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New Digbeth home for Yamination

Digbeth-based animation studio has just moved out of the Custard Factory so it can grow and start working on multiple projects at the same time

 

The Custard Factory in Digbeth has been a brilliant base for many fledgling media companies in the past decade.

But Yamination founder Drew Roper has just flown the nest - to different premises a 30-second walk away.

Instead of having three rooms being used for several purposes at once, he now has more than double the number in which to crack on with the labour-intensive job of making animations.

Drew Roper founded his own company six years ago and decided its Yamination name would make fun of a phrase used to refer to the 'yam, yam' colloquial speech patterns of people born and bred in his native Black Country.

Such is the painstaking, serious nature of animation, though, his output will increase significantly. No longer will he or his team have to stop doing one thing while something else needs to be done.

If necessary, sets can now still be built and figures created while filming takes place in another room. Drew's new studio space on nearby Floodgate Street is being leased from Custard Factory owner Lucan Gray who has backed the switch.

Having signed the lease from last October, the physical move has taken longer than planned and Drew, 27, has been working from 7am to 11pm to facilitate it. Neat touches include logos on every door with a lettered sign to say what its purpose is.

These old premises might be new but they make you feel as if you've entered somewhere like the office blocks at Pinewood several decades ago.

Although there is a giant, room-sized safe in the office and the whole building has started to come alive again, security has been further beefed up with 24-hour CCTV and shutters.

Now he's finally just weeks away from finishing an eight-and-half minute film called At-issue and he is looking to ramp up his commercials work beyond that.

"At the Custard Factory, we just couldn't do as much work as we wanted because we didn't have the space," said Drew.

"So now we have more space to do better projects which means more finance. We now have the best of both worlds, given that we are so close to the Custard Factory hub.

"Our new studios have designated areas so that we can model, do technical things, set build and shoot whereas before we might have had to stop other aspects of production because we were covered in dust from the woodworking.

"Ironically, when we moved here in the winter, it ended up being too cold to work so we had to stop for couple of weeks anyway as there was no heating."

Another short film Drew has in mind is called Oscar's Flying Heroes, based on a true story about a boy involved with carrier pigeons during the Second World War.

But the ultimate dream remains the same: to make a full length feature film within a decade and then to be running his own film school before another ten years are up.

Why worry about Disney when you can have Digbethland?

Drew's regular working partner is Yossel Simpson Little whom he met on the set of Wes Anderson's Hollywood blockbuster Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) which featured the voice talents of George Clooney and Meryl Streep.

They have built up a roster of freelancers and, to date, their projects include commercial work for Cravendale (see gallery above) and Coco-Cola.

A year ago Drew also met girlfriend Juliet Carmen Teksnes, a London fashion designer who has been working to promote other local ventures including Digbeth Dining Club as well as major companies like Selfridges.

Drew was born at The Manor Hospital in Walsall and grew up in Walsall Wood.

After leaving Aldridge Comprehensive School, he studied art foundation at Sutton Coldfield College (now Birmingham Metropolitan College) and graduated in animation from Southampton Solent University.

The former animator in residence at the Light House Media Centre in Wolverhampton has had funding for At-issue via Kickstarter and Sky Arts. The film is about an actor called Bartholomew Yogart who can't stop sneezing. He has to learn to be himself and to persevere, qualities Drew seems to have in abundance.

"I'm blending the three main mediums together - CGI, 2D and stop motion which I don't think has been done before," says Drew.

"I'm certainly trying to combine them in a unique way."

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