Mountain Ridge grad Keyanna Khatiblou exploring TV careers at STARZ

Mountain Ridge High School graduate Keyanna Khatiblou dreams of being a full-time television writer.

Growing up, Glendale native Keyanna Khatiblou and her mother watched TV shows like “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Providence.”

“I’ve always been really invested in longform storytelling and the kinds of stories that can get into the households of everyday Americans,” said Khatiblou, who graduated from Mountain Ridge High School. 

“It was really cool, as a kid, getting to see what felt like adult stories. I think the difference with TV is that you can reach so many people and you really feel like you can grow characters with them. That’s what I love about TV and I’ve loved it since I was a kid.”

Now, the 2014 UA graduate — and current Northwestern University Master of Fine Arts student — is spending the summer as an intern in the scripted series development department at STARZ in Los Angeles. 

She was awarded the paid position through the Television Academy Foundation’s annual internship program. This program places 50 college students from across the country in internships at notable Hollywood production companies so they may gain professional experience in the television industry.

“Primarily, my tasks are to do coverage, which is reading new script submissions that come in and then summarizing them and giving general feedback. That goes to the executives in the department,” Khatiblou said.  

She will be able to learn from STARZ professionals and other networks about how to be successful in the industry. 

“It’s really cool, just getting to hear what networks, specifically STARZ, are looking for in a story,” she said. “There’s been a lot of informational meetings that they set up, like different workshops with various executives at Lionsgate and STARZ. They talk about their experiences in the company and they give advice. It’s been super informational and helpful.”

Learning curve

When Khatiblou arrived in Chicago to attend Northwestern, she didn’t know how to get her start in television. She worked various days, while maintaining her side hustle as an actor. 

“I did do a detour into the theater world just because I never really knew how to get involved in the TV industry,” said Khatiblou, who earned a bachelor’s degree in theater history and creative writing from UA. 

“It wasn’t until I saw Northwestern’s MFA program that I’m in right now. It has play writing, TV writing and screenwriting. That has been my ‘in’ to the industry and I am totally hooked.”

Khatiblou began her theater work while attending Mountain Ridge High School, where she wrote her first play script. She also saw her potential. 

“Mountain Ridge has a really good theater program,” she said. “Working in the theater department helped me come out of my shell and learn how to use creativity to connect to people. I was a really shy kid who read a lot of books and had a hard time talking to people. Theater was super influential in all of that.”

Northwestern’s Writing for the Screen and Stage program takes two years to graduate. During her first year, Khatiblou was required to take screen, play and TV writing classes. 

“At first I was really intimidated,” she said. “Everyone is there just to do good work and to share that work with other people.” 

Once she finishes her eight-week internship in Los Angeles, Khatiblou plans to head back to Chicago to finish school. She will also teach “Intro to Screenwriting” to undergraduate students next fall. Her plans after graduating, however, are not set in stone.

“Once I graduate, I don’t really know,” she said. “I love TV, but I love theater. I know that I would love to be a full-time writer; that’s the dream. Next year, I’m just going to apply to every opportunity that seems like it would help me grow and move into a new place in my life. I’m trying to stay open minded.”