New-Wave Wedding Cinema: The Making of Kevin Shahinian's City of Lakes
Posted Apr 6, 2010

"CITY OF LAKES" The Official Trailer from PACIFIC PICTURES on Vimeo.
Watch City of Lakes on the Pacific Pictures Blog!

Kevin Shahinian City of LakesBack in the days when wedding films were known as wedding videos, the distinction was a simple one: Films were shot on film, videos were recorded on tape. Films had a deep, warm, and textured look; videos looked flat and cool. Films got widespread, even worldwide distribution, and videos—wedding videos, anyway—were a private matter. If you weren't in one, why would you ever want to watch it, and if you were in one, why would you subject someone else to it?

OK, so maybe that was more rep than reality, and the "video" era in our industry wasn't all that bad. But the lines between videos and films were much more sharply drawn just a few years ago than they are now. Today, some wedding films do get worldwide distribution of a sort, unveiled for all the world to see on Vimeo, Facebook, and forums. And although most wedding films aren't shot on film per se, many are shot on HD-DSLRs that help shooters achieve many of the hallmarks of cinematic footage minus the grain of film.

When University of Southern California Film School graduate Kevin Shahinian ventured into the wedding video world, he did so wondering just how close he could come to making films of Hollywood authenticity, ambition, and impact within the confines of his role as a guy hired to shoot a wedding. When the readers of EventDV elected Shahinian to the 2009 EventDV 25, they did so assuming they knew the answer to that question, based on the deep impression left by his first three concept films, the Bollywood mini-epics Tum Hi Ho (You Are the One), Dil Jaanta Hai (The Heart Knows), and the Swedish romantic thriller Snö (Snow).
Although Shahinian seemed to arrive fully formed with Tum Hi Ho, the film was essentially a break-even proposition for his studio; the next step for Shahinian—and a significant one at that—was to prove that Tum Hi Ho wasn't a fluke artistically and to invest that sort of effort into a wedding-related project and actually turn a profit on it. Dil Jaanta Hai—check on both counts. Snö—arguably an even better film than his first two efforts—check-plus.

But Shahinian wasn't done. In the truest sense of "concept filmmaker," Shahinian had other, more challenging concepts he wanted to explore. And he also hadn't really reached, in his own mind, the full potential of marrying Hollywood cinema to weddings. But where, precisely, would Shahinian's peculiar brand of vision quest take him—and those of us who were awaiting his next move—from there?

As of the writing of this article, we had several well-publicized and widely seen clues, which in and of themselves were evidence of major developments afoot. We had three "preludes" and a mesmeric trailer, a location (Udaipur, India), a title (City of Lakes), sponsors (Cinevate, Canon, and Tiffen/Steadicam), a contest (sponsored by Cinevate), the roll call of a dream-team crew (EventDV 25 all-stars Patrick Moreau, Joe Simon, and Casey Warren), Shahinian working the podcast circuit, action figures in McDonald's Happy Meals ... OK, so maybe not the action figures. But as the buzz approaches fever pitch, it almost seems like the next logical step in this bizarro world that Shahinian has helped create, where event films become motion picture events.

Lake of Fire
So what is City of Lakes, and why all the hype and the heat coming off this as-yet-unseen film? And why did the preludes to the trailer promise "a whole new kind of production"? Well, the first reason this film, which isn't even fully edited at this writing, is drawing so much attention is the all-star crew.

The second reason is the concept behind it. "Concepts," by and large, are short films produced prior to a wedding, bar mitzvah, or other event that celebrate the bride and groom, or another honoree, as well as their friends and/or members of the bridal party. Concepts are presented as a film, TV spoof, or original production and are shown on the event day during the reception. Like their near-mate love stories, concepts may follow a photomontage or precede a same-day edit in the evening's presentation. But even if they run sequentially, the concept film and the same-day edit (or any other production that documents the day) are things apart from one another.

Not so with City of Lakes. Shahinian's project, filmed last fall in Udaipur, India, is, to my knowledge, the first to weave the wedding into the concept film as a component of the storyline. From a script-writing and storyboarding standpoint, incorporating a live event into a fictional film was hard enough. But the real challenge—and risk—would come in the execution. Four North American filmmakers were tasked, essentially, with a 9-day movie shoot in India with a 3-day wedding in the middle of it, somehow capturing a wedding not only as it happened but also in a way that would conform reasonably well to the outline of the script. This meant directing actors to interact with each other as well as with real people who happened to be getting married at the time-and disrupting neither the film shoot nor the wedding ceremony to do so. And did I mention that royal Indian weddings are about as complex and prolonged as any wedding tradition in the world—and that there were elephants involved?

