Multi-talented artist Amina Zhaman is an international sensation. Her rise to fame is attributed to her own skills and abilities, wether it is directing films, playing life-changing roles, theatre plays, singing or composing music, Amina Zhaman can do it all. After New York City success, director Amina Zhaman returns to stage production in Russia. Her stage production premiere of the “Faithful Wife” starring Petar Zekavica, Sergey Kempo, Ksenia Berestnikova, Anzhelika Zaozerskaya and Said Bagov was equally successful.
Amina Zhaman is a New York based Circassian filmmaker, musician, theatre 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”). 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. Zhaman was a Jury Member of New York Albanian Film Week 2017. In February 2017 Zhaman premiered her debut stage production “7 Days. 7 Nights” with UFC champion/Hollywood star Oleg Taktarov and theatre star Sergey Kempo, in June 2017 – Amina presented her second theatre show “Tambov Treasurer”. Amina Zhaman gives master-classes on filmmaking, film management, American drama, journalism in entertainment industry and importance of English language in international career at the best academies around the world.
Meet the Artist: NY Elite Interview with Amina Zhaman
NY Elite: Tell us a little about yourself and your career beginnings as an actress, director, producer, musician and composer?
Amina Zhaman: I started writing songs at age 14 and by age 23 have performed my original music material on best stages of Russia, China and Canada. My debut feature – social drama “Right to Love” (USA, 2012) was directed by Paul Kurti, a talented Albanian filmmaker from Toronto, and was shot in New York City. I wrote a script of the movie and portrayed a leading character. Entire soundtrack was also written by me. People from many different countries loved the film and its music. After that I directed a short film called “Before Breakfast” (USA, 2014). It is based on Eugene O’Neill’s one-act play of the same title.
Last year I decided to move to another genre – comedy – and created another short film “The Movie Man” which is also based on O’Neill’s early play. It tells a story of American filmmakers that go to Mexico and shoot a documentary about Pancho Villa during Mexican revolution. Film producer Henry Rogers fall in love with Mexican girl Anita Fernandez… The rest is a history. It turned out a very funny black and white short film. In May 2017 I presented both shorts – “Before Breakfast” and “The Movie Man” – at the Producers Club in New York. First film is available on eOneill.com, second will be available there too shortly.
NY Elite: What projects are you currently working on?
Amina Zhaman: I just premiered my new stage production “Faithful Wife” in the luxurious palace in Rasskazovo near Tambov, Russia. This event was excellently organized by Cultural and Historical Monuments Management Agency (AUIPIK). We had 2 full houses within 1 day. I took the best from Russian and American theatres, combined it and made an exclusive, breathtaking one-act show of Mikhail Lermontov’s poem “Tambov Treasurer” – first ever staging of this classical material. I love Broadway system and use it in my gala shows. Actors performed a matinee and evening shows.
I am very happy to work with the best actors from around the world. Cast includes a Hollywood star Petar Zekavica, popular Russian stage and screen actor Sergey Kempo, lovely and talented actresses Ksenia Berestnikova and Anzhelika Zaozerskaya and famous Circassian artist, maestro Said Bagov. It is a true honor to collaborate with every one of them.
NY Elite: What is different about being in the director’s chair with this project?
Amina Zhaman: I’m not worried about forgetting my lines anymore…Now I’m worried that my actors might forget their lines. As a student in GITIS I haven’t been given a chance to express my acting skills all the way. I was looking at my course-mates working with teachers and soon I realized that I clearly see the entire image as a director. I can easily and perfectly cast the right actors and for the characters. As a student I became an independent director/actress and successfully staged Prosper Merimee’s one-act “Le carrosse du Saint-Sacrement” with Leonid Lavrovsky-Garcia.
NY Elite: How did you go about casting for the film? Which actors stand out and why are they perfect for the role?
Amina Zhaman: It is a special gift to be able to cast actors. I personally cast all actors for my film and theatre projects. Director knows better who will be perfect for the role. Especially if you stage/screen your own material (script/play). No other person, casting director will feel the material deeper than you. No one is interested in the best result of your project as you are. After premiere of my each film and stage production, I often hear from many viewers, critics, colleagues that cast is ideal. To me it’s a big compliment.
If you have a gift of seeing actor’s true type and strongest acting side, and you really want to make a great project, you will pick the best actors for your film/show. Not those you know, or those you related to, but those who deserve to play in your film/show. I often see talented directors with great ideas and material with good potential, but they always fail due to one simple reason – leading role is played by their mediocre lovers. You should never do that. Never. Especially if you want your project to stay in the history. One must divide personal and professional lives. Once you do that, you are in the direction of success.
NY Elite: Who are the stars of “The Movie Man”?
Amina Zhaman: We have 2 Hollywood stars in this short film – Sean Stone and Jack Dimich. Talented Albanian actor Ariot Myraj plays famous American journalist John Reed – they really look alike. Brilliant actor Leonard Amoia plays Mike, a Mexican sentry, charismatic Eddie Muentes plays Luis Virella and I play Anita Fernandez.
NY Elite: What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
Amina Zhaman: A strong script with clear, humanist message, brilliant acting and cinematography and director’s original vision. Every detail is very important, but those I mentioned above are the most important, in my opinion.
NY Elite: What has been your favorite film/theatre play you have been part of?
Amina Zhaman: I equally love them all.
NY Elite: Where was your last music performance?
Amina Zhaman: In Kaliningrad in 2016 at the MMA show. I performed 2 songs of mine – “Take a Step” and “Ex-Somebody” before the fights. It was the first time when I saw Mixed Martial Arts live. Stadium was full. Energy was awesome. But I felt sorry for the guys that were beaten.
NY Elite: What has been your most memorable on stage performance?
Amina Zhaman: My solo concert at River Rock Casino Resort in Vancouver, B.C., Canada in 2010. I will never forget my performances at the United Nations at Tatyana Peter’s fashion show and at the legendary jazz club Birdland in 2014.
NY Elite: Any plans to direct another movie?
Amina Zhaman: Yes. Hopefully end of this year or beginning of next year I will direct a new feature film – a wonderful comedy.
NY Elite: NY Elite: What can we expect from you in 2017?
Amina Zhaman: 2 more theatre shows.