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 Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to