Kevin Shahinian City of Lakes

City of Glass
Given the challenges of pulling off a project like this, and the fact that with an idea that's as out there as this one, there's virtually no demand for a film of this sort-realistically, clients aren't going to ask you to produce an original film with their wedding rolled into it—where did the idea come from, and what motivated Shahinian to pursue it? It turns out it wasn't so much the integration of wedding film and concept film as a desire to approach wedding filmmaking itself more conceptually.

"Every wedding video you see comes from the same perspective, the same kind of shots of the couple and what-not. With more of the creativity that you've seen in the last few years, you get more detail, but more or less, it's the bride and groom's story," he explains. "I was thinking about trying to do a wedding film from a different point of view, other than the bride and groom's. That planted the seed, and what really made that idea thrive and grow was when the couple contacted me, and they originally just wanted us for the wedding. But then they saw the first and second Bollywood films we did, and the bride really loved it, so she said, ‘Maybe we can raise the budget to do something like that. Think about it, and get back to us with an idea.' I thought about it, and I realized that this wedding in India was going to overshadow any concept I could come up with."

Working with a couple that's of Indian descent but born and raised in Chicago, it struck Shahinian that the concept was going to India, and what that meant to them. "What does it mean to go to India, to go back to where your ancestors were from and get married there? I figured that the best thing to do was to make the wedding the concept."

Part of the impulse for attempting a more expansive approach came from the desire to collaborate with Moreau of StillMotion, with whom Shahinian had recently appeared in five webisodes of Zacuto Films' round-table filmmaking discussion series, FilmFellas. (If you watch the series, you'll notice that the two dropped a few hints about this project there.) And part of it was to produce a wedding film with a Hollywood-style crew. "One question I had was, ‘Can wedding videographers make a proper film in a sort of crew delineation? We're all one-man bands, so can there be a writer-director, a DP [director of photography], a second unit director, and an AD [assistant director]? Can we do it? Will it work?' The second question was, ‘Can it stand up to any other film that has nothing to do with a wedding?' Because in this film, the wedding was just incidental."

Given the difficulty of pulling off the concept, the talent and ability of the crew was crucial. "The whole idea behind this was, could we produce a concept movie that was fully produced, [use] multiple takes, and blend it seamlessly with live footage? Would it be seamless and would it cut together and look like we produced the wedding [as a movie] also? Which was another reason why I wanted to have, in my mind, the best wedding videographers out there to make it look as polished as possible."

Kevin Shahinian City of Lakes

From a Concept to a Story
One of the key components of creating a wedding concept film is to get to know the bride and groom and draw out the elements of their own story that will contribute to the storyline of the film. As luck would have it, Shahinian-who is based in Los Angeles, and often never meets with his far-flung clients in person before they convene either for the concept film shoot or the wedding itself-had not one, but two opportunities to cross two time zones and meet with the families with whom he'd be working on this film. First, he was invited to Chicago by the Illinois Videographers Association last May to speak at the association's annual Midwest Expo, and this provided his first invaluable opportunity to meet with the bride and groom to discuss the project.

"I sat down with the couple and interviewed them, starting with the way they met, which wasn't cinematic per se," he recalls, noting that he left without an especially clear idea of how his film would take shape other
than knowing that it wouldn't be a fictionalized version of their own meeting and courtship as his earlier concepts had been.

The breakthrough came when Shahinian returned to Chicago a month later to do FilmFellas, had dinner with the couple and their parents, and ended up talking with the parents for 2 hours. "I said, ‘Tell me about Melissa and Samir as children,'" Shahinian says, "and it started me on the notion of ‘what is marriage' and what does marriage mean? I thought about weddings where they do photomontages of a couple's childhood and wondered, ‘What does that mean? Why do they do the photomontage of the childhood? What's the symbolism there?' I think a wedding, for parents, is sad—it's like letting the children go to begin their adult lives officially, and in a way, it's the death of childhood. What makes a movie cinematic?" he muses. "You have to have tension and conflict. One thing that makes wedding movies so mundane is that everyone's so happy, most of the time, and you're telling the story of two characters we know are going to end up together, and they get married in the first 10 minutes." Shahinian's idea was to find a starting point for the story that would build tension and conflict in advance of the ending to underscore the bittersweetness of the outcome.

