Advice for young animators

Animated GIF showing a silhouette of young girl on a rocky landscape
Headshot of Efehan Elbi

Efehan Elbi is a graduate of OCAD U’s Integrated Media program. He’s an artist and award-winning animator. We caught up with him to chat about his work.

Congrats again on winning Best Animation at the Beverly Hills Film Festival for Rainfall last fall! What have you been up to since then?

Thank you! That was an unexpected joy. Ever since then it’s been about spreading the word and keeping the festival submissions going. The star of Rainfall, Jessica, is one of my main characters, so I’ve (actually, she has) been sorting out where her story goes next.

I tabled at TCAF this year, which is always wonderful, and with our collective Family Contact (my constant collaborators Zak Tatham and Aaron Manczyk, both also OCAD U alums) we screened a ridiculous sci fi-romp feature called Space Breakers at the WTFilm Fest.

I’m a little too interdisciplinary sometimes, so there’s also been poetry, writing and music. And of course day work with Sinking Ship, animating for a CBC show called Bookaboo!


Why do you love animation? What’s it like when something you’ve been working on comes to life?

Animating is so weird, crafting motions for weeks and months (in the case of Rainfall, years). When it finally comes together, and actually tells a story running at full speed — ideally on a theatre screen so I can strictly no longer tinker and edit (because it really is hard to let go) — it is the most amazing thing .

I think animation is a very unique medium. It gives us a chance to tell a visual story filtered entirely through the lens of the artist. There are so many ways to approach any idea or action, so many technologies (or lack thereof) and all of them are changing and shifting year by year. I think I most love that animation can convey life experiences and stories without the burden of physical specificity.

How do you get your work out there? What’s your best advice for young animators just starting out?

I would say: finish it. Finish the thing. Whatever it is, however long, even if it is just a super-rad gif that you’re posting on tumblr, FINISH IT. Because of the minutiae, it’s so easy to get lost in tweaks and the creeping feeling that the work isn’t good enough (the Internet is bad for this). It’s great, call it done. And if it isn’t, finish it, listen to the criticism as best you can, and make another one. This is one of the best things I learned at OCAD U.

Also, love the people around you who make you persevere.  It’s hard to keep creating regularly. The people who do are precious beyond measure, because we keep each other going. Even if you work in the industry and create every day, I truly feel that the passion projects are what glow in the end.

For getting the work out, don’t be afraid to share and forward your work to everyone! The Internet is great for this. Get your animations and demo reels online. My own biggest challenge is trying to promote while also staying creative, because I find the two are such wildly different ways of being.

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