We had the good fortune of connecting with Aleksandra Milanova and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aleksandra, how do you think about risk?
Taking a risk can be tough because it makes you think about what you might lose if you take a step and fail. I would look at all these successful, wildly courageous visionaries who make crazy decisions and take gigantic steps, and I would wonder: How do they do it? Eventually, I found that truly successful people don’t see a risk before they take a step–they see an opportunity. Changing the way of looking at things has improved my life tremendously. When the fear of risk creeps in, I flip the perspective and see the situation from the positive side. Instead of thinking about what I might lose, I think about what I might gain. With this mindset, I’m not taking a risk; I’m taking a leap of faith. The positive energy alone keeps me more creative and ups my chances to succeed. Before I decided to pursue screenwriting professionally, I lived in Macedonia, held a master’s degree in Project Management, had a job, had my startup company, and I was receiving major support from my family and friends. At 26, I left my entire life behind and moved to LA alone, with no professional artistic experience. But I was determined to become a screenwriter. Everyone saw my step as a risk; I saw it as the most wonderful adventure I could ever experience. This adventure took me to places I could never imagine.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Starting from elementary all throughout high school, I wrote poems, prose, and essays, but I shared none of my writing. It was an intimate hobby I enjoyed from time to time. Fast forward to graduate school, I had spent years working on my business career that didn’t fulfil me. Then one day, I shocked my family and friends by moving to LA to pursue screenwriting. I got my MFA in Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy (Los Angeles Campus) and braced myself for the real world. I must have sent over 500 job applications the first month after graduating, and just before I lost hope, I got a job offer. A few friends helped me secure writing gigs and my career just took off.
I have worked on film and television projects for the last six years, some of them developed in the US, some in Macedonia. I have worked on three Macedonian TV shows and over two dozen of my teleplays have been produced and broadcast. In the US, I developed several projects for film and TV. “Faithful” and “Photobombed” are films I wrote that were screened at film festivals across the US and have won awards.
My work is characterized by versatility. While trying to focus my efforts in TV comedy, I still write across forms and genres. But there are a few things about my work that are constant. Most of my lead characters are plucky females, embarking on quests for love, justice and saving the world. Some of the recurring themes in my stories are family relationships, identity, balance, self-discovery, and again, love. My scripts also feature poetry, which mirrors my childhood sensibility, and is probably my favorite part to write.
I had to develop thick skin to succeed in such a cut-throat landscape. On top of resetting my mindset and building up my resilience towards rejections, negative feedback, and flat out ghosting, I had to struggle with culture clash. Macedonians are largely exposed to American culture, but actually diving into this foreign world has resulted in a major culture shock for me. I struggled with the language, with everyday communication, and I worried about fitting in for a good while before I found my place. Stepping into the unknown, however, is exciting as it is scary. Yes, there is a lot to learn in order to move forward, but once you do, a whole new world opens up before your eyes. I’ve learned so many lessons on this journey, but if I have to pick one, I would say that the key to success is to believe. Believe you’re destined to succeed, believe nothing is impossible, and believe in yourself. Believe it before you see it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh, my goodness, where do I start?!
Let’s go with hiking, first. I have yet to explore most of the hiking trails around the city, but I really like the ones around Pacific Palisades because you get a view of the ocean. Another one is the Wonder View Trail in Burbank that takes you to the Wisdom Tree.
Next—restaurants. I’m actually not a foodie and I like certain places only because I have an emotional connection with them. However, there are a few places that check both boxes (splendid food plus great memories). One of those places is Don Cuco in Burbank (both the Toluca Lake and the Downtown locations). My friends and I love gathering there for some amazing, refreshing margaritas.
I’m quite childlike and I like going to theme parks. Universal is pretty awesome and close by, so that’s my pick.
I always recommend walking. It’s a very special way of connecting with the city. As a Macedonian, I can easily spend all day sipping coffee or tea at a café followed by a walk around the block. Toluca Lake is my favorite place for that. I go to Priscilla’s, relax there for a bit, and then I just roam the streets. You don’t see many people walking in LA, but it’s something that I enjoy doing pretty much every day.
I have to put going to the beach high on the “things to do in LA” list. The more secluded the better. I like El Matador in Malibu.
I’m just realizing that most of my favorite spots are outdoors, but who can resist the magical ocean breeze and the sun-kissed palm trees in this beautiful city?
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My family has always been my biggest support. My father is my rock, my mother–my North Star (she actually shares the name with the brightest planet in the solar system), and my brother is my life guru. No matter how many countries, mountains, oceans separate us, they’re always in my corner, cheering me on.
Shoutout to my friends who have nothing to do with the entertainment industry, but are happy to read my work and listen to me telling stories for hours. Their feedback might be a bit biased, but they take time away from their lives and dedicate it to me. What is that if not love?
Shoutout to my teachers and mentors from the New York Film Academy. They not only taught me how to master screenwriting, but also showed me what success means.
Shoutout to my LA friends who made me feel welcomed and accepted. Many of them went out of their way to help me, and made me feel at home in a foreign land.
Shoutout to my employers, my coworkers, the people who gave me recommendations, the people who gave me jobs… All of those people have left a piece of themselves in my heart. And I am grateful to God for putting them all in my life.
Nobody does it alone.