I’ve always been generous at appreciating talents that directly come from people who always get the credit. I mean, my On Spotlight series is a mix of mostly singers and photographers. Then I got to thinking, how about those behind the cameras? Aren’t they as talented as the ones who are always in front?
Meet Maira Shakhanova, a Kazakhstan-born film producer based in New York. I was on my usual browsing routines when indie films got me interested. I came across Future Assassin, a short comedy film set in 1965. It’s about a high school student who came up with a plan of convincing five dazed hippies that his first love (who scorned him) is indeed an evil time traveler. Their primary interest is to save the world, when suddenly they got pulled over in a getaway car in a long country road. They spent some time in jail and together they discover each other’s true colors. This short film has gained ten awards including Best Short Film Comedy from Artisan Festival International (World Cinema Festival).
Maira also did thrillers and among them is The Dumping Fields, a film that will keep you guessing about who the killer is and the lengths that he will go to hide his identity even if the biggest surprise will be for him.
I explored more of her films and I chanced upon Denial, which, on the other hand is a drama revolving around the marriage of Naira and Mel. Their bond has withstood different challenges, including losing their unborn child. Mel’s brother, Melvin, comes along and shakes the couple’s marriage, and Mel decides whether blood is thicker than water.
Why I got fascinated with film producers is because like actors and actresses, directors also get the share of the spotlight. When directors come to the picture, the outline for the whole film has already been created. But how about when nothing has started? How does the production happen? How is the director being chosen? Who hires the key staff? Who is in charge of the budget, distribution, etc.?
What even got me more interested with Maira is the fact that she was previously involved in a totally different industry before she got into film making. She studied finance and law and was a successful business owner several years prior. This fact leaves me in awe as I always thought finance is a complete opposite of creatives, two totally different paths. But Maira is an exception, and she does both excellently.
Included in the wide array of successful and multi-awarded films that she produced are the following:
- Nu Moses (2015, directed by Cassady O’Neal)
- The Case of Josephine H. (2014, directed by Izabella Gustowska)
- Olympia Dukakis: Undefined (2013, directed by Harry Mavromichalis)
- Yankee Restraint (2012, directed by Harry Mavromichalis)
- The Dumping Fields (2014, directed by Juliana Puyo)
- Denial (2014, directed by Yunus Shahul)
- Future Assassin (2013, directed by Yunus Shahul)
- Unrequited Love (2013, directed by Yunus Shahul)
- Manuela (2013, directed by Carlos Baptista)
- Remember to Forget (2012, directed by Antonio Le Fosse)
- Vengeance Ain’t Red (2012, directed by Satti Ombao)
- Knockout (2012, directed by Jacopo Genuardi)
- The Machine (2012, directed by Christian Haslwanter)
Her true passion in the art of storytelling and her skills in finance enable her to create thought-provoking films. She has handled various genres and budgets (her portfolio speaks for it all) which is why she understands every process that goes into film making. She was recently nominated as Best Producer at the International Film Festival for Peace, Inspiration, and Equality.
Photo credits: Maira Shakhanova, Studio 5 Pictures