In the Spotlight: Monjoa Likine
Monjoa is a dreamer. Not in the lightest sense of the term. She sees a path of success for herself as clearly as you see the text on this screen. She intuitively understands the true power of setting goals and making them manifest. I was lucky enough to spend some time with her and I can honestly say, she's going to achieve whatever she sets her focus on. She has the determination and strength you need to succeed. She reminds me of a quote by Muhammed Ali “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.” This is Monjoa, the future is bright for this young woman and I am happy to introduce you to her…
I’m a recent post-graduate from CMU film school and I’m looking to get my foot in the industry. Right now my primary focus is on screenwriting and producing. I’ve written a script for my college production and co-wrote a season of my television show Seven Deadly. I’m currently working on a series of short stories and hoping to produce them over the summer/fall. I’m also a director and media strategist plus I just began running a blog for the Royal Starr Film Festival.
Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?
This is going to sound odd, but the idea of screenwriting actually came to me in a dream. I’m a very intuitive person and I learn a lot about my life and which direction I should go from them. Not that I’m some weird “woohoo” lady claiming to have abilities that she doesn’t, but when I have a dream about something I always take the time to interpret it and decipher it until I can figure out what they mean.
I was going through a very trialing time in my life and I took a nap. I ended up having this dream about falling into a lake, drowning, and being sucked into a place where I could do all sorts of world building. When I woke up I immediately grabbed my laptop and began wrote it out. This became the foundation of my first novel.
I always had this desire to write a novel and then have someone adapt it for me into a screenplay because I thought writing a novel would be easier than writing a screenplay. However, I ended up to taking screenwriting classes (which was an elective for my major) and it wasn’t until halfway through that I realized I could cut out the middle-man and write the screenplay myself. That I could write with the intent to film. That dream I had, became the first feature-length screenplay I wrote and after that the rest was history.
Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?
My former teacher Chris Csont helped shape my writing. Before I graduated I was heavily considering getting a masters in screenwriting or producing. However, after he linked me up to a working writer and also shared with me his own experience, I realized that unless I ever wanted to teach, getting a masters degree was sort of a diversion from the path I wanted to take. I remember him telling me that if I truly wanted to go for it then I should just go for it. Continue writing, building my portfolio, and having faith in my talent.
Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?
Of course, the first person that believed in me was my father, but part of me feels like that’s sort of a cop-out because parents are supposed to believe in you. But regardless, he was the first person that saw the potential in me and pushed me to go after whatever I believed in. He also was the person to give me my first laptop when I was about ten years old after I hand-wrote him a fifty-page story. After I got that laptop I couldn’t stop writing, but that was back when I was into poetry, journaling, and prose.
The first person outside of my family that really sparked confidence in me was my former producer, Nick Forbush. When I wrote Seven Deadly, he was the first person to really break down the script, looking for its message and structure and really seeing it as a quality piece separate from everything else. He became one of my first and biggest supporters and actually was the one that suggested I start writing shorts to begin my independent film career. Just to have someone that interested in my work was really inspiring and it helped me realize that it was something I could do in the real world.
Q: What was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?
The moment I knew, like unquestionably knew, that I wanted to be a screenwriter was after completing my first production in college. I wrote and produced the first season of Seven Deadly. The process hooked me for life. I love writing, it’s amazing, but it’s such a beautiful process to watch as an idea turns into a script which turns into a production which turns into a final cut. It was a life-changing.
After concluding my time on the show I definitely still had some doubts about how I was going to turn this into a full-time career, but there was no question that this was something I’d want to do for the rest of my life. Story-telling is a crucial part of our evolutionary development. Our ancestors passed down culture, survival lessons, and information when they told stories. Now we do this with digital technology, but the essence is still the same. Entertainment is more than Hollywood and flashy scenes, it’s also about educating and inspiring the masses. I think the confidence to write coupled with the meaning behind it really pushes me to go after it.
