What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Simon Piniel and I’m the owner, creative director and everything else in my company Spin Animation. Me and my team are doing all sorts of animation for all sorts of stuff, predominantly TV commercials, banner ads, info movies and mobile apps.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Nothing too crazy… My first job during Summer break when I was 16(?): garbage man in my home town in Switzerland. A team of two standing on the back of the truck, tossing bags in and hauling containers. I loved it! During art school I sold concert tickets on the phone and did interviews for a polling company.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
There’s a few commercials here and there that I had the opportunity to basically realize from start to finish, and it’s always very fulfilling being able to take full credit in one or more departments. When it comes to bigger, team effort style projects that in return more people are familiar with: the Vancouver Winter Olympics (for which I did a animated projections for the closing ceremony, among others), the latest Swiss inflight safety movie (storyboard) and the Ed, Edd & Eddy Cartoon TV series (for which I spent 3 years storyboarding).
How did you become interested in animation?
I drew some flipbooks as a youngster, but that was just part of drawing a lot. My mom had the idea to borrow a video camera (I don’t think we even had a color TV at the time) and turn them into a movie, but I wasn’t interested. In film school we paid a visit to the Stuttgart Animation Festival, but I was pretty bored. Only doing my first line test on an Amiga shortly thereafter did I get hooked. The line test, other than a flipbook, allows your creation to take on a life of its own. It was 1996. That’s when I knew what I wanted to do in life. Gee, I feel so old writing this.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from Winterthur, Switzerland. During film school in Zurich I did two internships in classical animation, one for a French TV special, and one for an Estonian feature. I guess that was my first contact with an industry. My first animation job as a freelancer was given to me in 1999 by a friend who quickly introduced me to After Effects for that matter.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I get up early in order to talk to my clients in Europe, it’s a 9 hour time difference. Sometimes there’s an ambush and people need things ASAP and out of the blue. Here’s when the time difference means an advantage, because it’s easy for me to get them results literally overnight. Workload (and working hours) can vary a lot, sometimes there are up to a dozen projects in the oven at the same time.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
I like doing projects for advertising because standards are high and the turnaround is quick. Also, I get to do a variety of different creative tasks, from storyboarding to design to animation to sound effects and scoring.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Well that’ll be the bookkeeping. Sometimes communications get in the way too as they might all of a sudden take up large amounts of time, and at the end of the day I wonder what I’ve actually been doing.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
MacPro, Cintiq, Adobe Master Collection, Autodesk Maja, Toon Boom Animate Pro, Propellerhead Reason, that sort of stuff.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
There’s a certain amount of pressure involved in being self employed. Most existing clients have been coming back on a regular basis, but you can’t rely on that. Actively acquiring new clients has been seemingly impossible. On the other hand, new people call me out of the blue ever so often.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Going to festivals is always fruitful. However, it’s been a while since I was a regular in Annecy and Stuttgart. I’ve seen Glen Keane up close, received a rad sketch by Peter de Sève, attended a workshop with Michael Dudok de Wit, shared a bus ride with Adam Elliot and a barbecue with Bill Plympton. Also, as already mentioned, I did a couple of scenes in “Night of the Carrots” working for Priit Pärn. But what’s animation greatness really. It’s in each and everyone of the talented people in my network of animation friends! I can learn from anyone.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Nothing has been as tough as answering this question… I’m a lucky guy!
Any side projects or you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Sometimes I get the kicks for doing a short short film for a competition. For instance, I spent 3 days doing a 20 second animation last year. That’s already it.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I have free will. Nothing unusual? Sorry.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
There’s nothing like practicing frame by frame animation. And it is my belief that life drawing will help you with anything you might want to draw. As for getting into the freelance business, I think it’s essential to first spend some time employed for a couple of years in order to establish contacts as well as a professional portfolio.