‘Oh My God We’re Making A Movie!’

With 17 cents to her name, graduate bets on herself and now works on major films for Walt Disney Animation Studios

Ava Moss believes in embracing what life has to offer one major event at a time.

Typically an optimist, Moss, a 2018 public relations graduate from Cleveland, is currently embracing the daily challenges as a production coordinator on some of the top animated films with Walt Disney Animation Studios – including her work on "Wish," which opened across the country in November.

Still, those smiles at the end of a productive, creative workday are today the product of her strengthened tenacity. This follows the memory of the struggles she faced, including being jobless and sleeping on a friend's couch with only pennies to her name, having moved to California with her degree in hand. 

"That day when I moved in, I dropped my suitcases and I had tears running down my face," Moss recalled. "And I said to myself, these exact words: I don't see the horizon, I don't see it. And I called my mom crying and I was like, I don't see a way out. And she's like, 'you're going to get out of this. It's temporary. It's temporary. You're going to be fine.' And I worked through it."

So long Kent, hello California

Moss recalls taking classes as a sophomore on the assumption she would follow traditional post-graduation paths as a public relations professional, but a professor challenged her to think differently about where her future might lie.

'I was hyping myself up: Ah, you're going to go to D.C.. You're going to go into politics. You're going to be Olivia Pope. You're going to be on the front lines. You're going to be in the Press Corps, the White House."

Ava Moss Class of 2018

"Something changed my sophomore year. I took PR Case Studies with Stephanie Smith, and she said something so simple but resonated so much. And she said, 'Do what you're passionate about.' And I changed my path, and I said, 'Okay, I want to work for Disney then because I am passionate about Disney.'"

Moss finished her degree, and as her peers headed off on their PR journeys, she too began looking for the right path beginning with a PR internship.

"So graduation came, and I admit I was looking at jobs in Los Angeles and I was looking at what's the PR landscape out there look like and how feasible would it be to move out there because cost of living ain't a joke." 


Ava Moss Disney

She fervently applied to PR, marketing, and publicity positions around Los Angeles, but those experiences didn't lead to a job.  Fighting the urge to return unfulfilled to Ohio, Moss found some part-time work in social media while continuing to strengthen her contacts at Disney.

"At one point, I only had 17 cents to my name, and I'm out here. I am struggling. I have no immediate family. My parents were able to help me a little bit, and I did take on two gigs. Two freelance gigs. One with the Food Network and another with an online motivational speaking thing in Beverly Hills. And so that kept me afloat for a little bit, I but didn't have any gas. I couldn't go anywhere."

Still, those words from Smith's class lingered, and through networking and convicting conversations with mentors, Moss finally started down the path to animation. 

Staying Positive and Patient

Moss said her luck improved when she was invited to an open house for a writers' program hosted by the Creative Talent Development and Inclusion Department at Disney Entertainment. That led to a job offer in the summer of 2019, but not in public relations or something leading toward her real goal of making movies.

She was offered a job as a data processor. 

Moss admits it wasn't her 'cup of tea' but she accepted the role as she was finally "in the house" on the Mickey Mouse payroll. A few months later came a new opportunity, and Moss planned to make the most of it.

Ava Moss

"I got an email saying, 'Hey, we want to interview you for a production assistant position at Walt Disney Animation Studios ... and your interview is tomorrow.'"

Moss said she put herself through a crash course learning about the people she would be meeting and developing proactive questions to help her do her best on short notice. 

She aced it.

"And I got a call Dec. 19 and I got the job and I joined the studio. My first day was Jan. 6, 2020, and I've been there ever since."

Ava Moss Disney

Time to Shine

The new role meant working with the creative team of actual movies. 

"By August 2022, I was promoted to production coordinator. I am currently in the assets department for Environment on 'Wish,' which is our film coming out this November."

Moss had bet on herself, and it was paying off.

Ava Moss Facebook Post - Wish
Moss was chosen as a member of the consulting “Disney Trust” for the 100 anniversary short “Once Upon A Studio.”


"It takes close to maybe a little over 1,000 people to make an animated film; to make a CG film that is animation is highly collaborative. Animation is a medium where you have one shot and it goes through multiple departments, and you have several people working on one shot over and over and over and over. We have to break this down. And you break it down, and then you start over again, and then you're like, let's rebuild it."

On a daily basis, Moss said she is reminded that she made the right choice. She's followed her passion, and while it took her 2,000 miles away from Kent State and her family in Ohio, she's living her dream and climbing the ranks hoping to one day be a director.

"That feeling that we all got through it together. And we accomplished this goal, and we're finally sending it downstream to animation. Just that we accomplished this together. We're making a movie, and we say that quite Often. 'Guys, we're making a movie. Guys, we're actually doing this. Oh my God, we're making a movie!'"

Moss has since finished her role in the "Wish" assets department and is now serving as the production coordinator in the effects department on an unannounced feature film project. 

Ava Moss Disney

Story in the Rear View Mirror

"I always used to be a person who wanted to control every little step and kind of looked through a tunnel and had the blinders at the side and kind of wanted to put my eggs in one basket, and it was very rigid and didn't want to change. But no, you have to, and you have to be a little more fluid and take the ride.

"And if your gut is telling you, 'Hey, this little thing that you keep doing doesn't serve you anymore,' try something else. If this relationship isn't serving you anymore, if it's not uplifting, try something else."

Moss candidly admits she's not the person she was five years ago when she earned her degree, but rather, she has become the person she was meant to be by not shying away from chasing her dreams.

"I believe that where I'm placed has led me to the next step and who I've met, and the people who have come into my life were meant to be in my life, and they were meant to make an impact. And I was meant to meet the people I was supposed to."

Moss is a graduate of Kent State's undergraduate public relations program, which recently demonstrated its commitment to excellence, receiving re-certification from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). 

POSTED: Monday, November 13, 2023 10:54 AM
Updated: Monday, December 11, 2023 03:23 PM
Eric Mansfield