Q: How do you define success for yourself?
I would define success as progress. I try not to define success as a goal or something tangible because I’m a very firm believer that it doesn’t come from one source and there are many ways to be successful. In addition, I believe in attraction so you become what you think so it’s important to have that notion in your head even if you’re not technically where you want to be yet. As long as I don’t become to stuck and I’m taking steps to move forward, I believe that I’m already successful.
Q: Give us a typical day in your life.
Early Bird or a Night Owl?
I’m a walking paradox so it’s difficult to label myself as either, but I’d say primarily I am an early bird because I feel so energized by the sun and as it goes down usually so does my energy. I tend to do my most productive work during the day.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Usually, the first thing I do is put my phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ so I don’t get distracted or tempted to check out social media. For me, solitude is an important part of my growth so I like to schedule certain times of the day when no one can communicate with me. It takes me a second to gather the energy to get out of bed so I like to watch the sunrise from my window or read whatever book I’m currently working on.
What do you do mid-morning?
I’m in my 20s so my schedule is horribly volatile (laughing), but I’m always doing some type of work during that time. Since writing isn’t paying the bills for me right now I tend to focus on other work first, but depending on the load I have for the day I might squeeze an hour in around this time for brainstorming and editing.
What do you do at mid-afternoon?
I usually am working at this time. Either at my day job or getting work done for the Royal Starr Film Festival. However, I strive to write at least two hours a day and this when I do it.
What do you do at night?
This tends to vary between relaxation and leisure or writing. Some nights I’ll have a nice conversation with a friend over wine or adventure a new city with someone. Other nights I’ll cuddle up with my most recent book purchase or go to yoga. My evenings are usually dedicated to having fun and expanding my horizons.
However, depending on the day I had I might set a couple of hours to write during this time as it tends to be my freest hours. My goal is to write at least three hours a day (not including editing) so this is the time that I catch up on it if I didn’t get it done before.
Do you have a pre-bed ritual?
Again I put my phone on do not disturb mode. I like to visualize myself navigating through a dream. It’s a nicer way to lull myself to sleep. It also gets me in the right mental state, especially if the day I had didn’t go according to plan. I find it even helps with my motivation the next morning and setting intentions. I think you should give it a try.
How do define a successful day?
A successful day for me means falling asleep with a new perspective. Whether it’s how I relate to a hawk’s migratory pattern or figuring out the best way to end a story, as long as I go to bed with a bit more knowledge I think I had a pretty successful day.
Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?
Patience. I was the world’s most impatient person before I started writing, but as I grew in my craft I realized that timing means everything. I think everyone can write a decent screenplay, but it definitely takes a special amount of patience to get through it. I get really eager to dive into a story before completing its outline and treatment, so I have to really calm myself down. Which can be hard especially when you know the end of a story. It’s easy to want to just hurry up and get there but you have to learn to be patient with yourself and trust that you’ll find your story.
Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?
I think my greatest challenge so far is finding direction. Writing is my number one thing, but producing is a close second. When I first began writing it was in college, so everything I wrote had a deadline and a production schedule set before I even finished the outline. I had an idea of the talent pool, the equipment we’d have, budgeting, and so it helped a lot with the way I structured a story.
Now it’s different. I’m on my own schedule and have to set my own deadline according to uncertain things such as funding, crew, casting and more. Sometimes I find myself getting very frustrated while writing and end up in a writer’s block because I’m thinking too hard about the end and the marketability of the script. I get so caught up with how I’m going to produce the script I forget to immerse myself in it. I consistently find myself writing to produce. That can be very inhibiting on the story and the craft itself.
Q: What’s been your greatest reward in the choices you've made?
My greatest rewards have been progress and insight. No matter good or bad, every decision I’ve ever made teaches me more about myself and the world around me. In addition, every script I’ve ever written has either opened up the door to opportunity or opened up my mind in a way that leads me to the next step.