CREATIVE – This spotlight series features T. Howard Foundation (THF) alumni working in creative roles.
Claytia Gonsalves (THF ’14) (THF ’15)
Staff Writer, Disney Television Animation, The Walt Disney Company
Please describe your role.
What do you enjoy most about your company?
All of the kindest, funniest, weirdest, most lovable people that I’ve ever met work in animation, which makes waking up for work every day feel like a blessing.
In what way did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
I started out writing poetry, never imagining that writing could become a legitimate career. Then sometime in college I realized that I could genuinely transform my favorite hobby into a pursuit that also paid the bills. During the years when I was still “aspiring” and working on bettering my craft, I held a variety of support jobs: production assistant, writers’ assistant, director’s assistant, executive assistant and production coordinator. I was lucky enough to learn about the industry from all sides.
How has your affiliation with the T. Howard Foundation influenced your career?
I interned with the T. Howard Foundation twice, and gained a tribe of fellow interns, who I’m still friends with to this day. Both summers were immediately impactful, as I learned about the business of “the business.” I went on informational meetings, asked a ton of questions, and received great advice from the execs I worked with, who encouraged me to follow my dreams; so I did. Right after my final internship, I packed my bags and moved to L.A.
What personal attributes have been essential to your career success?
I’ve become my greatest cheerleader and staunchest critic, and simply let rejection roll off my back.
If you were entering this career today, how would you prepare to facilitate entry?
The beauty of my craft is that anyone can write. All you need is a pen and a piece of paper. The barrier to entry is the tiniest of hurdles. However, the most important aspect of my career is knowing how to tell a good story, how to structure a great script, and how to create compelling characters that matter. I recommend that all new writers work on writing the best scripts. Reps, job titles, success — everything is anchored in what’s on the page.
Are you extroverted or introverted? How does this show up in your professional life?
I’m an extroverted introvert; I can hold my own in a conversation, but I also relish my alone time, where it’s just me and my percolating thoughts. In a writer’s room, I’m actively listening, working out pitches in my head, reorganizing the pieces of the puzzle before sharing my thoughts out loud. No matter how shy you are, I’ve learned that you should always have an opinion.
Are you an early bird or a night owl? How does this show up in your working habits?
I’m the earliest of birds; my internal alarm clock is relentless. I find the early morning, before my husband and kids awake to be the most serene. I can just flow in the silence.
How do you recharge at work?
Drink lots of water. Repeat.