Natasha Shliapnikoff was born in Harbin, China. Her father was an engineer and her mother an accountant, both were Russian immigrants, whose parents had migrated from Russia to China in the 1920’s and found refuge, along with a new lease on life in the Northern part of China. After spending most of their lives in their new homeland, the entire Shliapnikoff family (three brothers, their wives, children and parents) were uprooted from China. They were among the last remaining immigrants in China at the time when the Chinese Government demanded that all non-Chinese citizens leave the country immediately. The country of Chile, in South America, kindly offered asylum and aid to many of these dislocated immigrants. The family, having no other choice, boarded a ship in Hong Kong and began their journey to this far away land.
Upon their arrival in Chile, the family had to start all over again – learn a new language, find employment, find housing and organize their lives. They managed to accomplish this after a great deal of struggle, finally finding employment in their fields of expertise. Then, once again, in June of 1966, Natasha and her parents had to make another journey – this time, to San Francisco, California. They were moving to join the rest of the family, who had left for America several years before and were now willing to lend them a helping hand in the United States.
Life in America was also challenging – another language to be learned, new jobs to be found – the family struggled, but once again, succeeded. Natasha’s father and mother found employment, bought a home and life began to take a steady course.
Natasha grew up in San Francisco. She graduated from Lowell High School. She continued her education at San Francisco State University, majoring in business. Her first job was at the Historic Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, where she became a successful Sales Manager, then continued her career by starting her own business in the field of Event Production and Public Relations.
She developed negotiation and communications skills. Her first major client was a Washington D.C. based organization – the Association of Independent Television Stations, Inc. (INTV), a lobbying organization representing independent TV stations throughout the United States. Natasha produced their annual conference and television screenings, developed their budget, created a media campaign, scheduled various celebrities, and worked with most of the major studios.
In addition, Natasha produced the welcome for Pope John Paul’s visit to Texas in 1987. This was an unforgettable event for Natasha, as she received a private audience with John Paul II and had the rare opportunity to speak with him in the Russian language. This meeting was one of the most memorable events in Natasha’s life.
Natasha’s fluent Russian language skills and public relations experience led her to the 1984 Summer Olympics in LA, as a consulting representative and public relations director for the Eastern Block International Organization of Radio and Television (OIRT). A few years later, she co-wrote, co-created, and produced G.L.O.W – a popular female wrestling show, which aired on independent television stations in the United States and several foreign markets.
Paramount Television became another client of Natasha’s. She produced three large- scale events on Paramount’s largest sound stages, featuring “ The Solid Gold” dancers and Motown performances by various stars – Gloria Gaynor, The Temptations and Marilyn Mc Coo and Billy Davis.
In 1981 Natasha moved to Washington DC to work as a consultant with INTV in their headquarters office. It was a challenging consulting assignment, which lasted for 10 years. While in Washington, Natasha married Shelton J. Merrill, a consultant to Delaware Public Television, and on May 26, 1983 their daughter Katia was born. The family moved to San Francisco, California. Within a few years, the marriage ended in divorce.
In 1988, Natasha relocated to Los Angeles with her daughter and continued to work as a consultant to INTV and began to represent several other clients (Paramount Television, PLM, Inc., Catholic Charities, etc.) Through her media consulting work, she was invited to the world premiere of a Russian/German co-produced film entitled “At The Close of Night” – which was the first Soviet film ever bought by a major studio (Twentieth Century Fox). The film was directed by renowned director Rodion Nahapetov. Natasha was very impressed by this film and wanted to meet the filmmaker, who created this masterpiece. A few months later, she had the opportunity to meet Rodion Nahapetov. He had been invited to Los Angeles from Russia to promote his film with the foreign media. Natasha and Rodion met and began to discuss how they could collaborate on various film projects.
They fell in love, married, and also became working partners. They went on to work as a team in making films, television shows, and, most importantly starting the Nahapetov Friendship Foundation in 1993.
The foundation began with a single phone call from a distraught man in Russia, whose 8 month old daughter Anna was suffering from a life-threatening congenital heart defect. She only had months to live and needed an urgent open heart surgery. A miraculous chain of events changed baby Anna’s as well as Rodion and Natasha’s lives forever. Leading heart surgeon, Dr. Taro Yokoyama at St. Vincent Medical Center heard the desperate plea and agreed to perform the surgery, which saved Anna’s life. The success of the surgery lead to numerous calls from parents whose children were dying from heart disease. Anna’s salvation resulted in the birth of the NAHAPETOV FRIENDSHIP FOUNDATION.
The foundation became the cooperative effort between Americans and Russians working together in saving the lives of children suffering from congenital heart disease. Through the efforts of the NFF, several medical teams have already traveled to Russia to perform countless surgeries and state-of-the-art medical training. Over 10 tons of essential medical supplies and equipment were transported to Russia through a combined effort of the NFF and Stanford Universtiy Medical Center. The foundation also brings critically ill children for surgeries to the US on a continual basis. Several other medical teams have traveled to Russia, including UCLA’s Hillel Lacks and his pediatric cardiac team. The work of the foundation continues to this day.
Here are films and television productions, which have been created by Natasha (as producer) and Rodion (as director, actor and writer).
1995 – "STIR" - Film
1997 – "A MATTER OF HEART" – Documentary
1998 – "HOLLYWOOD DREAMS" – Documentary
2001 - "MISSION POSSIBLE" – series for ORT Russia – Three episodes
2002 - "RUSSIANS IN THE CITY OF ANGELES" – 12 episodes
2003 – "BORDER BLUES" - starring Eric Roberts, Gary Busey, Erik Estrada
2004 – "MOSCOW DAYS, LA NIGHTS" – starring Sean Young
2004 – "TRILOGY OF MURDER"
2007 - "CONTAMINATION" – starring Eric Roberts
At the present time, Natasha Shliapnikoff and Rodion Nahapetov are working together on "DANDELION WINE" – a script written by Rodion, based upon Ray Bradbury’s novel. Both Natasha and Rodion are collaborating closely with Ray Bradbury on this project and are in development with Furthur Films – Michael Douglas’ film company, in Los Angeles."