Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Andrea Dorfman: from YouTube sensation to community activism

Halifax multimedia artist Andrea Dorfman had a YouTube hit with How to be Alone.

Filmmaker, artist, writer, animator and cinematographer Andrea Dorfman has been nominated as a leader in her many fields.

But the recognition feels uncomfortable to her.

"I don't feel like a catalyst," demurs the Halifax resident, who was born and raised in Toronto. "I don't think of my work that way."

Story continues below advertisement

So then how do you explain the five million hits that her music video, How to be Alone, has received on YouTube, or the book contract tossed her way by HarperCollins, which, in what appears to be a uniquely reverse move, is now planning to turn that popular project of hers into a book?

"Oh, in that particular case," says the graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), "that was a collaboration with another artist, poet and musician Tanya Davis. A lot of my work is made that way, with other people."

It is also made with great care and integrity, qualities which have helped make the 44-year-old multitasking artist a person of influence.

"I've always resisted labels," she adds by way of explanation. "I do drawings, paintings, make film and write. I keep my options open.

"But," she adds, almost not able to help herself from being self-deprecating, "I'll never be an expert, that's for sure."

Still, in her own modest way, she's making a difference.

As well as teaching part-time at NSCAD and mentoring a young artist from a community college also in Nova Scotia, Dorfman, the youngest of three children born to an engineer father and a stay-at-home mother, has created a documentary film for the 160 Girls project, an initiative of African-Canadian charitable organization The Equality Effect.

Story continues below advertisement

She is also working on an interactive Web project through the National Film Board to be used as a tool for community development on Fogo Island, Nfld.

"That will be a big work," Dorfman says of the Newfoundland assignment, slowly warming to the idea that maybe she is something of a mover and shaker after all.

"In smaller communities you can stake a claim to something special. It's why I like living in Halifax. People have no problem approaching me to ask me to help them."

And to them, you can bet, she never says no.

Editor's note: Andrea Dorfman received a book deal from HarperCollins. Incorrect information appeared in the original version of this article. This version has been corrected.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Deirdre Kelly is a features writer for The Globe and Mail. She is the author of the best-selling Paris Times Eight and Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection (Greystone Books). More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.