The animation industry has developed rapidly as a result of new technology and market expansion. The fast development is said to be due to the availability of the internet, social media and mobile devices. Currently the global value if the animation industry stands at around USD 270 billion.
ZJ: Tell us a little bit about your educational background and your interests
Feben Elias: I was born and raised in Addis Ababa. I finished high school from Saint Mary’s catholic school. Then I Joined Ethiopian institute of architecture building constructions and city development (EiABC) for my higher education, where I obtained my Degree for urban design. Unfortunately, I didn’t pursue this line of work as I was more interested in visual storytelling.
I took a year off after graduation to teach myself CGI (computer graphics) then I joined ARMA advertising as a junior motion designer. While working there I developed my personal project called Dimbit which won the Digital lab Africa pitch competition. After 3 years of working in ARMA I left for France to study animation and to continue my work on Dimbit.
ZJ: Tell us about the program you are a part of in France and what you are trying to accomplish by the end of it.
Feben: Yes, I am now in Paris studying my masters for Animation and animation film making as part of Netflix’s scholarship program for up and coming African talent. Gobelins L’ecole d’image is the second-best animation school in the world where you learn a lot of interdisciplinary animation film making techniques from some of the best animators, directors, story-boarders in the international industry.
ZJ: Who is Dimbit and what should we expect from this project?
Feben: Dimbit is a project I started a few years ago, it’s a television series for children telling the story of a tiny and energetic Ethiopian girl called Dimbit and her grumpy but loving grandfather who just wants to raise his granddaughter the Ethiopian way. It is now being produced by Special touch studios in Paris, France. When all the necessary funding is in place you can expect to see it on tv with your family!
ZJ: Tell us about your creative process and what inspires you.
Feben: Well I wouldn’t say I have a process I Strictly follow; I just get inspired with good memories, good times, culture and things I want to see made. I then write that down and think of ways I can do it, then I start working on it, whether I finish it or not. The key is to start it, if it really means something to you, you will finish it.
ZJ: What is the hardest part of working on an animation and being an animator?
Feben: It needs investment! Investment to learn every day! to study the best work from the best people out there. Be inspired to create and just practice nonstop and put in the work. It needs discipline. A Lot of times it could mean you have to sit down and practice several hours a day with little progress but it’s part of the process and you just have to trust that you will be better at it and keep going.
ZJ: What would be your advice for others who want to break into the animation industry?
Feben: you never know when a good opportunity comes your way, always have your work or your story packaged into something presentable. Have a demo reel, put something of your own on your demo reel, something of your culture, something personal that can help you stand out.
ZJ: What about money? Is it a profitable sector to be in? you got to make money, right?
Feben: Haha! yes you need to make money. It depends on where you intend to work with it. The animation industry is at its early beginnings in Ethiopia. I think if you really put yourself out there and have the necessary skills, the opportunity to make money is there. On the other hand, If you want to leave the country and work elsewhere, you need to add several layers to your skill set as there is tons of competition. But either way it is possible to make money in this sector, just try to excel in what you do!
ZJ: What sort of plans do you have five years down the line?
Feben: With the help of the almighty, it’s to finish Dimbit and have it ready for television for the whole world to see. And make more content that revolves around Ethiopia. I want Ethiopia represented in the international animation community.