Princess Shaw was the rare YouTube star who didn't know she was famous. Princess Shaw was the rare YouTube star who didn't know she was famous. Princess Shaw was the rare YouTube star who didn't know she was famous. (Photo: Magnolia Pictures)

Watch the inspiring real-life story of one woman's unlikely rise to YouTube stardom

'Presenting Princess Shaw' tells the tale of a down-on-her-luck New Orleans singer and a producer from across the world who made her famous.

Samantha Montgomery is a struggling singer who works in New Orleans as an eldercare-giver while posting her original songs and deeply personal confessionals as Princess Shaw on YouTube. Ophir Kutiel – known online simply as Kutiman – is a renowned Israeli music mixologist who mashes up musicians’ YouTube videos into orchestrated compositions and reposts them online.

The story of how these two very different talents came together – and changed Montgomery’s life forever – is the subject of the heartfelt documentary “Presenting Princess Shaw,” which was released in selected theaters in May and was just picked up by Netflix. It will also be available on DVD Sept. 13.

Israeli director Ido Haar, who has known Kutiman for years and wanted to make a film inspired by his work, was “blown away” by the musicians Kutiman had discovered online. “Samantha’s song was the first one he showed me and it really touched my heart," he tells From The Grapevine. "I watched her YouTube channel and I fell in love with her and her honesty and her directness and courage. I knew she had to be one of the characters in the film.” Eventually, as he got to know her and her life story, she became its focus.

Although she was suspicious at first, Montgomery agreed to meet Haar, and he flew to New Orleans. “We felt comfortable with each other from the start,” says the director, who didn’t let on that Kutiman was putting her a capella song to music. “I didn’t want to ruin the moment for her or for Kutiman because he doesn’t tell the musicians until the moment he uploads it,” he explains. Her stunned, emotional reaction to seeing the video for the first time is one of the film’s most memorable moments. Another chronicles Montgomery’s trip to Israel to meet Kutiman for the first time.

The serendipitous musical relationship between Samantha Montgomery (left) and Ophir Kutiel (right) is the subject of the new documentary, “Presenting Princess Shaw."The serendipitous musical relationship between Samantha Montgomery (left) and Ophir Kutiel (right) is the subject of the new documentary, “Presenting Princess Shaw." (Photo: Magnolia Pictures)

Other moments, in which Montgomery reveals personal family secrets including sexual abuse, are emotional for different reasons. Haar asked permission to include them. “She’s very open on her YouTube channel, talking about her life experiences. But it was very important to me to know it was OK with her,” he says.

Filming over several trips to the United States from late 2013 through early 2015, the Tel Aviv-based director says his biggest challenges were logistic: the distance between Israel and New Orleans and, once he finished, sorting through 200 hours of footage including YouTube clips, Kutiman’s videos and everything he shot of Montgomery. “There were so many layers,” he notes.

Haar, an alumnus of Jerusalem's Sam Spiegel Film & Television School, has worked as an editor and cinematographer and did both jobs on “Presenting Princess Shaw.” He’s found his niche as a documentary filmmaker but hasn’t locked in his next project yet, as he’s still completely focused on the release of “Princess Shaw.” It premiered in Israel last summer and opened wide there a few months ago to enthusiastic response, especially resonating with people in the arts community.

“You hope that someone will see your talent and acknowledge it. Many people can relate to that,” says Haar, who counts himself among them. In the film, “This discovery is happening right in front of your eyes and people are very moved and can identify with that and with Samantha’s very emotional story.”

Montgomery was in Israel for the release, and she and Kutiman recorded new songs together that will be released in the next few months. “So already something big came out of this,” says Haar.

He marvels at the power of the Internet to bring people together in a way that wasn’t possible before. “The film is about Samantha and Kutiman, but it’s also about the musicians that Samantha meets along the way and the unique voices, original thinking and beautiful talent that’s out there. Now people from different places in the world can collaborate together on music, art, film and culture. I thought about that a lot while making this film.”

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