We had the good fortune of connecting with Jonah Sãenz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jonah, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
To be completely honest, I made the decision to pursue a career in the film industry at four years old. Initially, I wanted to be an actor but changed my mind in the first grade and decided that I wanted to work behind the scenes as a writer/director. My first “screenplays” were written on wide-ruled lined paper and I continued to write creatively in my free time through high school. In terms of voice-acting, I discovered my ability to manipulate my voice to represent different characters while telling original stories to my high school cross country team during our warmup. The reactions I got from my teammates and other peers down the line, along with taking the time to practice independently, made me realize that voice acting was something I could add to my arsenal going forward.
Although I did well in other subjects and a few teachers “encouraged” me to pursue a degree in STEM, I knew I would never be fulfilled doing something outside of entertainment. I enrolled at the University of Arizona to pursue a degree in Film and Television with a focus in Production, then transferred to Loyola Marymount University to obtain my degree in Screenwriting. Aside from sports, writing has always allowed me to express myself the most and I love creating worlds and characters that tell the stories I want to tell. I understand that it takes time to establish a career as a writer, but I would rather take the long road to success in a field where I am happy instead of squandering my talent doing something else.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have an extremely active imagination, so I am constantly able to create new content without forcing myself to. A lot of my scripts start as random thoughts throughout the day that snowball into a full-blown story. Before I know it, I’m speaking dialogue from scenes I’ve already cooked up in my head and jotting them down in my notebook to weave into the script. Once I feel that a story is ready to write, I have pretty much all of the content I need to complete a treatment, outline, and pages before I even open my laptop.
My favorite aspect of screenwriting is that I am able to write whatever I want and allow my creativity to flow onto the page. When I write, I allow myself to feel the same emotions as my characters and see the world through their lenses. Being able to empathize with my characters is essential to presenting them to audiences so that they can care about them enough to empathize with them. With this being said, most of my writing is meant for mature audiences; whether it’s due to the heavy content and disturbing imagery in a thriller, the use of social satire and adult humor in a comedy, or just themes in general that would be too complex for younger minds to comprehend.
I am most proud of my ability to take real world issues and mold them into digestible stories for a general audience without convoluting the plot or shoving the theme in their face. I love to entertain, so I try to find a balance between entertaining the audience and telling a meaningful story with each script I write. My most exciting project for me currently is my animated series, Essays, because I feel that I am able to use fun and lively characters to tell an authentic story that is close to my heart.
Since my professional career is just getting started, I cannot say whether it has been particularly easy or challenging to get to where I am today; however, I am sure that I will face a multitude of challenges throughout my career and I am excited to take them on.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
During my time at LMU, I spent a lot of time out in Marina Del Rey as a member of the Men’s Rowing team. Seeing the sunrise every morning made me appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the marina in that setting, so I would have to convince my friend to get up early enough to experience the sunrise in MDR. After that, we could spend some time hanging out on the beach at Playa Del Rey before making our way up to Playa Vista for breakfast at Hash. The rest of the week would really depend on what experiences they wanted to get out of visiting LA.
Along with Hash, some of my favorite places to eat include Never Caged, Monty’s Good Burger, Mendocino Farms, and Sushi Stop. Taking a trip down to Hermosa Beach and skating/biking/walking the beach path is always a fun idea, as well as going out to Malibu and finding a nice place to hike. The skateparks in LA are some of the best in the country, so skating a few would definitely be on the itinerary. If they wanted to get a tattoo, I’d take them down to Lincoln Tattoo Company in Venice to get some artwork done by Jordan or any of the other great artists that work there. I don’t really drink, so I would probably have them pick a place in Santa Monica or Marina Del Rey if they wanted to go out for some drinks. Some other cool spots to visit are the Griffith Observatory, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Dodger Stadium.
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?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to my mom, Maria. She has held me to a high standard from the moment she taught me how to read, write, and speak and has always been supportive of my career choice. Along with being my first teacher, she raised my younger sister and I on her own while holding a full-time job and going back to school to obtain her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. Despite having a full workload, she never missed any of our games, competitions, awards ceremonies, or other milestone events. My mom is resilient, smart, loving, and the most hard-working person I know.
Linkedin: Jonah Sãenz https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonah-sãenz-a66930160/
Posters by Jonah Sãenz and Mason Kerns-Harper