Mo Moshaty describes herself as a Genre Screenwriter of Color, Community Manager and Scribe for Nyx Horror Collective – a women-led genre content creation machine. She is also a business owner, Master Herbalist, Esthetician, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, residing in Upstate NY. Learn more about this series of Female Screenwriters and learn about Mo Moshaty.

In this interview, part of Zaftyg’s series, the Artist shares her writing journey, her new projects, and what it is like to be a Black Female Screenwriter in an industry where there’s still a “Boy’s Club”.

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What are you currently working on? Tell us more about it.

I’m currently working on developing a horror anthology series based on the seven deadly sins and Brujeria. It takes a strong look at family tales passed down and how looking into lineage can be destructive in ways it should be formative.

What originally attracted you to screenwriting?

I’ve been writing short stories for over 20 years, but ​I didn’t see many characters that looked like me, not in the spaces I was attracted to, Sci-Fi/Horror, so as I’m sure those folks in my same position do, I began creating my own spaces. It took away the feeling of loneliness you feel in times like that. And of course to get all the worlds in my head out which not surprisingly made more space for more worlds which is very welcome.

What’s a typical work week like?

Ha! Busy. This anthology has really been consuming in the best ways possible. So it’s mostly writing it for about three hours a day for two days and then running my business for the rest of the week. I love night writing, it’s unwinding for me. A decompression before retiring, like the drive home from work – you need that time. And it also helps me be more exploratory because I don’t have anywhere to be but that world.

What writers have influenced you and why?

Hands down, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, and Rod Serling. Shirley for her sheer tenacity to write it all, comedy, horror, psychological terror. Ray for his work ethic, the man wrote a short story every day of his life, and Rod. Dear God, Rod, his stances on racial and social justice and commentary within the story are completely unmatched.

What makes a great story?

Attachment. I absolutely have to connect to something soon in a story, whether it be character or setting. I think it’s important to be engrossing which is funny because I have a penchant for slow burns and long games.

Who is your favorite character?

Wow, that’s hard. I can’t really decide. I think I’d first have to mention Sidney Poitier’s take on Mark Thackery in To Sir, With Love, who is determined to do the right things and pushes his own wants aside which is inspiring and tragic at the same time. Robin Williams’ role as Christy Nielson in What Dreams May Come, his range is ridiculous anyway but this turn was so incredibly endearing and heartbreaking, the arc of his character is just really beautiful. Betty Garde’s role as Ms. Bronson in The Twilight Zone episode, The Midnight Sun. It’s the desperation for me. I don’t think we’re ever that far off from a kill or be killed survival instinct and there’s one moment in this episode where she wanted nothing more than to survive in this uncontrollable rage. Ha! Is that too many? It really speaks to impeccable writing and character studies.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I do. I have to meditate a bit. I’m anxious and prone to self-inflicted multiple plate spinning so I have to learn to calm myself down first.

Do you have any tips on how to overcome writer’s block?

That’s tough because there are so many reasons why the words just don’t come. It could be emotional, physical or mental so I would say you really have to gauge which one of those it is. For me when it’s mental it’s usually imposter syndrome and that’s difficult especially when you’re surrounded by such talented peers that are succeeding and I struggle with that. But I have to reassure myself that if I write it in a way where I didn’t care if someone told me how implausible it was, I’d be okay. Some of my best work has been a product of that. So I suppose, first and foremost, let yourself off the hook for not being Stephen King or Shonda Rhimes right now.

Mo Moshaty
Mo Moshaty for Zaftyg

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career in screenwriting?

Be prepared for things to move glacially, be prepared to be critiqued and most importantly be prepared to never stop learning something new about your craft whether it be industry street smarts or technique. If you’re coming at it where you live in an echo chamber and only surround yourself with people who tell you that you’re the best, you’re really cheating yourself. On the contrary, don’t surround yourself with know-it-all jerks either, of which there are many and most in sheep’s clothing. It’s a fence ride. Be careful and be smart. You’re never going to be above critique.

Who you are as a writer and how did your career experiences help shape you and make you the kind of writer you are and will be?

I’m an introverted extrovert. I love people and have a very easy time connecting but I love my time alone. So I really draw my character creations from my interaction with so many people and my therapy work. I put my character into such extreme biographies and personality tests on the fly because of it and it’s really shaped the way I look at internal struggle and arc. So, you can say I’m the writer who writes 4-5 pages of character bios that the audience never sees.

What are the struggles in the industry for a female screenwriter? Is it still a “boy’s club”?

How long do you have? It’s most certainly a boy’s club. You have mediocre men failing upwards in this industry every day. You will have a man put out a movie that does fairly well, he will then be given millions to make his next project which will be half as successful as his first so in turn they will give him more money to do better next time. That cycle has been well documented. Women will have to wait, sometimes decades between films to even get handed an opportunity. And then you bring in the role of race and we’re in another glaring disparity. You see a lot of these networks, streaming services and fellowships touting “Women’s Training Fellowship/Courses” what have you. Training? Are we not ready? Where are the men’s training courses? Where are the second chances for women who may fail? I’ll tell you they run secondly if not thirdly behind giving men who lied, cheated, assaulted and manipulated another chance.

“A survey conducted from October to December 2019 among 333 writers from underrepresented groups in Hollywood found that 55% of writers of color repeated as a staff writer at least once, compared with 35% of white male writers, according to a study by the Think Tank for Inclusion and Equity, a consortium of active Hollywood writers”.

That’s nice documentation, isn’t it? In black and white, they are showing you that you still have to prove yourself as a creator of color because the trust isn’t there. No matter your level of talent, commitment or tenacity, we still have to work the kinks out of you. It’s a slap in the face.

Why aren’t Female Black screenwriters getting their due?

For most of the same school of thought. No trust. Women of color are supposed to be able to write strong, sassy characters that show trauma porn or parody and not much else. There are thousands of women of color that are creating fantastic narratives without using either and they’re not being given the opportunity to show that. The amount of Black and Brown Science Fiction writers out there that are not even being considered on those shows THAT CONTAIN Black and Brown people is annoying. There’s no other word for it. And it is more likely for a group of White male writers to be given the chance to write for a predominantly Black cast than a person of color. It’s a very tough pill, it is.

Of all the things that you’ve done, is there one that you’re really proud of the most?

Really there’s three. Number one, starting my own business, ground up with very few people believing in me. Two, creating a global writer’s Zoom room the second week of pandemic lockdown that’s still going strong a year later. I’ve met some incredible, incredible folks there that I cherish dearly and I’ve expanded to a brunch for International writers as well. And thirdly, working with the ladies of Nyx Horror Collective, I really owe them a lot for pushing me out of my comfort zone and championing me in ways that I was not doing for myself. I owe them so much.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

​My goal is to create a horror anthology series from a woman’s gaze steeped in folklore and fear. I’d love to follow in George A. Romero and Rod Serling’s footsteps with creating such disquieting and contained stories that people harken back to long after I’m gone.

How do you want to help move humanity forward?

For me it’s really creating a basic understanding of the many facets of mental health and how we can better recognize deviations of that within ourselves and others and create that network of support. We’re all collectively living through trauma at the moment and those that have never had to deal with something so epochal as this pandemic are starting to notice that the coping skills just aren’t there. My goal is to never stop being an advocate in mental health education.

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