What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Signe Baumane and I am an independent animator, which means I am a producer, writer, director, designer, animator and cleaning lady of my own films. (I am a woman, if my name doesn’t make that clear)
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Wait. I got the crazy jobs AFTER I chose animation as my life and profession. To be able to stay in business I did some dog walking, applied for strip dancing jobs (was accepted but didn’t have guts to actually show up for the job), had to give bath to a 87 year old man, masturbate in front of 76 year old man, clean a few bathrooms, paint walls in restaurants, and make 30 paper mache sculptures for a Famous Italian fashion designer.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
From my own work I like “Tiny Shoes”, “Birth”, “Teat Beat of Sex”.
How did you become interested in animation?
I got interested in animation only AFTER I got into the business.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Latvia, got my education in Moscow and now live in Brooklyn, NY. I got into animation by a chance – a friend of mine, co-student at University said she liked my doodles (instead of writing down Philosophy lectures I was drawing in my notebooks), and suggested I go into animation. I’ve never heard of animation other than something you sometimes see on TV, but it sounded better than becoming a professor of Philosophy, so I took her advise.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I get up at 6 am and while making a1 liter jug of green tea check my emails, while drinking the 1 liter jugs of green tea I reply to the emails and look at Facebook activities ( I do emails and Facebook only in the morning, one has to be disciplined about those things, otherwise you succumb to FB addiction and no work gets done) At 8:30 am I have a pot of oatmeal cooked with tofu, drenched in olive oil. Then I do dishes and start my work day around 9:15 AM. I spend my recent workdays on animating, shadowing, plotting stop motion segments (I shoot stop motion parts of my film on weekends), doing paperwork (producing part of my job), writing blog, talking to my 3 wonderful assistants (amazing, talented, interesting people). The workdays ends at 6 PM. I see my wonderful assistants off and either go off to a screening to expand my horizons or keep working till 9 PM when I have a light diner (chick peas with vegetables drenched in olive oil) and go to bed (at least try) at 10 PM.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Writing. I can create the whole Universe with writing. Animating. I like the anxiety of not knowing what the characters are going to do next (that’s why I don’t storyboard) and I like to see them move. Coloring. It’s soothing to sometimes do work that doesn’t require much thought and focus but still is exciting.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Maybe producing. Counting money that goes out is painful. And I find accounting quite boring and exasperating.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Pencil and Acme punched paper. Photoshop. After Effects. Premiere. Final Cut Pro. Nikon D80 digital camera. iPhoto. Epson scanner. iMac. Mac mini. MacBook Pro. Stop motion rail. 1 set of Impact lights.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Staying afloat. Paying rent. Not knowing what’s next (but that is also what makes my job so exciting).
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Animation can be great. It can also be quite pretentious and boring. (Do you need me to list here animators that I met at festivals? or the names of the films that I have seen?)
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Ooh… Professionally or personally? Personally I had had so many tough situations that I wont even start on that (like, spending 3 months in a mental hospital). Professionally, when I moved from the poor, broken down Latvia in 1995 to New York, with only $300 in my pocket trying to make it here, and things didnt work out right away. It was scalding. ”Tough” doesn’t even start to describe that experience.
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
YES! I have a blog and we recently started to post videos about production process, Before we started to post videos I wrote about my personal and professional life, like, how I met and briefly married a Swedish animator Lasse Persson, and how and why the marriage dissolved, a 13 segment story you can learn a lot about sex, marriage, men and women.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Well, not hobbies, as my life is currently consumed with animation 24/7 but I used to be a dancer, danced in a modern ballet group briefly. I also was a runner, my specialty (no one could beat me) was distances of 200, 500 and 1000 meters. I was pretty good in cross country skiing (set a record for my faculty once). One thing that I am not bad at is connecting with and understanding dogs, not on Dog Whisperer level, but I do know what dogs are saying and how to respond to it. I asked my boyfriend what I am good at, and he said I am a really good girlfriend. So, there you go.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Tough it out. Stay in the same place and do the thing you want to do. Be consistent. A woodpecker makes a hole in a log by pecking in one place for hours. An animator makes a name for herself by making film after film, creating a body of work. Have a very low overhead. Less you spend on frivolous items like fancy clothes and expensive restaurants more you can spend on items you really need for your work good computer, scanner or other things. Rent should be part of low overhead – I see often people get burned because they have to come up with $2000 every month. Make time for your own work even if you are busy with money work. Send your films to festivals and/or post them online. Make sure people see it. Prioritize – your work should be your priority and nothing else. Don’t get family and pesky little children who’d consume all your income and time. Aim for success but remember to enjoy the process (that’s a hard one to do). Do not enjoy the process too much otherwise you won’t get anything finished.