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Amena Kheshtchin-Kamel has aspirations of being a Hollywood screenwriter.
The filmmaking practices major and student in Barrett Honors College has maintained a 4.11 GPA throughout her entire academic career and she has penned a 96-page script, which will serve as her honors thesis. She also plans to graduate in three years in May 2015.
In addition, she plans to act as director and film her script, titled “Meg and Dave,” in the summer of 2015. In preparation for filming, she is working with prospective investors to fund the film for under $100,000.
Amid her studies and work on her script, she got a taste of the world of movie making at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, May 14-25.
Amena spent nearly two weeks at the festival participating in a unique internship that allowed her to work at the American Pavilion cafe in the Festival International Village, a venue hosting film industry professionals from more than 60 countries. She served refreshments to festival-goers and spent her free time networking.
“I met a lot of movie industry people such as niche producers and independent film makers,” including one from California Pictures, a branch of Paramount, to whom she pitched her script, she said.
Amena, who describes “Meg and Dave” as “a modern exploration of narcissism with a comedy flair,” said the producer assured her he would like to see the script when it’s finished and encouraged her to send it to him.
The glitz and glam of movie making was on full display with elegantly clad celebrities mingling with the crowds and attending events.
“I saw Pulp Fiction on the beach. Watching it with (Quentin) Tarantino and (Uma) Thurman there was surreal,” Amena said about the stars of the American black comedy crime film that won the Palm d’Or award at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and which was brought back for a 20th anniversary screening.
She also got to attend a panel discussion with actress Jessica Chastain and ask her a question about her motivation to continue acting in the face of obstacles and difficulty being cast in roles because of her ruddy and redheaded complexion.
“She said she didn’t want to change herself and that she had faith she could succeed on her own merits. That was an inspiring message,” Amena said.
In addition, Amena attended a 1 ½ hour talk by actor Michael Madsen, who said that despite being cast in bad guy roles most of his decades long career, he longed to be cast as a good guy, such as a dad.
That one comment caught Amena’s interest and she mentioned to Madsen that her script has a dad role that he could possibly play. She exchanged business cards with Madsen’s agent, who asked her to send her finished script to him so he could determine if it could be an appropriate project for Madsen.
She also connected with an intern at Lionsgate, a film production and distribution company with operations in Los Angeles, who is helping shop around her script in Hollywood.
Amidst the networking and star-powered excitement, Amena noticed a lot of deal making going on too.
“I had a preconceived notion it was all about creativity and movies, but on the inside it’s all about deals. It shattered myths and introduced me to the business aspect of the film industry,” she said.
Amena is considering applying for an internship that would allow her to attend the Cannes Film Festival next year and work on the business side of film making.
“The most important thing I took away from Cannes is the importance of personal relationships and the ability to work with people within the industry,” she said.
Amena said her opportunities have come with the direction and encouragement of faculty in the ASU film program as well as at Barrett.
“I have been able to have mentors from the film school who have previously been in Hollywood and have a great deal of experience in the industry who have been helping me throughout my script development. The faculty at the honors college have been available to me and have served as a great resource in helping me reach my goals,” she said.
“Jake Pinholster and Greg Bernstein have specifically been great mentors to me in regards to film. Cannes would have been unlikely if not for Jake giving me that great opportunity and Greg teaching me how to develop screenplays. I’m grateful to have joined Barrett and have been given the opportunity to experience the best of both academia and film education. Dr. (Mark) Montesano at the honors college is a great example of this. He has not only been supportive of my academic endeavors but also film, for he is my honors thesis director for the thesis I wrote,” she added.