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Behind the Title: MPC’s Will MacNeil

NAME: Will MacNeil

COMPANY: MPC  @mpc_adv, @mpc_film

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
MPC is an international creative studio. You’ll find our work just about everywhere, from the VFX sequences in feature films like Godzilla to a mobile app for the X-Factor series, and everything in between. I work in our motion design studio in London. This is technically our advertising department, and we do a lot of commercial work. But we also make pop promos, virals and film titles.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
I’m a senior motion designer and director. We’re not afraid of long job titles here.

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Motion design covers a vast spectrum of work, from graphic 2D animation to photoreal 3D. Our clients bring us a huge variety of work, so I’m usually jumping between a range of tasks. One minute, I might be in a meeting with clients, bashing through treatments and schedules. The next minute, I could be animating a complex 3D scene. The rest of the day-to-day work usually involves leading a team of animators as we put together a TV commercial, pop-promo or title sequence.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
A lot of use come from fields outside of animation and design. My degree is in American Literature. Right now I share a desk with a former sommelier. We also have a former rock star in our midst, but he’d rather I not mention it.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
I think it’s the mix of the creative and technical roles. When I was little, I loved taking apart things in the house and putting them back together, with varying degrees of success. My dad got so fed up. He eventually started bringing home broken appliances, like radios, for me to play with. These usually involved mains electricity. So I really shouldn’t be alive today. Since then I’ve always wanted to take things apart, see how they work, and then put them back together the way I want them to be. I see it as a form of creativity. So using technology to tell stories is a dream job for me. I think motion graphics is full of people like me: people who want to be creative and technical at the same time.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
The gender imbalance. We really need to get more women working in our industry.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
Anytime the phone stops ringing and the email stops pinging and I can get down to work.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Good question. Hopefully, something with a little more fresh air, but, honestly, I love this work.

HOW EARLY ON DID YOU KNOW THIS WOULD BE YOUR PATH?
I have a learning disability, which makes it very difficult to work with traditional media, like a pencil or brush. This was a real frustration growing up because I’ve always loved design. I remember the rush I got watching Star Wars; all those beautifully designed ships. Even the Star Wars logo inspired me. I desperately wanted to make my own spaceships and title designs, but I couldn’t even draw a straight line. That changed when I started playing with computer graphics. Suddenly my clumsy hands didn’t matter anymore. Even the rudimentary tools in the first Mac computers were enough to convince me that this is what I wanted to do.

Adidas_Still4

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
I’ve just wrapped up a commercial for a cognac brand. The job involved over 10 shots of fluid simulations, so it was a technical challenge, but a rewarding one. We’re pretty confident we can animate any sort of falling booze now. I’ve also worked on the Adidas Predator Instinct commercial (above) and  projects for Liberty Human Rights (pictured below left) called Where Do They Go? and Amnesty International called I Have a Name (pictured below right).

LibertyAmnesty

Conversely, I’m now directing a series of 2D character animation films for a pharmaceutical brand. It feels like a completely different world. But it’s a great chance to direct something with a bit of humor.

I’m also doing some tests using game engines for our animation work. This could be a new frontier for us.

WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
Many years ago, I made two ads for charities I support: one for Amnesty International, and one for Liberty Human Rights. They just started out as ideas that I wanted to try out, but as I worked through them, I realized they could actually help these groups out. So I showed them both to their target charities. In both cases they picked up the spots and integrated them into their TV, cinema and online campaigns. Looking back now, the ads were pretty simple, and in some ways naïve. But I’m still glad I got them out there. Working in advertising often means creating work that pushes the boundaries of honesty. So I think it’s vital we use our skills to help people, rather than just convince them to buy things.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
It’s probably obvious, but I can’t live without my smart phone. The strange thing is I hardly use it as a phone. It’s kind of a digital Swiss Army knife. I have a long commute to work, so my phone is like an entertainment center. I watch films on it, read books and Tweet the occasional rant about my train service.

And the Internet… I think sometimes we forget that it’s a piece of technology, but it’s had such an impact in the way we work. It’s an amazing resource for learning and researching projects, but at the same time, I think it facilitates laziness. It’s so easy now for designers to find something cool online and knock it off as their own project. I see quite a few creative briefs come in that are clearly little more than a trawl through the creative blogs. So I suppose it’s a blessing and a curse.

I don’t actually own one, but my girlfriend and I desperately want a camper van. We’ve got a fantasy about drinking tea at some remote beach. Actually, she’s drinking tea. I’ve got something stronger.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
The usual suspects: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. I’m also pretty active on forums like CG Talk. I regularly check the motion graphics blogs like Motionographer, Stash and Mograph, but I really prefer the face-to-face meet-ups like See No Evil in London.

DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE YOU WORK?
I rarely get a chance, but when I do, being an expat American, I like to listen to US online radio stations like KCRW.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I’m a father of three. Work is where I go to relax.

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