“Fine Wine” is an award-winning short film written and directed by Maria Shamkalian and shown in Spain, Italy, Romania, Netherlands and many parts of the United States. This heartwarming musical production with over 200 dedicated people involved and five fantastic locations, lets the audience immerse into the magical world of the past and shows that while bodies might change, passion within lives forever.
One day I was listening to a beautiful song and I got inspired. I didn’t even have to think of a script – I just saw it in my head right away. I even had tears as I was listening to the music and imagining the stories unfold. Then I sent the script to Andre Saballette from BoatHouse Pictures and just asked when we are shooting.
What were some challenges that you have encountered?There was a number of challenges, of course, as in any production. Budget is always a challenge. Arranging proper holding area for some of the venues was a challenge. Then there were scheduling conflicts, especially for the reshoots, when we needed the venue to be available and all 75 people who were in the scene with exactly the same haircuts, same facial hair, same makeup – this is the reason we had to take a few months hiatus until we found the date for the reshoot when everyone could come. Actors not showing up and having to do emergency casting and bring photo doubles also was not easy. Editing was also very hard when you have a number of great shots that are nearly impossible to choose from, but our editor John Woods and colorist Lawrence R. Greenberg patiently spent many hours with us in the studio working on every piece of the puzzle. And, of course, being a pregnant director and producer was quite a task, but we got through it all
All the actors and crew were under a deferred payment agreement, except for transportation for NY SAG-AFTRA actors. All the locations donated their time. Catering was provided by Ann Kids Catering as a donation (it was delicious!). All the equipment was donated by Not Sold Separately, Resolution Rentals, and Camos Media, who were brought on board by our amazing DP Collin Welch. Also, we had a wonderful gaffer Joseph J. Graves who arranged all the lighting equipment. Wardrobe, props, and festival submissions were just out-of-pocket expenses.
What are the plans for distribution?Up until now it was in a festival circuit, but when it was ready for distribution the whole world shut down. We felt that now the world needs hope and positivity the most, so we shared our film publicly on its Facebook Page. When everything opens again, we will revisit the question of distribution, but meanwhile you can watch it here:
Care to share all the amazing accomplishments, awards and selections?We got selected into 14 film festivals, semi-finalist in two, and won in three (Best Director, Best First Time Director, and Award of Merit for Women Filmmakers).
Which film festivals do you suggest submitting to?There are so many amazing film festivals – it all depends on the genre, but www.filmfreeway.com has been immensely helpful in choosing the festivals to submit to.
Why did you choose to film in PA and what do you love the most about working in Pennsylvania?Pennsylvania has such a great variety of beautiful locations! Our film shows both present time and the 1960’s, and we were able to find locations that preserved the vintage vibe and were happy to join our artistic collaboration. You can find locations for any theme here, and business owners are very welcoming to filmmakers! Also, while we brought several fantastic actors from NY, all the other amazing actors and the wonderful crew was local, and we were blessed with an excellent team!
What are some of your favorite shooting locations in Pennsylvania?In our film, you can see Bella Tori at the Mansion – a gorgeous vintage Italian restaurant - and Langhorne Coffee House – an adorable vintage coffee house, which we were so blessed to collaborate with! Also, Ann Kids Center, KleinLife Adult Care Center, and KleinLife Theater were such great venues. Other than that, Pennsylvania has great suburban locations, amazing city sites, historical building, parks, forests, farmlands – if I start listing all my favorite locations, I can write a book!
I even helped fix the script on White Collar and adjust a scene on Boardwalk Empire. It is like film school that you get paid for. Then I started working different jobs on set in order to understand filmmaking from every different perspective. Andre Saballette started his career right after college by working for Walt Disney Company. He learned a lot about the business and decided to take his passion and newfound knowledge and venture off on his own, so in 2013 he launched BoatHouse Pictures and began to work in the tri-state area. Every one of our amazing team members has a great story and getting to know them all was a real treat!
What do you love the most about your job?Filmmaking is not just a job, not just a hobby. It's a way of life, a state of mind, a puzzle piece of your soul - without it you feel incomplete. If you fall in love with filmmaking, it's for life. You see movie ideas everywhere, live through screenplays in your sleep. Money does not matter. What matters is that you have a vision that no one sees besides you and your team, until one day you pour your heart and soul out onto that big screen and the world goes "Wow!"
Putting together a film is incredibly difficult, time-consuming and stressful, but every time I dive into it again and again, because that feeling of euphoria when your idea becomes a reality, changes hearts and minds, causes a whirlpool of emotions... when your message is seen and felt by the world... that's when I believe I can fly!
What is your most memorable, most awkward, or funniest on set story?I actually got quite a number of funny ones From getting a hundred people to dance Macarena to warm up during a cold outdoor shoot to making a farting noise with a ketchup bottle during Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar-winning speech. That would be another book!
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 used to travel to NY several times a week, but when I got married and had a baby, it is no longer an option for me. I want to work where I live, and so does everyone in our film community. Increasing the PA film tax credit will not only benefit actors and filmmakers. It will also benefit hotels, restaurants, car rentals, and so many other local businesses. So many directors and producers would love to bring films to PA and spend money here, but they can’t because of the tax credit. This would really be a deal breaker!
What are some of the most valuable lessons that you have learned about this industry and wish you knew earlier?Don’t keep ideas in your head. If you have a script, write it, so that when an opportunity presents itself you are ready. No one cares about ideas, people need a product that is ready to go. Also, be open to constructive criticism. Collaboration of opinions can turn something from mediocre to genius, so be open to change.
What would be the best way for our local PA cast and crew to submit to your upcoming projects?You can always contact me on Facebook or through my website www.MariaShamkalian.com.
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org