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Screenwriter Vanja Lea Kocen: “Hold on to people who helped you; Don’t forget people who were there for you, who know your struggle and stood by you”

Hold on to people who helped you. Don’t forget people who were there for you, who know your struggle and stood by you. You wouldn’t be where you are without them. I let some of them go, and I wish I wouldn’t. There are days when I wished they would be here with me. As a […]


Hold on to people who helped you. Don’t forget people who were there for you, who know your struggle and stood by you. You wouldn’t be where you are without them. I let some of them go, and I wish I wouldn’t. There are days when I wished they would be here with me.


As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanja Lea Kocen. Vanja known by Saku, is a Slovenian screenwriter and actress.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Since I was little I liked to film funny stuff with my childhood friends and family. It was always fun. We just started shooting and everything else just came along. Clips, one after another and those become short videos-stories. I always liked to watch movies and at the start of high school, I fell in love with the Avatar movie. After that, I started learning all about filming. I feel in love with the whole process of making movies but the part that pulled me in the most was writing.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

The most interesting story for me was the XR Alliance competition 2018. I saw an open competition which was no fee to enter. I thought that’s a nice opportunity, but the thing was I didn’t have a short script all I have was a few feature-length screenplays. I didn’t have much time so I just take one my feature screenplay and quickly turn it into a short one (10 pages long). I did it in a day and send it to competition, didn’t thought about getting somewhere with it. My short script made it to quarterfinalists.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I made mistakes in my life but one of the funniest ones was definitely the one when I wrote my first script. I knew very little about screenwriting. I knew only what I learned at the drama club. Which were very amateurs. I have written a 30-page movie which I thought would turn out as a two-hour long one. Not to mention there were tons of spelling mistakes and formatting. All about it was really bad. I took an envelope to put that script in and sent it out to Jackie Chan and even to James Cameron. Did not get anything back, well I hope no one opened those ever. I learned that I have a lot to do before sending out my screenplays. If there is something you really want to do you need to learn the craft. Read books, watch videos, learn about it and try doing it, practice every day. It will suck the first time you do it but every next time you will be better.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Currently, I am working on my fifth feature-length screenplay and also writing a short horror script for Grossman’s film festival happening in July.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I meet some of the great directors and producers here in Slovenia while playing an extra but, the most interesting I can think of was director Jesse Haaja. I was at the film festival and they were screening one of his movie which came out. I watched that movie and really liked it. I asked for a photo with him and have a little chat about who I am and If I could send one of my scripts to him to check it out. He was a really nice and cool guy. I came home to read my script one more time and send it to him. Bad for me, the script was still full of mistakes like formatting and spelling. Another lesson learned. Don’t be too quick on sending out your scripts.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Once again learn your craft. Learn all you can about it. Follow your heart, don’t rush into things too quickly its never a good thing. And most importantly believe in yourself. No matter what others think or say about you do your thing cause you know you’ll achieve it one day. That’s the only thing that matters. You need to take your time and make it the best you can. There will be days when you will cry, sweat, be angry we all have them, it all comes in the package. In the end, those bad days won’t last.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Probably I would start something about ecology movement. We need to take care of the environment. To protect our planet. Clean it and take better care of it. To make our planet cleaner and safer would consequently do good for us people.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Learn how to write before you do it. I have written the script without knowing how to write. It was terrible it didn’t even look like a script. Learn how to write and then do it in the best way possible.

2. Don’t rush with sending out your scripts. Write, let everything that’s in your head on the paper. Then take your time and rewrite it, fix it. Make drafts, as many as you need to. Don’t rush with sending it to competition or producers. Read through it and make it the best you possibly can. When I started I sent out my first drafts, blow my chances, lose my money.

3. Hold on to people who helped you. Don’t forget people who were there for you, who know your struggle and stood by you. You wouldn’t be where you are without them. I let some of them go, and I wish I wouldn’t. There are days when I wished they would be here with me.

4. Believe in yourself. If you can see yourself writing, you can do it. If that’s what you want, do it. No matter what everyone says, believe in yourself and do it. It is your life, you know you can.

5. Try everything. Take all the chances you are given. Do it. Meet new people, make connections, collaborate, you won’t regret it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have many of those. My whole room is surrounded by papers with positive quotes on them. Every time I have a bad day, feel sad or give up I look through my room, read those papers and kick myself in the butt. I remember why I started writing because it makes me happy. I get excited just thinking about it. Those quotes helped me to remember that. I’m thankful for that.

Every morning when I wake up I tell myself “Today is going to be a great day.” Then I get up and start doing what I love the most, writing. So at the end of a day, I can say, “Today was a great day.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I left college to do what I love. That’s why I kind of understand my family why they never really supported me. I never felt much appreciation from them but I had that feeling that they quietly believe in me. Though there is one person I am grateful to have. And that is my best friend who believed in me from the start, listen to my cries, anger, and happiness through it. She always stood by my side and help me through the bad days. I wouldn’t have been here without her.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

There is definitely a few I would like to have lunch with and first of them is Christian Bale. He was and still is my favorite actor. His acting really inspired me and made me follow my dreams. After him, it would be like the best thing to me to meet some of the great writers and directors like Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Anthony Russo, James Cameron, and the list go so on and on.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on Imdb, Facebook, Stage 32 and the app I use the most these days is Instagram as Saku9494.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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