In Part 1 of our interview, we looked into Roper's company, Yamination Studios, and the interesting mixed medium style that characterizes much of his work. Here, we take a more personal look at the man behind the scenes. Roper explains how Toon Boom Harmony helped him bring his film, "At-issue" to life, and how he captures and interjects visual nuances of everyday life into his work.
As an animator who specializes in stop frame animation, Roper realizes the stop motion industry is becoming more digital and it's crucial that he adapts. The problem is, when you're used to building physical sets, props and bringing handmade puppets to life, it isn't an easy transition to sit in front of a computer screen.
Fortunately, Harmony made going digital a lot easier for Roper and the other talent working on his film "At-issue." He explains, "Harmony was used to bring the puppets to life and create the final look for 2D animation. Having the creative license to push the film to the limit and get more people working on it from different areas of the world, was priceless."
Roper has learned to rely on the environment around him to provide him with the inspiration for his creative needs. The amazing workspace of Yamination Studio is conducive to this kind of inspiration, filled as it is with the sights, smells and sounds of real world construction. His inspiration on projects like At-issue literally comes from everything around him, including buildings, signs and even patterns on roads. Real life observations are filtered through Drew's brain to create the imaginative designs on his miniature sets.
Back in Roper's college days, a graphic designer and instructor advised him, "open your eyes to what's around you, otherwise you're never going to see what's out there."
Roper not only advised being open to everything around you, he thinks it's very important to specialize in a particular part of your craft. He explains, "Dive deep into something, otherwise it's going to be difficult to get a job." Roper believes being really good at one thing will help you get your foot in the door faster.
Learning from other specialists is key to developing your own skills. "If you want to become an animator or a stop frame animator, you have to practice all of the techniques of animation. You should speak with a model maker who is starting out, and ask him to make you a good puppet. The model maker will gain experience making the puppet, and you'll learn how to work together as a team, which is something you have to do in this industry."
Roper continued to explain, "If you choose to focus on getting into the industry doing cleanup work, you should practice drawing, copying and tracing all the different characters that have inspired you. That's how you get good at cleanup work. You'll be able to draw anything."
Roper also shared some personal advice that has helped him along his journey, "It's all about struggling to achieve your dreams. The moral of the story is to never give up. Persevere and always be yourself." Those words are the deep meaning behind the slogan for his film, "At-issue."
He added, "I've got a great loving and supportive family that always stood behind me. Sometimes it was a struggle, but having that support behind me made things easier. When my family believes in me… That means more to me than anything."
Drew Roper is animator and owner of Yamination Studios, based in Digbeth, Birmingham. His talent, innovative style, and mixed medium techniques have really put his studio on the map. His latest short, At-issue, is the most recent example of his mashup style. This is the second of a two-part interview by Shelley Jacobson.