Amina Zhaman: Female directors take Hollywood

Amina Zhaman is a well-known female director that could potentially lead Hollywood to new success by the Hollywood industry standards. Given her global reach, and the opportunities she has created as a female director, Amina Zhaman hopes to lead to positive change. “You have to learn to do everything yourself,” she says for Hollywood World Magazine. “I have learned that the key to becoming successful in the film industry is humility. You must have the willingness to do your job no matter what, and do so with an excitement in your voice and a smile on your face. People will remember your attitude the most,” she added. 

Hollywood has many young geniuses both women and men. As the diversity debate focuses on increasing the number of female directors in major films, the challenge still remains. Variety reports that “in 2016, men made up more than 90% of directors who worked on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases, according to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.” Sony, Warner Bros, Paramount and Disney are trying to make a dent in increasing these numbers.

“Wonder Woman” is the first female superhero movie to be directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. Disney has four movies lined up led by female directors:  “Mulan,” by Niki Caro, “Captain Marvel,” directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, expected in 2018 and 2019, “A Wrinkle in Time,” directed by Ava DuVernay, due March 2018, and “Frozen 2,” by Jennifer Lee.

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Amina Zhaman is a NY-based Circassian filmmaker, musician, theater director, critic and scientist. Winner of Golden Apricot 2013 (Armenia, “Contribution in a Debut Film” Award), Loutraki International Film Festival 2013 (Greece, “Brightest Debut”), International Rights Film Festival “STEPS” 2013 (Ukraine, “Best Script”, “Best Actress”, “Best Music Video Against War”), Albanian Film Week International Festival in New York 2013 (USA, “Audience Award for Best Feature Film” – “Right to Love”), International Festival of Circassian Culture 2014 and 2016 (Russia), International Film & TV Festival Slavic Fairy Tale 2016 (Bulgaria, “Best Short Film”).

Zhaman is the screenwriter of an internationally acclaimed hit feature “Right to Love” (dir. by Paul Kurti, USA, 2012). Amina Zhaman directed and starred in the first ever screen versions of American classical plays “Before Breakfast” (USA, 2014) and “The Movie Man” (USA, 2016) written by Eugene O’Neill. In 2017 Zhaman premiered her debut stage productions “7 Days. 7 Nights” and the “Faithful Wife”.

Hollywood Insider Interview with Filmmaker Amina Zhaman

Hollywood World: When did you first fall in love with films?

Amina Zhaman: At age 4 I grew up on Bollywood films like “Disco Dancer” with my favorite Indian actor Mithun Chakraborty. I started dancing because of him. I loved the costumes, the choreography, the stories, and most of all – the humanist message of every film I watched then.

Hollywood World: What have you discovered about cinema as a filmmaker?

Amina Zhaman: That the greatest stories will find their way to be screened despite all the difficulties. Impossible is nothing… if you are producing your project.

Hollywood World: How can one overcome the fear of acting?

Amina Zhaman: When I was worried about how I act on set of my debut feature “Right to Love” (USA, 2012), I asked director Paul Kurti: “Was my acting strong in the last take?” He told me the words I’ll never forget: “I don’t think we’ve shot a single take that was not strong during these 19 days of filming”. His words and faith in my talent really inspired and moved me and I am not nervous about my acting anymore. I am very thankful to Paul – together we made a wonderful film that conquered hearts of people around the globe.

Hollywood World: What actors have you worked with who have impressed you and why?

Amina Zhaman: From Mexican superstar Omar Chaparro to Albanian legendary actress Pavlina Mani, Hollywood stars Sean Stone, Jack Dimich, Oleg Taktarov, Petar Zekavica, Macedonian comedian Luan Bexheti and brilliant American actor Leonard Russell, amazing Maria Angelica Figueredo who played my mother in “Right to Love” and Damien Bosco who portrayed my father. I made 2 stage productions with the Russian theatre star – actor Sergey Kempo. They all impressed me with their craft, highest level of professionalism, sense of humour, kindness and politeness.

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On the set of “Right to Love” film; Shpend Xani, Amina Zhaman, Omar Chaparro and Paul Kurti

Hollywood World: What do you love the most about being a female director?

Amina Zhaman: Absolutely nothing. One day I will write a book and title it “How I Didn’t Want to Become A Director…”. I love singing, acting and teaching at the theatre/film academies. I do the rest things backstage and behind the scenes only because I want to see my dream projects turn into reality.

Hollywood World: What do you want to be remembered for? What are your aspirations?

Amina Zhaman: For my laughter and the joy I brought to people’s lives, for my contribution in art and science, and most of all for my beautiful songs. I want to stage many new brilliant plays in my AM/NA THEATRE, have my own shows in Las Vegas and world tours with my band, work with my favorite actors and musicians, win prestigious awards like OSCAR, Tony, Laurence Olivier, Emmy, Grammy, Palme d’Or of Cannes.

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Amina Zhaman and Sean Stone in “The Movie Man”

Hollywood World: What are a few success secrets you have learned from the gurus and the people you look up to?

Amina Zhaman: Faith in yourself, hard work and discipline. I wish I had a guru/mentor or a teacher/coach – someone I can say thank you to for the advice and help, but I never had one. My path to success was based on working hard, having dedication and loyalty to my artistic passions.

Hollywood World: How did you learn to direct?

Amina Zhaman: I didn’t have roles in the institute, so I quickly understood – if I want to act, I must direct as well. As I said before, there is no teacher who even gave me a small part in the student theatre – I have no one to thank for opening of my talent. I’ve watched teachers working non-stop with other students and soon realized that I see the whole image as a director. I was responsible for all the props at the exams – I guess that’s where teachers of GITIS saw my future career… BACK STAGE.

I have learned everything form A to Z on my own witnessing how other people work, watching every exam of every course in GITIS and all the major theatre and movie premieres, reading worldwide literature, Russian and foreign drama.

Later I made a feature film with no prior experience and no connections. It was a challenge. It was a self-education. Now I often say to my students at the film academies that I really didn’t want to know THAT MUCH about filmmaking. Lol! But again, if you want to be a leading actress you have to lead the entire cast and crew to make your dream movie come true.

Hollywood World: What kind of movies do you want to make?

Amina Zhaman: Contemporary comedies and biopics of outstanding personalities.

Hollywood World: What are you currently working on?

Amina Zhaman: I am producing two big theatre projects and one huge movie project.

Hollywood World: Does the entertainment industry and Hollywood do a good job at representing women?

Amina Zhaman: It’s individual in every case – film, music video, show. I don’t think the world needs more naked singers. We’ve had enough of them. What the world needs is great songs, beautiful lyrics, kind family movies like “Home Alone”, inspiring books, documentaries and more comedies, more laughter, more happiness.

Hollywood World: What kind of conversations do you wish to see take place about female directors in Hollywood?

Amina Zhaman: “Female director? Finance her film because she will courageously complete it despite all the problems” and “Huge box-offices are guaranteed because a female director definitely has the best intuition”.

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Amina Zhaman in the “Before Breakfast”

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The leading stars of “Right to Love” directed by Paul Kurti.
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Amina Zhaman, Dress by designer Fatima Akusheva

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Amina Zhaman (Photo by Kate Taylor)

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