"One of the things Melissa told me up front was that she'd always dreamed of getting married in India, ever since she was a little girl," he says. "That's when the light bulb went off in my head," and the film began to take shape.

"The whole story of the movie is told from the point of view of these two children, a little boy and a little girl. And it's from their point of view that you watch the whole wedding. At the end, you realize that it's Melissa and Samir as children, and that they're dreaming of the day at this time in the past."

Appropriately enough, the film ends with the wedding. "Along the way, you build sympathy for these characters," Shahinian says, "and you realize the ending is very bittersweet, because they have to come to terms with the fact that they no longer exist in reality, and the two people they've been trying to get in touch with are themselves. But it was important to me that it work without that—that if I cut that twist out of the end ... it would still work as this suspenseful film about these two children checking out this cool wedding."

But Shahinian's elevator pitch to the couple didn't go terribly smoothly. For one thing, the idea of shooting the film entirely in India meant abandoning the idea of producing a film that could be shown at the reception. India and the idea of getting married there was just too important a part of the story he wanted to tell. And then there was the power of Udaipur as a location (compared to, say, Chicago), with its majestic palaces and shimmering lakes; as Shahinian told Ron Dawson on Dawson's podcast, Crossing the 180, "I just didn't feel comfortable shooting something here in the states to show in this almost-fairytale location."

And when Shahinian suggested to the family the idea of telling the story from the point of view of the bride and groom as children, they didn't get it. "They had a photomontage of themselves as children that they had shown at their engagement party, and I said, ‘Well, what would a $2-million version of that look like? What if a Hollywood director made this into a movie?' Then they got it."

Up in the Air
But selling the concept was only the first hurdle. "Then it was a matter of, ‘We need so much more money,' and they were like, ‘How much?'" Another issue was assembling (and transporting) a top-notch crew—beginning with bringing on board Moreau, of whom the family weren't aware—and building the budget from there. After shooting a wedding with Simon and Ray Roman, Shahinian recruited Simon and finally pitched it to Warren, who signed on as well, with all committing to work for traded time (i.e., Shahinian agreeing to shoot for/with them in the future) and full coverage of their expenses.

"I let them know we have an all-star crew and then went about producing most of it before I could predict how much it would cost, because you can never really guess accurately," he says. "I sent the family a breakdown, and it was up in the air for a couple weeks while they thought about it, and then they finally said, ‘We're on board.'"

The contributions of the project's three sponsors—Cinevate, Canon, and Tiffen—proved critical too. While the sponsors played no role in underwriting the cost of the video, they not only supplied equipment but shipped it, 2 weeks in advance of the shoot, which was important in terms of getting the permits to use it and limiting the gear that the filmmakers had to carry through customs (two DSLRs each, plus their allotment of lenses)-"We breezed through just like tourists." Because it was an all-DSLR shoot, Canon supplied not only the 5Ds and 7Ds but also a full complement of lenses. Tiffen supplied Steadicams and lights, and Cinevate provided DSLR rigs and other stabilization gear.

Cinevate's sponsorship extended to producing (and owning) a behind-the-scenes (BTS) feature that would be shot simultaneously, edited by Simon, that will subsequently be promoted and presented on—first as teasers, then as the full BTS feature after the full film premieres in Las Vegas during NAB. "The BTS was pretty wild," Simon says. "There was not a designated person to shoot it so we all just shot bits here and there when we could. The City of Lakes film was a huge undertaking as a whole and we had a pretty slim crew to just take care of basic production—let alone a BTS crew. So as we would scout locations and shoot scenes, whoever had a free hand would grab a 5D and shoot some BTS stuff. It's pretty funny watching everything back and trying to guess who is holding the camera."

As much as City of Lakes strived to a degree unprecedented in wedding cinema to sustain a single narrative thread between scripted and live-event segments, "The BTS is all over the place," Simon says. "It's fly-on-the-wall, it's in-your-face, it's self-filming interviews. It's a mixed basket of fun! There are some interviews along the way but most of it is just what is happening and all the obstacles we had to overcome. But as a whole we captured an awesome vibe between India and the crew." The final cut of the BTS will run in 3 segments of 4–5 minutes each, according to Simon, premiering soon on

Shooting Script
Shahinian, Moreau, Shahinian's jib operator, Chris Geiger, and line producer Pravit Thakur, who flew in from Mumbai, arrived on the Monday preceding the wedding, Warren and on-set photographer Amish Solanki flew in the following day. B-roll shooting was scheduled to begin Wednesday night, and shooting with the actors was slated to begin on Thursday, with the wedding events occurring Saturday, Sunday, and Monday evenings. Because Shahinian had neither the budget nor the time to fly to Udaipur ahead of time, this left 2 or 3 days for scouting locations and storyboarding prior to shooting. The actors and dancers were flown into Udaipur from Mumbai—the center of India's filmmaking and TV industries—on Thursday.

