What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Drew Roper and I am directing a short animated film called ‘At-issue’ at Yamination Studios.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I’ve been a paper boy, a pizza boy, and a general maintenance labourer – one special occasion was digging holes and trenches to channel out a new sewage system for a local casino.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m proud of all the projects I’ve worked on. The ones that stand out were having the pleasure of being a crew member on Fantastic Mr Fox and Frankenweenie, and having the opportunity to see how a feature film production is run. I also had the chance to meet and work with some fantastic people. Also, the time I worked on Shaun The Sheep at Aardman Animation studios was incredible being involved in one of the biggest animation studios in the UK, and learning how a professional studio is run.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m from a place called Walsall Wood, which was an old coal mining region of the West Midlands, in the UK. After attending University I got into an advertising agency called Razorfish, which was thanks to someone called Milly Harvey. Their clients include; Nike, Apple, Audi, McDonalds, Levis etc. At Razorfish, I was the assistant animator working with inanimate objects, which boosted my show reel. Working on Fantastic Mr Fox then followed, which is largely down to the talented animator Tim Allen.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
At present, it’s all things fun and all things promo due to the Kickstarter campaign. There are a lot of photo-shoots with Bart, video editing, new ideas for set dressings and giving my general opinion (whether people listen or not is another thing). It’s really good fun, but really busy. Trying to make a film alongside doing the Kickstarter campaign is definitely challenging. Most importantly, always drinking tea!
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Honestly, it’s hard to pin point what I like best, as I love all of it. From seeing the crazy ideas in my head, going down in designs, and then a talented model maker turning it into a prop and putting it on set. Working closely with Sai, my Director of Photography dress and light the sets. Watching an animator’s work, after having told them how I envisage the scene, and witnessing Bart being given character and life. The beauty is seeing it all come together. It’s a shame that it takes so long, but it’s also a blessing as you get to live it and enjoy the experience for longer.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Paying Bills! Also, calling up people and asking for favours – I always find this incredibly awkward.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
The beauty of stop motion is using old school methods and mixing it with new technology. Puppets, carmera, lights, built sets. This can all be edited with amazing softwares such as Dragonframe to make the animation really smooth and speed up the process. It makes the process much more efficient and a bit easier for the animator. Initally it’s pen and paper for designs and sketches. On a daily basis we’re using computers. From initially just using equipment such as cameras and lenses to capture the frames, and using packages such as Toon Boom with their Storyboarder Pro. And what Toon Boom Harmony can do with regards to ease of animation for 2D animators.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Thinking that you can and have to do everything yourself. This business has developed and grown so rapidly, that what initially seemed do-able solo, is now impossible. You have to learn to let you go sometimes, and rely on other people to take on different roles, and thereby take some of the responsibility. It is a highly stressful and demanding business to be in, and by not asking for help you run the risk of running yourself into the ground.
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I guess I would change the Director J We’ve made changes from our experiences at the beginning of “At-issue” which is the importance of Collaboration. A Massive lesson!
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Definitely, I’ve been very fortunate to not only brush, but work alongside some extremely talented and esteemed industry names from Oscar Award winning Directors and producers such as Suzie Templeton, Allison Abbate and Daniel Greaves to other hero’s of mine which the list is far too long to mention, but in particular Brian Cosgrove. Festivals are a great way of bumping into animation greatness and getting to know them, which can lead to anything, so I recommend to anyone, get yourself to them!
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Guinness or Wine? This situation gets me everytime.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
We’ve got two, one which I sadly cannot discuss as it’s a commercial for a rather large organisation and the other is our next stop-motion short, called “The Pigeon Boy” (working title) Directed by Yossel Simpson Little who I met on Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. “The Pigeon Boy” is an original story with a very endearing character, set in the nostalgic backdrop of London during World War Two…watch this space.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I can play one of the most technically challenging musical instruments really well…the tambourine.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
If it’s really what you want to do, never give up! It’s a really difficult industry to get in to so get feedback on where your weaknesses lie and aim to improve upon these whilst continuing to practice so other aspects of your talents don’t fall. Also be on your toes for networking opportunities as you never know where it may take you, but try not to go looking for something, it’s a fine line between being pushy and enthusiastic so just be yourself, get yourself out there and let your work do the talking! Good luck!