“Presenting Princess Shaw,” a documentary at the True/False Film Fest in March, focuses on the collision between two different people: Samantha “Princess Shaw” Montgomery, a 38-year-old aspiring singer living in New Orleans, and Ophir Kuti “Kutiman”, a YouTube music producer. The film is is filmmaker Ido Haar’s fourth documentary. MOVE spoke with Haar about the filmmaking process of “Presenting Princess Shaw” and his experience as a director.
Q: Can you tell me about your experiences as a director?
A: I graduated from Jerusalem Film School. I’ve directed four documentaries; “Presenting Princess Shaw” was the fourth one. I also do a little bit of editing.
Q: How did you find Kutiman?
A: I knew Kutiman for many years and am very familiar with his work. I saw “Thru You,” and I was really blown away. I knew I wanted to do a film about him. About five years after, I saw the musicians; I felt this is the film and I need to do something about it. I saw the project before it was released. I found myself diving into YouTube channels trying to find out more about what they’re doing, who they are. I was very fascinated with Princess Shaw especially. A couple of weeks after I went to the U.S. and I decided I wanted to meet her, I messaged her through Facebook or something and luckily she was willing to meet me.
She came with a friend because she was very suspicious, you know, of this random Israeli guy. We met in a hotel lobby in New Orleans, and I think we felt very comfortable with each other, and later that night, I went to open mic night with her. I went back to Israel and realized my heart wanted to go back to New Orleans again.
Q: You didn’t let Princess Shaw know the real reason she was being filmed when you initially contacted her. How did you let her know?
A: She was so overwhelmed, and she didn’t even make the connection that (Kutiman and I) were both from Israel, and I had to tell her later that day and she was so happy. It was a crazy day — the most tense day for me because I was really afraid to miss this moment. I knew that Kutiman was going to post the video that day like an hour before he did. We were eating at the cafe. It took five to six hours for her to see Kutiman’s upload. At the end of the day, I told her Kuti was a friend.
Q: A lot of directors frame the advancement of online communications through a negative lens. Why did you decide to focus on the positive?
A: It’s not that I decided. When I started to work on this film, I thought about all the directors that I went to film school with. Most of the brightest and most talented aren’t doing film today. There are so many people with amazing voices and unique talent and many are just not born with the right card in their hand, and we’ll never hear from many of them. People from all over the world can express themselves and fight this cruel commercial world of music and art. For me, there’s optimism in many things and the ability of people to share and create and to see each other. You just want someone to see and believe in your talent and I think the possibilities are amazing.
Q: Do you think you will do something similar to this in the future?
A: I don’t know. It’s too early for me to say. I’m alert and my eyes are always open. This project was very different from something I ever did. It’s like karma from those two people affected the film and me, and I’d like to experience this again.
"Presenting Princess Shaw" is playing March 4 at 11:45 a.m. at The Picturehouse, March 5 at 3:45PM at Jesse Auditorium and March 6 at 9:30 a.m. at Missouri Theatre.