The cast consisted primarily of two professional child actors, Anubhab Saha and Sharon Chawda, and an established TV actor named Rushad Rana, who played the boatman, a sort of "shepherd or Obi-Wan type of guy who moves the plot along. He was awesome, and kept getting recognized everywhere," says Shahinian. Because the bride and groom neither sang, danced, nor spoke Hindi, their parts were minimal except for the live action elements from the wedding. The only member of the wedding who played a significant (non-live) part in the movie was the sister of the groom, who did a musical number; "She's an aspiring actress who's done some short films and was very comfortable in front of the camera."

Kevin Shahinian City of Lakes

Another reason that Shahinian minimized the bride and groom's roles in the film was that they were, well, busy. "There are a couple of scenes that we shot with them that we staged. But because we were shooting right around their wedding, they wanted to focus as much as they could on their family and their time in India and not the movie, so I didn't want to pull them away. Most of the footage of them is live footage that we got from the wedding."

Once they reached the weekend and the wedding events, Shahinian says, "We were actually shooting the movie during the day, and then that night there would be a wedding event. So we had 20-hour shooting days," which put pressure on everyone to make the most of the time they had. "They say never direct children and animals; we did both. The kids were just a joy to work with, and delivered in a way no one could have expected for a pair of actors so young."

That said, working with the children did require extra care and attention from Shahinian. "The script called for putting the kids in some pretty challenging situations-with the appearance of risk and danger-such as the huge festival in the city they get lost in, as seen in the trailer," Shahinian says. "I immediately felt incredibly protective of them, in a way I've never felt for anyone before. Even though their moms were with us all the time, they often couldn't be close enough or in the action with us logistically, so I became, in a way, their guardian. It was definitely hard to say goodbye."

As for working with the filmmakers, the idea was to stay in their defined crew roles throughout the shooting of the scripted parts, then switch back into four-camera wedding filmmaker mode when it came to shooting the ceremony. (After realizing that it would do a disservice to both his script and the clients to attempt to cover the entire wedding in the movie, or limit his coverage of the wedding to what was relevant to the movie, Shahinian decided to add full-ceremony coverage as a second deliverable, in addition to the concept film.) "I split up the team in the morning. Casey and I shot the bride, Joe and Patrick shot the groom. On the
wedding we were all wedding filmmakers, we were all on an even keel there."

Kevin Shahinian City of Lakes

Before shooting even began, Shahinian knew he would face one primary challenge in making the film: matching the scripted movie footage with the live footage of the wedding to make the film seem completely seamless. Compounding this challenge was that the wed-ding's singular Hindi traditions, sacred elements, and celebratory moments were key parts of the movie. Shahinian says he wrote the film to portray (even from his perspective as an outsider to the tradition) "the Hindu religion in a soulful way, to incorporate all the prayers and the traditions, to communicate in an emotional way what the prayers mean in the plot of the movie. I incorporated the themes of a Hindu wedding that you might not recognize as an outsider, but would be apparent right away [if] you knew the tradition."

As such, the wedding elements couldn't be treated lightly or as simply incidental to the movie. And perhaps the most difficult scene of all to shoot was the baraat nikasi, one of the best-known traditions of Hindi weddings, a grand and colorful ceremony in which the groom rides into the wedding venue on an elephant. As we learn from watching the City of Lakes trailer (embedded at the top of this page), the plot of the movie centers around the two children finding out that a spectacular wedding is happening at the Jag Mandir Palace and the girl deciding she wants to give a necklace to the bride. Halfway through the movie, the boy finds out where the baraat is taking place and attempts to give the necklace to the groom there. "So we had to cover the baraat as if we were shooting a cool wedding video, but at the same time we had to shoot the scene for the movie," he says. "I got certain shots of the boy in that location on Friday that I knew we wouldn't be able to shoot impromptu on the wedding day, and then we had storyboarded all the shots we needed with the elephant and the whole family and everything. ... [T]hat was cut in with stuff we shot the day before with the girl on the rooftop and the boy ... waiting for the groom. The whole thing was about 50 yards [long]. I told the groom, ‘About halfway through the baraat, I just need to get a shot of a little boy trying to hand you something. Don't pay attention; just keep doing what you're doing,' and he said, ‘That's fine.'"

