Article By: Maria Shamkalian
What is your most recent success and how did you accomplish it?My most recent success is Rigor Mortis, a film in which every cast and crew member was treated like family. I accomplished this by paying attention to how a lot of independent projects have been rumored to mistreat their cast and crew. So I wanted to make sure that any project of mine was not this way.
How did you get started in the film industry?Actually by accident. I was down on my luck with a failed business and a messy divorce and child custody hearings lined up back to back. I saw an ad in the local newspaper about a Hollywood production looking for background actors.
Why do you choose to work in PA and what do you love the most about working in Pennsylvania?The freedom of writing what you want, directing how you want, and producing a film how you want without the strict guidelines of APAA and Hollywood Foreign Press.
What are some of your favorite shooting locations in Pennsylvania?Hands down, three of my favorite shooting locations have been the Lawrence County Community Action Partnership, the John F. Singer Mansion, and the Monongahela Valley General Hospital, all of which are listed on the Pittsburgh Film Office’s website, for locations.
What do you love the most about your job?I love the challenge of how to create something innovative in an inspirational story that has never been done before; something that I know will inspire audiences to be, do, and have the best of what life has to offer.
What is your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest on set story?The most awkward on set story is when there was an actual corpse in a funeral home that we shot a scene in - the funeral director assured me that there would be no “customers” in the funeral home, but there was one and we all had to work around it to the best of our ability.
Do you have any upcoming Pennsylvania-based projects?Of course. The Whites, Lethal Guardian, and Twin Flames, all of which have a special meaning behind them, and where they are all parallel universe anthology films.
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?PA’s elected officials have to know that Pennsylvania has a lot of freedom to write, direct, and produce the kinds of projects that audiences will be entertained to watch. Everything in Hollywood are remakes and live adaptations that are becoming redundant and predictable. Pennsylvania filmmaking is a treasure trove of ideas that can be (and should be) the new market of entertainment in films that capture the imagination of audiences, if given the opportunity.
What is your advice for the aspiring actors and filmmakers? Some steps to take? Some mistakes to avoid?Study unconventional skills that have nothing to do with acting or filmmaking, but can skyrocket your career. For instance, study sales and marketing; you have to be able to know how to sell yourself, sale your brand (as an actor or project), and overcome objections that if one knew how to look for what is actually being asked, they can avoid a lot more rejection. Marketing is just as important because one must know what and who they are as a brand (or their filmmaking product is as a brand), where to target specific influential people based on that brand, and how to increase your worth as a brand.
What are some good strategies to find more gigs?In my experience, when you know, and practice, your unique brand, producers, directors, agents, casting directors, and managers will start to look for you. Until then, study how to make yourself stand out with sales and marketing wisdom.
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned about this industry and wish you knew earlier?This is going to sound redundant, but the value in sales and marketing is truly an asset to one and their career. It really sets a professional apart from an ametuer.
What is your favorite film shot in Pennsylvania?Not just because it’s my own film, but because the ideas, morals, ethics, and unity of everyone on board with Rigor Mortis has a lot of special meaning to me and everyone involved with it.
What is your favorite project that you worked on?Again, not to sound redundant, and not to make it too personal, but Rigor Mortis has by far been my favorite project. Not just because it’s personal, but personally the morals, ethics, ideas, and unity of everyone involved with Rigor Mortis has created lasting friendships and value with one another.
What is your biggest aspiration in this industry?To create innovative films that make people think that it could be possible to address real world problems and make a difference in someone else’s life by practicing humanity, vulnerability, and humbleity in ways not thought of before.
What would be the best way for our local PA cast and crew to submit to your upcoming projects?One could submit themselves by visiting ShelBeth Entertainment’s Facebook page to be up to date with what is happening in our own little part of the world and then submitting an inquiry by messaging us. That link can be found here.
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org