Say what? Say Roar!

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Coeur d’Alene-based filmmaker Jeff Drew is working with local artists to bring high-quality animation to the screen. (Courtesy)

COEUR d’ALENE — Jeff Drew is a man on a mission. Quiet but intense, he is the founder of Say Roar Studios here in Coeur d’Alene.

Beginning at the age of five, Drew knew he wanted to make animated films. He grew up studying the works of Walt Disney, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Tim Burton among other auteurs. Drew said he loves the medium because “I like the thrill of making something that hasn’t been created before.” By the time he was in high school, he had produced a number of video projects far beyond his contemporaries’ abilities.

He has honed his skills over the years through work in graphic design, campaign production and marketing, as well as having taught 3D animation and modeling at Gizmo here.

Originally from the Puget Sound area, Drew moved to Coeur d’Alene because he was looking for a place that was both big enough to attract talent but small enough to offer a short commute and the feeling of home, he explained.

He’s found a home for his creative impulses and has brought others in to collaborate on an exciting project. Its working title is “The Goldfish Project,” so named because it prominently features a goldfish.

Drew said the movie is summed up in the premise, “A 14-year old boy and his goldfish invent a time machine. What could go wrong?”

When he pitched his film concept in March at the regular Coffee and Concepts event at the Innovation Den, several investors signed up right away and more have trickled in since, said Drew. He now has raised funds in the six figures and has commitments for seven figures if he keeps up the project’s momentum, he said.

Drew has been hard at work recruiting storyboard artists, illustrators, and other talent for the project. He has five employees working at near full-time plus six more contractors, with others already lined up to work when the film gets green lighted, Drew explained. He has hired several local artists and is training them using the 3D modeling lessons he developed for instruction at Gizmo. He is also prioritizing local talent for voice acting and music, Drew added. Most notably, Drew has lined up animators from Illumination who worked on the Despicable Me films.

Drew plans to screen a 26-minute pilot of “The Goldfish Project” to local audiences next spring. If local cinemagoers like it enough, he will green light the project to be expanded into a feature-length film. It’s the way Pixar tests its concepts and develops them into silver screen features, Drew explained.

In the long run, Drew’s dream is to build a Say Roar Studios campus either here in Kootenai County, in Spokane County, or possibly Shoshone County. It would be a place where artists’ dreams could become realities, Drew explained. Because he’s received the most support from people in Coeur d’Alene, he is leaning towards building a tech campus here.

“My goal is to share this and bring people in on the fun,” said Drew.

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