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From Graduate to Animation Director: Stepping Into the Unknown World of Advertising

Trends and Insight 171 Add to collection

NERD Productions' Elmaz Ekrem on her absolutely inspiring journey and what she's learned on the way

From Graduate to Animation Director: Stepping Into the Unknown World of Advertising

Like many people my age who chose to get into animation, it has a lot to do with growing up alongside the '90s animation boom. I was lucky enough to be a part of the generation that grew up with the development of big studios like Disney Pixar, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon to name a few. I obviously thought children's shows was the route that I would take when I started my career in animation, however I quickly became familiar with the richness of the British animation industry and through events like BAA I was able to meet many independent filmmakers in the advertising and short film industry. I started watching films that weren't necessarily animated for a child audience and became fascinated with the versatility of animation as a medium.

There are many challenges that a lot of new graduates are facing regardless of their degree. First of all, we're all coming out with an average of £44,000 worth of debt and the pressure to find a job in our field of study, so the amount of competition and applications per job listing becomes so high that the idea of an application becomes synonymous with rejection. It can be incredibly discouraging. There is a lot of self motivation required to go out and chase the jobs that we studied for.

I am lucky enough to have had several people who I consider mentors. Good fortune brought me into contact with a fantastic woman named Gulsen Yanik (I consider her somewhat of a superhuman). She is the producer of the British Animation Awards and following her around on a BAA night gave me so much respect for producers, production coordinators and the like. It was at the 2012 BAA night, when I was only 16 and a voluntary runner, that I knew this was the industry for me.

When I studied, I had the best kind of people as tutors: Lesley Adams and Stuart Hilton. They're the perfect balance of practical advice about film making, creative criticism, and genuine care, respect and support for students. When you are starting out and making your first films, it's so important to have a mentor who can sit you down and tell you what works and what doesn't, why it doesn't and how to fix it. All of these people I consider mentors for very different reasons but it all equates to the guidance and help they gave me before they released me, a baby animator out into the wild terrains of the animation industry.


The idea for my first short film 'The Law of the Sea' came about just after the summer of 2015 and the European migrant crisis. I knew I wanted to make a film about this topic and as I entered my third year at uni, about to embark on the grad film unit, everything fell into place. My tutor, Lesley encouraged a few of us to apply to Random Acts with our film ideas, and ours was one of the films to get chosen for funding. Eight months, a trip to Greece, hundreds of empty tubes of paint and a few sleepless nights later we had made a film. The message of the film is topical and I was always a little wary of how it might be received, but it's done very well so far. It has been broadcast on Channel 4 as part of Random Acts, screened at multiple festivals and most recently and rather excitingly has been shown as part of The Mayor of London's screening of the Salesman in Trafalgar Square in protest of America's recent travel ban.

Recently, I've been freelancing and working on bringing lots of other people's ideas to life, it's been great practice and has also given me the time to clear my head a little. I've learned a lot technically by trying out loads of new software and animation processes, and now I've had a good 6 months of a filled up schedule I'm ready to put time aside and work on my own stuff again and let the ideas that have been nesting finally hatch. I have some new short film ideas that have been floating around that I'm eager to start materialising. I also have a small game idea that I'm super eager to start developing too!

The deeper into the industry I get, the more I've realised how friendly and helpful everyone is. With each project more people seem to be taking me under their wing and giving me a boost to the next step, like Lisa Marie Russo, the executive producer of my Random Acts film and Milana Karaica, a wonderful producer who has transformed a new graduate into an animation director. It is incredibly exciting to be approached by a production company, especially since I'm so new to all of this and NERD Productions is basically my dream job and everything I've been working towards. I love being around people I can learn from too. NERD have given me the opportunity to work with them and their crazily talented team of experienced producers and directors who are very generous with sharing their knowledge.

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Genres: Animation, Storytelling

Categories: Media and Entertainment, Online

NERD Productions, Wed, 22 Mar 2017 14:04:36 GMT