Marty Thomas: 1958 – 2019

A successful director for MTV, Marty Thomas got his start at age 11 by getting too authentic in Las Vegas.
Courtesy Photo

Marty Thomas passed away peacefully in his sleep on January 30. It is incongruous a person so full of life should have left us so quietly. Those who knew Marty and those lucky enough to have had the pleasure and honor to work with him might have predicted a much more grand, theatrical end ​— ​and loud ​— ​and funny somehow. Marty would have known how to wrap all those elements together and pull it off. He had a certain genius for detail during his career as a feature film and music video director, seeing a lighting nuance to dramatically enhance a scene, a clue to elevate a performance, a vision to make whatever moment was happening large and excellent. It’s what made him sought after by recording artists Eazy-E, Tupac, MC Ren, Above the Law, Kokane, Akwid, Skee-Lo, Erika Jayne ​— ​the list goes on and on. They all wanted something different. Something that touched genius. They wanted Marty Thomas. We all did. We still do.

Marty’s sister, Lisa Thomas, puts it best: Marty “had a huge heart with the ability to truly reach people, an extraordinary talent of connecting with people and people to each other through his humor and creativity. It was uncanny at how he could open and warm people’s hearts no matter who they were, regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, or socioeconomic standing. He approached complete strangers when walking on the street or eating out or standing in line at the grocery store, generating laughter among strangers where there would otherwise be silence and indifference.”

In an interview with Kyle Eustice published at HiphopDX, Skee-Lo described working with Marty on the video for his worldwide hit “I Wish” in 1995. Newly signed with Scotti Bros., Skee-Lo met with Marty to develop the video; they got to know each other and discussed Skee-Lo’s favorite movie at the time, Forrest Gump: “The record label presented me three directors to choose from and, if memory recalls, I chose the one director fresh out of film school ​— ​director Marty Thomas. … We’re both natural comedians, but he went as far as to include the Forrest Gump film in the underlining ‘I Wish’ story. … We shot the ‘I Wish’ video in Los Angeles, The Jungles and Leimert Park. I remember having to make peace with the local gangs who sweated us the entire video shoot, but they also brought their kids to take pictures with me as soon as we were done. Marty and I made history together. And although he’s worked with legendary artists before me, he’s always credited the ‘I Wish’ video as the launch of his film career.”