Young Guns 18: Yuval Haker

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie on Nov 18, 2020

Highlighting the creative superstars that make up the class of Young Guns 18


2020 has been one rollercoaster of a year, but fortunately, the spirit of creativity can't be dampened. Want proof? Check out the winners of Young Guns 18!

Beginning with our largest and most diverse jury in history, acclaimed creatives from across the globe spent three months reviewing hundreds of submissions from insanely talented young professionals seeking validation for all of their hard work. After narrowing down the field to 83 top-notch finalists, the jury engaged in virtual discussion and debate, deciding who will win one of the most career-impacting honors in our industry.

In the end, we are honored to present the 31 incredible winners of Young Guns 18, a diverse collection of artists, filmmakers, animators, designers, illustrators, and others, all of them representing some of the very best that their fields have to offer.

We invite you to learn about all 31 Young Guns 18 winners in this series of interviews.


YUVAL HAKER
ANIMATION DIRECTOR

Based:

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

Hometown:

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

SEE YUVAL HAKER'S ENTRY

When did Young Guns first pop up on your radar?

I saw the term “Young Guns” pop up on the "about" pages of websites of various designers I admire. My girlfriend Joelle (who is also a designer) finally explained the concept to me three years ago.

You're a first-time entrant — congrats! What made you enter this year?

I still haven’t digested the news! Over the past two years I finally formed a style that feels consistent and “legit”. Seeing my six chosen projects together I thought, “hmm, these actually look like they were created by the same person!” I would have probably submitted regardless, because my want for validation usually outdoes my fear of failure.

Young Guns is as much an exercise in self-curation as it is in sheer creative talent. After all, you are only allowed to submit six projects. How did you go about deciding which pieces to submit and which to leave out?

I chose projects that I consider personal stylistic benchmarks - whether it’s about building a composition, pacing animation, getting my style to feel more graphic, etc. Projects in which I pushed through weeks of self doubt to make small breakthroughs that ended up sharpening my understanding of what I want to see in my own work.

What went through your mind when you discovered that you won, knowing how difficult it is to make it into Young Guns?

While staying with my girlfriend at an AirBnB in London, I believe I was on the way to the bathroom when I looked at my phone and saw the email. My girlfriend was on the sofa and I told her the news. I kept thinking that I must have misread the email.

If you had to pick one of the six projects that you entered as your favorite, which one would it be and why?

I would have to chose Vox/Netflix’s mini series “The Mind, Explained”, where I lead the animation on three episodes “Memories”, “Anxiety” and “Psychedelics”. I had to fight my usual maximalist tendencies because of the short timeline, by working in black and white with only pops of colour. We created a series of animated vignettes, tying them together with liquid-y transitions.

I got to realize my vision (pardon the inflated language), but in order to do that, I had the opportunity to experiment with what the hell is that vision. It’s cool working on something with such high exposure. A random guy from LA DMed me a photo of a HUGE tattoo he got on his arm based on one of the images I drew for the show. What a life. A lot of people ask me how I got to work with Netflix and Vox. I saw a job posting on Indeed.com and applied. No tricks!

If you had to describe your creative style, the part of your work that’s most distinctively “you”, what would it be?

I pack my animation with imagery that is quite simple and graphic - legible on a tiny screen from two meters away. Then I fill up the scenes with small details and easter eggs, forcing (nay, bullying!) the viewer into rewatching.

When storyboarding, I place an image on the timeline, then think “how can I make the next image as different as possible from the previous image?” This forces me to come up with a bizarre (and hopefully pleasing) visual transition between two starkly different images. I try to make animation that’s constantly in motion, with a natural flow between scenes rather than cuts. I’m usually getting in over my head with huge camera moves and wacky transitions.

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career, people who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?

I learned most of what I know about animation at Dress Code, an animation studio in NY, where I interned in 2016. I learned a ton of tricks from full-timers Marcin Zeglinsky, Erika Bernetich, Rasmus Lowenbraat and Vincenzo Lodigiani. Creative Directors Dan Covert and Andre Andreev (unbelievably) invited me back to NY for a project, which is how I ended up as a freelancer in NY.

