Garbiela Marsh: A Squiggly Road to Directing Animation

By Carmen Pearce-Oberhalzer
Posted 7 November 2022 in Reviews

From Ama’s Story, a short film for Massachusetts General Hospital, directed by Kolin Pope, animation by Gabriella Marsh, 2022

Gabriella (‘Gabbi’) Marsh is an accomplished animator with a BA in Graphic Design from Kingston University, and an MA in Animation from the Royal College of Art. She specialises in direction animation work, and traditional ‘straight ahead’ animation.

Actually, the talk was less about the practice of animation, and more on the journey of getting into the industry. I learned there are far more pathways than I’d thought. After completing her bachelor’s degree, Marsh found her passion for animation through the work of artists like Hannah Jacobs and Amanda Ellison. Finding artists and work that you enjoy is a significant part in our own journeys, and she emphasised the importance of branching out and looking at everything we can, because you never know what might inspire you. The overarching theme throughout every aspect of the talk reflected this really well, as well as in the title ‘A Squiggly Road to Directing Animation’. Your choices at any stage of your career do not cement what you’re allowed to do for the rest of your life, and we’re free to try out anything that sparks interest.

Gabbi described her work as about conveying abstract or complex concepts in an easily-digestible and understandable way. As a student with a similar mindset, it was enlightening to see an industry professional succeeding with that approach. She also expressed how crucial it is to do things that we enjoy, and to make time for personal projects. Even though they don’t pay the bills, without spending time developing yourself you will stagnate and burn out. Having a very diverse portfolio as a result is just a nifty bonus!

From here, the talk focused heavily on the animation industry and working as a creative. This was the most significant chunk of the presentation, but also the most helpful. The number one thing Gabbi strongly believes in is the ‘production triangle.’ Simply put, this is about how you can have three expectations (good work, quick work, and cheap work), but in reality you will never get all three. If it’s good and it’s fast, it’s going to be expensive, and so on. In all honesty that piece of information is going to be in my head for the rest of my life.

That said, to my favourite part of the talk: let’s talk about finances. Gabbi says ‘Talk money first; if your client is uncomfortable talking about payment, they aren’t worth working with.’ This is something that I’d never even thought about that. I had always assumed that bringing money up was taboo, and could lose you work if you seem to focus on it. She also emphasised the importance of setting a day rate, so that you aren’t overworked or underpaid. I learned that you should set boundaries (both financially and morally), because otherwise you might end up scamming yourself, or permanently associating yourself with something you don’t agree with.

In all, I found the talk compelling and eye-opening; it was so nice to hear the gritty, unromanticised, truth of the animation industry.

About the Author

Carmen Pearce-Oberhalzer is a First Year Visual Communication student at the School of Art, Architecture and Design