Tiara Little '11 is a production manager for Netflix Animation. After graduating from Stuart, Ms. Little went on to receive a BFA in Film/Animation/Video from the Rhode Island School of Design. After college, the next destination was Burbank,CA, where she started as an intern on Nickelodeon’s "Wallykazam." From there, she worked in Production Management on Cartoon Network’s "Mighty Magiswords" and "Apple and Onion," DisneyTV’s "DuckTales," and now, Netflix Animation’s "BattleKitty." We are also pleased to announce that Ms. Little is a keynote speaker for #LEADLIKEAGIRL 2020!
Please tell us a little more about your job and your career path up to this point.
I started out as an artist. I was drawing all the time and watching anything animated I could get my hands on. I then realized that I could make a living out of it, so I pursued a career in animation at full speed. I studied to be an artist for animation up until my senior year of college at RISD. Then after watching a show called Shirobaka - an anime about a girl working as a production assistant in an animation studio - it inspired me to pursue a career in production management instead. I realized that my personality and skills were a better fit for working in production because it put me in a position to see everything made from start to finish. In production, you really get to see what goes into making an animated show.
In my current position, I help show creators bring their vision to life. It’s my job to make sure that the idea we’re all working on gets made on time and budget, which can be hard depending on the project. Each show works differently: some have one creator or two, and others are done in 2D or 3D, or both! Working in production is a lot like trying to solve a perpetual puzzle; whenever you think you’ve figured out one section of the show, another problem pops up elsewhere that needs to be fixed or adjusted. A good way to describe what I do is that I am like the glue of the show. I’m a mediator between the creative team and executives, and I’m also in charge of scheduling and managing the crew to make sure we’re all on track and headed towards our goal: creating an awesome show. It can be challenging some days, but it’s absolutely worth it!
What was the inspiration to go into animation, and did any of your experiences/classes at Stuart helped to nurture that interest?
I always had a deep love for animation. Things changed for me in middle school when I went to a summer engineering program at the University of Pennsylvania and discovered their Digital Media Design program, which had 3D animation courses. I was able to take a class learning how to model and animate in a 3D software called Maya, and it was such an exciting experience. I just knew I had to work in animation.
By the time I came to Stuart in the Upper School, I already had a good idea of what I wanted to do after I graduated. Where Stuart helped nurture that interest was in art. Since art classes were not as large as others, it usually meant I could get the whole art room to myself. It was great when I started focusing on my portfolio for college. I had a lot of freedom to explore and create things that interested me at that time, and that helped me develop further as an artist.
At Stuart, we know how important it is for our girls to learn about women in a variety of fields so they could see themselves in a similar position someday. Who were and are your mentors?
The list of people who have inspired and helped me along the way is so long, I wouldn’t even know where to start! I’m fortunate to come from a family that has a lot of strong women in it, like my mom, aunts, and grandma. They were always great role models for me growing up, and then, of course, my teachers at Stuart were great at pushing me forward and preparing me for a life of success outside of school. My friends and teachers at RISD were also a big source of support and guidance as I was making the transition from student to professional.
Once I finally got into the industry, I met some great artists and producers who took me under their wing and helped me grow into the person I am today. I’m lucky that no matter where I go, I always find great people who bring something new into my life and make me better in ways I couldn’t imagine. I’m forever grateful to those who have helped shape this journey so far!
How did you feel that Stuart prepared you for life beyond the green brick walls?
The biggest takeaway I have from Stuart that has followed me from the moment I graduated is my work ethic -- something I’m known for in my career. When I was a student, I always made sure to do my best work even if it didn’t end up being the best in the class. The important thing was knowing that I tried my best and worked my hardest. As long as what I did was better than the day before, then I was happy.
I think that attitude and approach to my work has always stayed with me, and now whenever I’m up against a challenge or something new, I don’t feel scared or anxious about it. I feel confident that I’ll be able to figure it out in my own way and that I just need to push through it. In the end, it always works out. Since our work at Stuart was always challenging — and on some weeks, it could be a lot of work to get through — I’ve always felt I could survive anything that’s thrown at me.
Aside from that, I was a peer group leader and part of the field hockey team, and I think those experiences helped me get comfortable with building relationships with my peers. I now have an easy time getting to know people of all backgrounds, and I don’t feel shy about putting myself out there. I think it’s also one of the lessons that have stuck with me since leaving the green brick walls behind.
What advice would you give to current students?
Let curiosity lead the way. A lot of the choices that I’ve made, and have made me the happiest and most fulfilled, are the ones that started off as a small curiosity: What would happen if I tried this? What would happen if I did things this way? I think there’s a lot of untapped potential in the parts of our lives that live in the world of the unknown. It’s easy to get stuck in our ways and stay where we’re most comfortable, yet the most exciting and worthwhile experiences are the ones outside of our comfort zones that ask the question, “What if?”
Try to do things you wouldn’t have imagined doing, and don’t run from the experiences that scare you. Face them head-on and see what happens. You might discover a new passion, hobby, or interest that stays with you for the rest of your life, but you’ll never know unless you try it.