This is not an obituary. 

More than anything, this is a humble celebration of Michael Scott Martin, who passed rather suddenly this past week

I was surprised to learn that he was 63, as I always imagined him as being stuck perpetually at some level beyond ages. He had such a lovely and iconically timeless attitude that would’ve gone well in any era— sometimes wise, sometimes wise-ass, but always fair.

Anyone could trust him to provide an honest comment, and to deliver it not with coated sugar, but at least a kind-sounding smirk. Even his most cynical and aggressive social media responses were punctuated with that special grin of his, one that wouldn’t let anyone off of his shit list, but would send all away in a slightly better mood than before.

At least, that’s how I felt. 

Hotcakes, from Michael’s Youtube channel

The first time I learned of him was from former New Orleans area filmmaker Jo Custer’s short movie Hotcakes. It’s set in a bar that might as well be a waiting place in purgatory, where three men spend their time talking mysteriously and eating pancakes (of course).

Michael was not one of the three leads, but instead played a hazy-looking, scatter-shot-sounding resident/patron/prisoner of this establishment.

“No one should ever come here. I had teeth when I came here,” he exclaims, before joyfully grabbing a shall in a scene straight from some David Lynch film. 

Ignoring the plethora of online conversations we shared, the only time we ever spoke to each other on this real plane, was one evening over the phone. He had a line on a new writing opportunity and wanted to go over some information about it. I was out of my depth talking with him, as he was multiple charming steps ahead, with many witticisms that flowed ever so naturally.

I could hear his husband Eric in the background who, according to Michael, needed to rest. “Excuse me, Bill,” he said most respectfully. I could hear him sweetly talking with Eric, assisting him into a more comfortable arrangement.

I smiled, listening to this play out. 

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets trailer

His most mainstream role will go down as playing a version of himself in the independent and New Orleans shot film Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets. In a way, this works as a bookend to Hotcakes, except here he is front and center.

Why cast him in bars? Because it’s New Orleans, and people love going out and being together. And Michael was someone I would’ve loved hanging out with in person, but swap bar for The Prytania Theatre.

His Twitter archive is still up, and it’s filled with a life of his own.

Michael was of course more than 280-character quips, but I’m not sure how else to finish this piece off than with a most serendipitous final word from the man himself:

Donate to his GoFundMe.

Attend these benefit performances and his memorial block party.

Watch his films.

Be with people (safely). 

Write like you have nothing to lose. Everytime. 

Publisher’s note: A few months before he passed away, upon request, Michael provided the Bayou Brief with the two portrait photographs included in this tribute for use in a film review. Both photographs are the work of Louis Maistros.
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Bill Arceneaux is a local New Orleans independent film critic & writer, who has written for publications from Big Easy Magazine to Film Threat to Occupy to The Hammond Daily Star. He’s a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association and is Rotten Tomatoes approved. One of his favorite Louisiana-made movies is the almost forgotten WUSA.