Princess Shaw - the YouTube star who didn't know she was famous video

When Samantha Montgomery started uploading her singing clips to YouTube, she didn't know who might be watching them.

She had no idea that whomever was watching would have big plans for her future. 

Living in one of New Orleans' toughest neighbourhoods, by day Montgomery worked as an elderly care nurse, by night, she wrote songs, and poured her heart out into her confessional  "Princess Shaw" YouTube channel.

Montgomery's advice in life to anyone is to," "Live your life the way you see fit to. Don’t let anyone change you. Live, ...
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Montgomery's advice in life to anyone is to," "Live your life the way you see fit to. Don’t let anyone change you. Live, love, laugh, and by all means, make love."

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From the other side of the world, acclaimed Israeli artist and composer, Ophir "Kutiman" Kutiel, saw Montgomery's YouTube channel, and knew he had witnessed something special.

He took her song Give it Up and added music by creating a mash-up video of other amateur YouTube performers - from a little girl at a piano recital, to a guy jamming in his bedroom, and someone giving online cello lessons.

From the other side of the world, Israeli artist Kutiman knew he had witnessed something special in MSamantha ...
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From the other side of the world, Israeli artist Kutiman knew he had witnessed something special in MSamantha Montgomery. He took her song Give it Up and added music through a mash-up video of other amateur YouTube performers - from a little girl at a piano recital, to a guy jamming in his bedroom, and someone giving online cello lessons. The result; a unique, modern, and beautiful piece of soul music that has amassed over 2.5 million views.

The result; a unique, modern, and beautiful piece of soul music that has amassed over 2.5 million views. 

But throughout the process, someone was watching Kutiman too: Israeli documenter filmmaker Ido Haar. 

"I knew of Kutiman as an artist and had been wanting to do something about him for a while," Haar says.

The film's director, Ido Haar, says artist and composer Kutiman, who discovered Montgomery, is a revolutionary.
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The film's director, Ido Haar, says artist and composer Kutiman, who discovered Montgomery, is a revolutionary.

"When I heard about his project, I thought, this is the time."

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"One of the first people I saw in his project was Samantha, when I got home that night I dived into her YouTube channel and I was fascinated by her character and her songs and trying to figure out who she was. She really knew what she was singing about and was very honest, open and courageous."​

He contacted Montgomery on Facebook on the premise that he had seen her on YouTube and wanted to fly to New Orleans to meet her for a doco about online singers.

Presenting Princess Shaw follows a singer from one of New Orleans' toughest neighbourhoods who became a YouTube star.
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Presenting Princess Shaw follows a singer from one of New Orleans' toughest neighbourhoods who became a YouTube star.

She had no idea his real intentions were for a film solely about her and Kutiman.

Montgomery agreed to meet him in her hometown, because, "why the hell not?", she says.  Slightly suspicious, she did bring a friend along.

Haar and Montgomery got on marvellously, later attending an open mic night together in the city. 

During the year that followed, Haar travelled to and from Israel and New Orleans every couple of months to film Montgomery on her journey.

Haar filmed the moment Montgomery saw Kutiman's Give it Up clip for the first time, she was thrilled.

"I felt shocked, but I felt so freaking happy, felt like I was soaring...," she says.

Montgomery is set to treat Wellington audiences with a Q&A.
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Montgomery is set to treat Wellington audiences with a Q&A.

"It changed my life because I have been to places I never thought I would get to see."

One of those places, is Israel, where Shaw has a huge following and flies regularly to perform and catch up with Kutiman and Haar.

Getting to work directly with Kutiman and finding "kindred spirits" has been the best part of the documentary experience, she says.

"I met a second family and found a second home."

Montgomery's ultimate dream is to keep singing and travelling as long as she is able to.

Presenting Princess Shaw follows the aspiring singer as she takes the exposure opportunity and runs with it, chasing her music dream with a never-say-die attitude.

The uplifting story also deals with the challenges Montgomery faces on a deeper level, including the pain of past abuse, working long hours in a tough job, and struggling to pay bills.

The inspirational film is also a comment on the changes, opportunities and challenges the music industry faces in the digital age.

Six years ago, Kutiman was a pioneer in this innovative way of treating music, Haar says.

"For me it's kind of revolutionary in a way, the way two people from such different places in the world can collaborate, work together and share an experience that 20, or even 10 years ago, wouldn't have been possible."

Montgomery is heading to New Zealand for the Documentary Edge Film Festival, where she is set to treat a Wellington audience not only with a Q&A but will also sing, following the screening on May 15.

Presenting Princess Shaw. The Roxy, Wellington, Sunday, May 16 at 8.30pm. Q Theatre, Auckland, May 19 and 29. See Docedge.nz for more information.

 

 

 

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