting Program as well as a Fellow at the Harvard University iLab. She also holds an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Mount Holyoke.
Prior to entering the entertainment industry, Chase practiced law at several major law firms and Fortune 500 companies in New York City and Houston.
She is a frequent keynote speaker at colleges and universities across the country and is an advocate of community service. Chase serves on the boards of the New York City Ballet, where she chairs the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the Second Stage Theatre in Manhattan, where she chairs the Artistic Committee.
She is also on the Advisory Boards of the African American Film Critics’ Association and The Mayor’s Fund of New York City.
Additionally, she is a longtime co-chair of the Athena Film Festival in New York City, one of the largest film festivals in the United States dedicated to films by and about women.
Her numerous awards and honors include Ebony magazine’s 150 Most Influential African Americans, Black Enterprise magazine’s Ten Most Bankable African American Movie Producers in Hollywood (with Chase as the only woman on the list), The Trumpet Award’s Entertainment Award and the African American Film Critics Association’s Ashley Boone Award. She was also awarded a prestigious Ford Foundation Grant to develop several projects focused upon social justice, diversity and inclusion.
Debra Martin Chase is a member of both The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She resides in Los Angeles and New York City.