And as for shooting a scene of a live event—with an elephant, which was unlikely to take direction from just anyone—as part of a scripted movie, Shahinian recalls, "I just said, ‘Guys, get this live and make it look like we did 10 takes.'"

‘It Took Years Off My Life'
"To be open to the spontaneity of the wedding," Shahinian says, "I had the script written and the wedding cut into the script, but it was loose, so I would just say, ‘a scene of this here.' But if it didn't happen the way we had it in the script per se, we had to modify the scenes. It was a movie that was open to the spontaneity of what happened live, so it was like rewriting the script on a daily basis."

And it wasn't just the trying to make the unpredictable live elements fit into the script that proved so difficult. It was also the fact that they got turned away from most of the locations they scouted to shoot. "In India, even though I'd done all my proper producing and got all the permits," he says, "every time we went somewhere, there would be one too many people, or they wouldn't like the equipment we had and would say, ‘No, you can't shoot here.' I was in disaster-prevention mode the whole time. I didn't get to do as much prep with the guys in India as I wanted to. My phone was ringing every 2 seconds, and I'd have to deal with something. And, of course, we'd go somewhere and they'd say we couldn't shoot there, so we'd have to go somewhere else, and the storyboards got thrown out the window."

Kevin Shahinian City of Lakes

Other issues that arose with the changed locations and the way the live wedding played out differently from their expectations involved continuity. "There were little things like time-of-day issues—the whole thing takes place on their wedding day, which is the hardest thing to do in terms of continuity. The story goes from morning 'til night. The ceremony was originally scheduled for Magic Hour [sunset], and knowing that these things go late, we begged them to move everything up by an hour so it actually happened at Magic Hour. But they said no, there were logistical issues. So the bulk of the ceremony happened at night after the sun
went down. We had to totally modify a lot of scenes before and after that to make things cut together continuity-wise."

With all the snafus—including the location issues, a Sony EX1 rendered useless without memory cards, a malfunctioning helicam, and more—Shahinian says his saving grace was Pravin Thakur, a producer he hired out of Mumbai "who was a miracle worker. If I didn't have him, there would be no movie whatsoever. I'd call him and say, ‘We just got turned away from another location,' and he'd have another one within 5 minutes. Patrick was going to do most of the lighting as the DP, but I said, ‘You don't know the power system,' so he brought a gaffer. None of us spoke fluent Hindi, so we trusted them to do all the communicating," Shahinian recalls. "At one point, honestly, we thought, ‘This movie is turning out to be a disaster; it's just going to be one awesome behind-the-scenes, my Lost in La Mancha,'" referring to the Terry Gilliam documentary about the epic failure of his first attempt to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.

Whatever this project turned out to be—tilting at windmills or history-making wedding cinema—Shahinian says, "It took several years off my life."

It's All in the Edit
Of his four widely seen concept films, Shahinian says, City of Lakes is the first that's essentially been built in the editing room. "With the other concepts," he says, "there haven't been any major issues; stuff has more or less gone to plan. This was on a much larger scale and longer than any of the previous ones." The climactic—and in terms of the script, absolutely crucial—scene was as emblematic of this as any. "The idea was to get the kids to eventually come face to face with themselves as adults at the reception, and the night we were going to shoot that, we weren't allowed on site—high, high, high security. So we had to shoot that somewhere else. So we're all looking at each other wondering, ‘Is this gonna cut together?' Getting things to cut together that we had to compromise on made it a big challenge to edit. But I don't think anyone will notice."

Kevin Shahinian City of Lakes

Films that found their identity in the edit are nothing new. "Editing is very powerful. If you adopt a certain style and you use sound design and music, you can make it work. You see a lot of films where you say, ‘Wow, that was such a well-done sequence,' you'd be surprised to find it didn't go anything like as planned on set. They just made it work in the cut. I'll try to watch films with the sound off every once in a while and I can see all that."

For this reason and because of its ambitious scope, the soundtrack of City of Lakes was critical. "I knew I wanted most of the film to be scored, not just a bunch of recognizable Bollywood songs. The original idea for this movie was to do an original score, but the budget was not there—to have something decent is just a lot of money. I was looking at different royalty-free sources. I'm settling on a copywritten score that is very obscure, and it looks like we're going to get rights from the music publisher to use it online. The music publishers have been very cool, and it cost much less than I expected."

