How a RMCAD alumna landed her dream job at Dreamworks Animation

How a RMCAD alumna landed her dream job at DreamWorks Animation

Since graduating from Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, alumna Maya Dite-Shepard has developed an incredible portfolio working for companies such as DreamWorks Animation, Prismajic, and the Denver Theatre District. Dite-Shepard was recently invited back to the RMCAD campus and spoke at the Nexus Club, an all-major student organization, to share her 2D animation journey and expert advice with current students.

Like many creative professionals, Dite-Shepard takes influence from her hobbies and life experiences when looking for inspiration or when improving her craft. From her love of trapeze acrobatics to eagle handling at the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, these activities help her understand the small details of what makes animation lifelike. “These hobbies have been a phenomenal way to study animation and physics,” explains Dite-Sherpard. “If you know how a certain movement feels, you can portray it accurately.” During her talk, she encouraged students to find what they enjoy doing in their free time and use that as inspiration for their art.

Following her graduation in 2017, Dite-Shepard began freelancing to get a foothold in the industry. “You need to take initiative, be your own advocate, and not wait for opportunities to come to you,” she says. From working on logos to animating websites, these small jobs allowed her to develop skills employers look for in candidates. With her growing abilities and drive to succeed, she was eventually contacted by David Moke to work for a popular Denver art gallery, Understudy. Dite-Shepard says, “It was an amazing opportunity because it wasn’t just a ‘hang your art on the wall’ type of gallery.” There, she worked on animated shorts using projection mapping, a technique used to project animated art onto physical infrastructure.

As she freelanced and furthered her career, COVID-19 suddenly hit and put a pause on her projects. “I had several contracts lined up, and they were all canceled,” she says. She chose to spend those days getting better at new techniques and improving the versatility of her work. As time went on, she discovered a job post from DreamWorks Animation. She tells the class that she questioned whether to apply, but emphasized to students to always put themselves out there because you never know. To her excitement, she received a call back for an interview and after several rounds, she was officially a frame-by-frame animator for DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight.

“It was very, very exciting to be hired,” Dite-Shepard tells the class. She worked remotely from Colorado animating several sequences for the show. Her advice to students interested in studio work is to follow all of the storyboards you receive to a tee and most importantly, stay on schedule. After the Netflix series aired in July of 2022, Dite-Shepard returned to freelancing in different mediums including projection mapping, character design, and even creating promotional material for Nina Rolle, the voice of Amazon Alexa.

In conclusion, students attending the Nexus Club took away invaluable information from RMCAD alumna Maya Dite-Shepard. To learn more about a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation from RMCAD, check out our online and on-campus programs. We also recommend reading RMCAD alumna shares why diverse representation is essential in children’s book illustration for additional alumni stories.

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