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Rising Through the Ranks: Monique 'Mo' Moshaty

December 1, 2020
4 min read time

Quarantine hasn't slowed Monique 'Mo' Moshaty down, as she works from home in her newly formed writers room; an all-female horror collective made up of four women from around the country. The group, which formed in March, is crafting a dark, sci-fi audio drama about a woman searching for her missing sister. The women are currently working their way through season one, hoping to land with a streamer as a podcast.

At age 43, this is Moshaty's first real writers room, and the first time the mother of two has considered screenwriting part of her "day job." Her journey began in Auburn, New York, where she was born and raised.

As a child, Moshaty consumed an immense amount of media. She remembers watching some of her favorites, classics like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents; enamored by sci-fi and horror films. She fell in love with storytelling, writing and the idea of world creation. Then one day after watching The Twilight Zone episode, "I Shot an Arrow into the Air," Moshaty realized she wanted to be a screenwriter.

"I caught the bug, you could say, the more I watched, the more I wrote, took notes, and emulated," she says. And the more films and television she consumed, the more she noticed something else; the lack of Black and brown people on screen. It left Moshaty, a woman of color herself, feeling deeply saddened.

"It left me with a feeling that there's not that many of us, I suppose, when in actuality, it was just about the chance — or lack thereof — of exposure," Moshaty says.

She wanted to change the lack of diverse representation in Hollywood, so Moshaty decided to get involved in the arts in high school. As a singer, she found herself active in the choral department and  performed in school plays. She credits many of her teachers for influencing her passion for screenwriting, too; specifically, Mr. Nocilly, her creative writing teacher who said, "If it looks "good" look at it again and make it better."

After high school, Moshaty attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where she majored in retail management with a minor in theology. Moshaty chose not to study screenwriting, she says, because people kept telling her how "impractical that kind of career would be." But although she'd chosen a different path, Moshaty says her college experiences did eventually help inform her screenwriting — especially when it comes to character development.

"I was writing down my daily experiences," Moshaty recalls. "A lot of the folks I encountered have become characters with complete backstories. It taught me a lot about the friction of human experience and our need to be right in a room, or at least be counted and heard. Most of us go through life, screaming internally to be acknowledged. Hopefully, I've given my characters that [chance]."

After college, Moshaty utilized her major to embark on a career in the cosmetics and skincare industry, because she loves skin science. But through it all, she never stopped writing as a hobby, mostly in the short story realm.

In 2011, she began deviating from short story writing to screenwriting. Again influenced by the lack of diversity in films and on television. "I simply — as most writers — wasn't seeing the stories I wanted to tell on screen," Moshaty says.

Since then, the road hasn't always been easy for Moshaty, who says screenwriters who start "later in life" aren't often looked at in the same light as "film school prodigies."

"We just don't get the opportunities, or we're seen as too green for not going to film school right out of high school," Moshaty ventures.

Instead, she found comfort in and was able to grow as a writer by finding support from other screenwriters, seeking out her own network of people in the industry, while continuing to research, read, write and watch films and television. And although she hasn't yet found representation, Moshaty could never have imagined she'd be where she is today: a small business owner who runs a skincare and apothecary as an herbalist and dietician — and a screenwriter.

"I was writing for myself and proud of that until someone took an interest in my work and I took the initiative to expand on that. I feel lucky to have been supported by so many people that saw something special in what I was doing," Moshaty says.

She's never left New York, and says if COVID-19 has proven anything, it's that a person can be a screenwriter from any location. She is currently finishing scripts for a horror anthology series adapted from her short stories collection while also a part of the all-female writers room on an audio drama. Her goal is to "be acknowledged as one of the busiest Afro-Latina horror writers in the next five years."

"I'm proud of what I've accomplished, and I'm glad it didn't come any sooner. I'm still figuring myself out at this age, and that's okay to still be an absolute hot mess," Moshaty admits. "I'm wary of those that have it all figured out."

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