Danna Galeano ’16 (film production, animation) came to MSUM as an international student from Colombia. Her father encouraged her to study finance, economics—anything that would guarantee a steady job and income. Though he was initially disappointed in Galeano’s decision to pursue her love of film and animation, he’s now immensely proud of the success his daughter has achieved through steadfast commitment to her trade.
“He knew that when you are passionate about something you can go really far,” Galeano said.
Following graduation, Galeano packed her bags for Los Angeles. She applied for every open position in her field, but couldn’t land a job. More applications; more rejections. Finally, she landed a role with Dick Clark Productions as a film editor for the Streamy Awards. Next came a position at BuzzFeed.
“They didn’t hire me for my resume. (BuzzFeed) hired me because of my Instagram. I was doing fun, animated videos like putting graphics on top of shoes.”
There she worked on shareable animations, many of which required drawing. “I studied film production and animation, but I had to draw a lot. My first animations were so ugly.” Still, she persisted.
Three months after starting at BuzzFeed, Galeano learned her design was the most shared in BuzzFeed history. She was presented with the company’s badge of honor—a sweater.
“It was super cool because I didn’t know exactly how to draw at the time, but still, I was doing really good content.”
The same day her contract at BuzzFeed ended, Galeano interviewed and was offered a role with Mitú, a Latino social media company. While she was free to animate anything her heart desired at BuzzFeed, Mitú proved more challenging. All animations had to be Latino-related. Galeano, the only Colombian animator, had trouble finding common ground with her coworkers from Mexico.
“My boss didn’t like any of my animations. I wanted to create a character that would speak not just to me, but to them, too,” Galeano said. “I was super stressed. This is when Guacardo came to me. Avocados are super Latino. Also, everybody eats avocados.”
Galeano’s moment of desperate inspiration was gold. Guacardo struck a chord of familiarity with all parties. Mitú ran with it and Guacardo quickly went viral. He got his own Instagram account (@therealguacardo). His own line of merchandise. An extensive online presence with 40,000 loyal followers. People relate to the dancing avocado.
“He’s not a perfect person. He’s clumsy, he loves to dance, he’s obsessed with himself. He’s looking for his other half,” Galeano said. “I think that in some way everybody relates to him.”
While most of her time is devoted to Guacardo, Galeano makes time for other projects. As part of a special media team at Dick Clark Productions, she’s worked on videos for the Emmy’s, Golden Globes and Billboard Music Awards. She’s also working on a collaborative short film called Helium.
“Hopefully it will open doors for me to work in the film industry. It’s so important to make friends, make connections, because you get into these big companies through connections. You never know who’s going to help you out.”
Most of all, she knows persistence will someday make her dreams come true.
“If you work really hard you can get there,” Galeano said. “It’s really important that you work in something you love. You will get far if you know what you are doing.”
This story was first published in Moorhead Magazine, Spring 2019.
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