Promotion, Distribution, and Ambition
In keeping with the "hitherto unseen" motif of the entire production, the promotion and release of City of Lakes would be something entirely new for the wedding filmmaking world as well, beginning with the three "Prelude to a Trailer" clips and the Cinevate contest. "The idea was to promote the trailer and the movie to the public with these teasers that would be really mysterious and reveal things in sequence. The first was who we are, the second was where we went, the third was what we were trying to accomplish." Two weeks after the three prelude clips were rolled out, on March 2, the trailer came out; then, the world premiere of the feature itself will come at the Palms on April 14, with the behind-the-scenes film following later in the month.

For obvious logistical reasons, but very much in line with the film's ambition, the movie wasn't shown at the wedding reception, so its entire presentation to the public will involve the worldwide audience it attracts online. This meant inverting the typical wedding film audience and pursuing something with much broader and less family-centric appeal—a contentious choice in and of itself.

This ambition was reflected in every aspect of the movie, up to and including the way the scripted world of the film spilled over—if ever so slightly—into the wedding itself. "I wanted to make sure that we had specific lines from the reception speeches that were plot-sensitive," Shahinian says. "Obviously, I didn't want to write the reception speeches for the couple, but I gave them suggestions. She said this was something she'd dreamed about for her entire life, so I asked her to talk about that." This extended to other aspects of the wedding: "They would send me their outfit ideas and their timeline ideas, and I think it's somewhat unprecedented for a videographer to be given this kind of say in a wedding. Two days before the reception, we went to the reception site, and I wanted them to look exactly as they would look—and I scripted what they would say in the hope of being able to cut that into the live speech."

What this meant in the context of a real wedding, a real live event with real people expressing real emotions, relates to something Shahinian says that he and Moreau discussed on FilmFellas. "What's more emotionally authentic—a wedding video, or a scripted movie? What can document a relationship more authentically?"

Shahinian, as you might guess, believes that as much or more authentic emotion can be conveyed in a scripted film that doesn't necessarily capture events as they happened but communicates more articulately what they meant. He likens the effect to the way a powerfully made feature film such as Gettysburg can resonate more than a Civil War documentary that covers the same topical ground.

For this film, his goal was to have this kind of impact on his viewers—far beyond the confines of the typical wedding video audience—and for that reason he simply had to approach it differently. "Cinema is a medium for the masses," he says. "Most wedding videos are very special for the couple and their family, but pretty flat for strangers. The attention span for a stranger is going to be short because it's a specific piece. A Hollywood film is just the opposite: It's going to try to touch as many people as it can." With City of Lakes, he says, he and his crew were trying "to take this couple's story and emotion and share it with as many people who can be touched by it as possible."

There's also a practical business issue-in addition to the artistic one-for the concept filmmaker: "You gotta sell the next project. A bride who has no connection to this couple is going to watch this, and if it's too specific to them, it's not going to move the next client."

Which leads to the inevitable question: Was City of Lakes a profitable venture for Pacific Pictures, besides, say, selling the next project? "Very minimally," Shahinian laughs. "I have a problem with my ambition level. Maybe you should never pursue your passion as a business; maybe that's a bad idea. I get uncomfortable talking about money, but I think that's a valid point, because people would say, ‘Oh, he just spent all the money on the movie.' But the money I spent on it wasn't more than I was given. The time I spent on it was, maybe, more than I should have, given what I made." Shahinian also notes that his film owes much of its grandeur to the lavish Hindu wedding that happens at the end of it, and of course that was one part that was totally financed and produced by the family.

With a film that breaks as much new ground as City of Lakes, it seems almost trivial to consider it in those terms. It may make more sense to speculate on the film's impact on Shahinian's career (as several viewers did in comments they posted after watching the trailer within 12 hours of its posting on his blog), which is that full-length Hollywood feature filmmaking can't be far away for the director. Mind you, the stated goal for this project was to break down the barriers between Hollywood filmmaking and wedding filmmaking rather than to break the director into the Hollywood big time. But given Kevin Shahinian's now-proven ability to confound and exceed expectations with every successive film, who can predict where he'll go from here?

Stephen Nathans-Kelly (stephen.nathans at is editor-in-chief of EventDV and EventDVLive and programming director of EventDV-TV.