Article By: Maria Shamkalian
Introduce yourself!I am an award-winning filmmaker from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have directed multiple short films and have shot others including a documentary in Finland. My biggest personal achievement is working full time as a freelance filmmaker with various productions around town, both commercial and narrative.
What is your most recent success and how did you accomplish it? It may sound strange but as stated above, I am able to financially comfortable working as a freelance filmmaker!
How did you get started in the film industry?I started as an intern for a small (two person) production company my junior year of college and those connections lead to more connections which lead to even more connections!
Why do you choose to work in PA and what do you love the most about working in Pennsylvania?Pennsylvania native here! I like it because it feels almost punk in a way. We never were an industry (film industry) town but have since kind of evolved into our own little film community that outputs some serious quality. Most of the locals feel like true salt of the earth people.
What are some of your favorite shooting locations in Pennsylvania?I don’t think I have a favorite location because I think Pennsylvania has so much to offer in regards to location shooting. I appreciate shooting in Pittsburgh but also enjoy going anywhere outside of the big cities for something more rustic or outdoorsy.
What do you love the most about your job?I love that my job is always different. Different locations, scenarios, times.
What is your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest on set story?The early call times are awful but typically make for surreal moments of sunrise over whatever location we might be shooting that day. Just taking a minute to sip on some warm tea and appreciate the moment is probably some of my most memorable experiences on set.
Do you have any upcoming Pennsylvania-based projects?I am currently in post-production on a short film I directed in the Pittsburgh area and am working with some buddies on a feature slated for next fall (2020).
PAFIA has been working hard on increasing the film tax credit in Pennsylvania and bringing more film work to our local crew and talent, but we must all unite to really make a difference. What can you tell our elected officials about the importance of PA film industry and the difference it has made in your life?I am a little biased because I work in the industry and see the direct result of the tax credits and I will admit I do not know the full scope of what all the tax credit does but I like to think that anything that brings productions to town is not a bad thing, especially with the seemingly increasing number of streaming services that are looking for content and are producing it themselves. I mean, Netflix has been in the Pittsburgh area consistently for the past 4 years and Amazon for the last two.
What is your advice for the aspiring actors and filmmakers? Some steps to take? Some mistakes to avoid?The biggest hurdle I had to get over as a fimmaker/collaborator was to not taking things personally. Everyone has their own thing going on and we all want the end product to be the best possible thing so it might frustrate us at times when someone messes up or mistakes. That person potentially scolding you is working towards the same objective as you. Everyone is everyone’s best friend at wrap.
What are some good strategies to find more gigs?Work hard. People notice.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned about this industry and wish you knew earlier?Stop whatever you are doing and get on a set.
What is your favorite film shot in Pennsylvania?The Deer Hunter.
What is your favorite project that you worked on?Whatever project I am working on now.
What is your biggest aspiration in this industry?I would love to be able to travel and tell stories in any capacity through the medium of cinema.
What would be the best way for our local PA cast and crew to submit to your upcoming projects?Reach out any time! I have nothing personal in the chamber right now but am always looking to collaborate!
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org