Other influences include R. Crumb, whose work I discovered in highschool. His style deeply influenced how I draw, write and even think. Tenacious D (I’m not ashamed), and more specifically Jack Black shaped my sense of humour and mannerisms.

Young Guns finalist Joelle McKenna taught me the importance of visual contrast and hierarchy in a composition, and she also taught me how to write short and concise emails. I’m currently co-directing a piece with Magnus Atom, who is probably the most inspiring creative collaborator I’ve known.

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?

Becky and Joe (YG14) - my 14 year old sister showed me "Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared" in the kitchen one morning, and my brain melted. Six years later, we still randomly sing “I love my friend so I give him a hug.”

Another inspirado is Pablo Delcan (YG14), I love his wobbly and thoughtful animations. Sophie Koko Gate’s (YG16) Big Weather Part II inspired me to create a surreal animated music video as my thesis film. Robert Wallace (YG11) (AKA Parallel Teeth’s) mix of live action and animated moving textures is a constant reference. And do I even need to mention Bráulio Amado (YG13)!?

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a pretty crazy year, with a global pandemic and social upheaval shaping so many facets of our lives. Aside from the positive news of winning Young Guns, how has this year been for you?

As the pandemic hit, freelance work slowed (came to a halt) for a couple of months. I forced myself to make personal work that included daily autobiographical “Quarantine Comics” about life with my girlfriend Joelle and my Swedish flatmate Rasmus. Then I started work on an animated comic, “Covid Loop”, in an attempt to spread awareness. The project went semi-viral - I’m happy I focused on something productive rather than wallowing in distress.

Name a creative/professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!

Directing music videos. I read somewhere that music and sound design is 80% of animation, but I think it’s more.

Any last words about winning Young Guns 18 that you'd like to share?

Thank you to my talented girlfriend (and past Young Guns finalist!) Joelle McKenna, who puts up with my biweekly creative panic attacks, and who is basically my in house art director (she hates it when I say that).


WORDS FROM THE JURY

"Yuval's animation and design bring rawness and a sense of drama to modern stories. This is the kind of work that brings topics that matter to people who need to hear them, see them, and know them."

Genie Gurnani
Executive Creative Director
VIRTUE Worldwide


"I was amazed how Yuval builds a stunning visual story out of illustrations. The animations for Netflix and for sports interviews are a great case of storyboard development and unique animated narrative. Yuval's works set the tone and style of the overall pieces where they are used in — and deservedly won Netflix an Emmy thanks in no small part to Yuval’s animations. I also want to point out the interesting color solutions in dominantly black-and-white sketches and how appropriately they are finished with bright and rich accents."

Kirill Karnovich-Valua
Creative Director
RT


"The work of Yuval Haker shows a mind constantly at work, relentlessly searching for ways of wrestling with the ever-evolving, ever-surreal, crazy-ass reality of our times. On one hand, Haker plunges headfirst into our ambivalent, fluctuating emotional state, blending gloom and hope with a healthy dose of repulsion and humour. On the other hand, he treats the human body like Play-Doh, squishing it, morphing it, and pulling it apart at will, ultimately doing the same to our ideas about gender, race, and sexuality. Altogether, it’s crude, sincere, material, abstract, horrific, and touching, all at the same time. I have no idea how I feel about it, and that’s precisely the point. In true grotesque fashion, we’re forced to check our feelings and judgements, suspend the concepts we have of our bodies, and maybe see things a little less rigidly."

Michael Fohring
Co-Founder
Odami
Young Guns 16 Winner


"I love Yuval's illustrative animation style! It has all of the great hallmarks of experimentation, drawing talent and animation skills. Also outstanding is the expression and animation style of the story in each of the submitted projects. Brilliant!"

Yah-Leng Yu
Creative Director/Principal
Foreign Policy Design Group

 


YUVALHAKER.COM


Make sure to check out all the Young Guns 18 Winners in the archive!

Young Guns 18 Archive

 

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