At Last: Frida Ek’s new animated short is a suspenseful ode to the joy of anticipation

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Swedish animator and director Frida Ek has recently released her new animated short, At Last. Telling the tale of those little moments where effort finally pays off, the project has also helped her to bounce back from setbacks.

Good things, unfortunately, don’t happen instantly. They take time. A lot of time. They take effort. They take patience. But the joy you feel when all the work finally pays off – it’s indescribable. However, London-based creative director Frida Ek has visualised the euphoric sensation in her latest animation, At Last.

Telling the story of little struggles, At Last, captures the moment the finish line is crossed. Featuring a hamster chowing down on a monumental meal, a parallel park that seems to take forever, and a dog straining about its business, this funny and gorgeous animated short also neatly mirrors the creative career struggles Frida has been going through herself.

That’s because, after working as a creative director for seven years, Frida recently ran into a redundancy-shaped setback. But rather than being defeated by it, she rolled up her sleeves and put together her first-ever website. This project in itself was a long time coming, and now she’s putting herself out there with At Last as her stunning business card to clients looking for directors.

Speaking to Creative Boom, Frida says designing and animating for herself has always brought her joy. And while she’s always squeezed in little goofy loops and illustrations around professional projects, she’s also wanted to make a bigger passion project for some time. “So as I was getting ready to reenter the job market and put together my first ever website, it felt like the perfect moment,” she says.

“Creating my new mini short, At Last, was a way to promote and draw some attention to myself and my brand new website. Playing with expectations and excitement, in a way, mimics my own feelings about releasing this new work after almost ten years in the industry. “

And by the sounds of it, even the very nature of the project bore more than a passing resemblance to its subject matter. “Frame-by-frame animation truly has you moving at the speed of a slug, so I knew whatever short I made would take a good chunk of my time,” Frida explains.

“But the idea of making a promo film had me feeling excited about finishing it before I had even started it, and capturing that relationship between anticipation and relief ended up being the film’s core.

“Building pressure through quick and tense shots to the sharp beats by Sounds Like These helps to contrast that moment of sweet relief when the bubble finally bursts. Whether that means finishing your short film or squeezing into that cursed pair of jeans.”

Colour plays a big role in all of Frida’s work, and At Last is no exception. She always wants to experiment with different colour combinations in order to capture the right tone, leaving her feeling like a toddler in a crayon factory.

“Wanting to create something a bit more cinematic with At Last, I knew I’d be playing more with the compositing of the film,” she adds. “I wanted the visuals to have a retro feel to them, with light and candy-like colours that would juxtapose the suspense of the piece and make sure it didn’t topple into ominous territory. That way, I could create an almost dreamlike air to the scenes that balance the ordinary and the odd.”

There’s a bittersweetness to At Last because while it’s an amazing animation and the start of Frida’s next exciting chapter, it did emerge from a redundancy that Frida describes as a “bottom of the barrel” experience.

Thankfully, Frida has focused on the positives and took control of the situation by handling it constructively. “If that meant animating a 2-pound hamster, so be it!” she jokes. “A big part of working on At Last has been about reintroducing myself and showcasing another side of me as a director. It’s all about taking this opportunity to push myself in a new and exciting direction as I strap on the goggles to dive head-first into the job market!”

As part of the creative process, Frida was excited to show her range in At Last and push her work in a new direction. “Stylistically, At Last moves into a richer, more realistic realm while still maintaining a certain quirk and offbeat personality that I’m drawn to,” she says. “I elevated the design through movement that’s contained yet expressive and added texture by alternating between subtle loops and complicated motion.

“Figuring out a technical shot like the rotation of the character in the swivel chair is immensely satisfying, but the countless tufts of hair I pulled out in the process was an efficient reminder of why I moved from animation into direction.”

If this animation is your first introduction to Frida, and you’re curious as to what she can bring to your work as a director, she’s quick to point out that she loves the variation of her job, whether that’s creating playful social media ads or high-end campaigns for global brands.

“I’ve led design and animation projects for clients like Google, Chilly’s, Samsung, Dice and Apple, to name a few,” she concludes. “I’m especially excited when getting the chance to make work that reaches outside social media, whether rebrands, interactive work, TV ads or posters plastered across the city.

“Being passionate about development and experimentation, I always have a couple of self-initiated projects on the back burner, ranging from making an interactive logo for my website to designing beer labels for my dad’s home brewery. As well, of course, as a plethora of squishy animations and spicy doodles on my Instagram.”

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