Rich Yeomans must have thought he was dreaming when Chris Columbus called his boss to summon him for an impromptu drinking session.

Up to that point, his only contact with the legendary Harry Potter director mainly involved fetching his coffee and doughnuts.

But a few hours in a London pub would change Rich's life forever - the next day he was whisked away to work on Harry Potter.

Thomas Alleyne's High School, Uttoxeter, is well-known for having educated several talented students who went on to excel on and off camera.

Aside from Hollyoaks actress Anna Passey, cult director Shane Meadows and late Game of Thrones star Peter Vaughan studied there.

Admittedly, Rich's role as a visual effects producer is clearly less public-facing than those of the school's aforementioned alumni.

Rich behind the camera a few years ago shooting in Scotland
Rich behind the camera a few years ago shooting in Scotland

Even taking that into account, though, relatively few readers will realise the man who makes the broomsticks fly in the Potter films also cut his teeth at Dove Bank.

Now 38, his body of work makes up an impressive CV, including working with a plethora of renowned actors ranging from Angelina Jolie to Gary Oldman.

And that success sprang from an unlikely day on the sauce with two established Hollywood veterans.

"I'd moved to London after uni and was working for a company called Moving Picture Company, where my role included everything from taking tapes to changing toilet rolls," says Rich, "and an opportunity opened up in the film department.

"I'd cut film and meet clients with coffees, teas and donuts. Two of those clients turned out to be David Heyman and Chris Columbus, the producer and director of Harry Potter 2.

This is England and Pirates of the Caribbean star visits Conkers in the National Forest

"One day, they rang my boss and said 'we’re taking Rich out and you’re going to pay him for the day' – and they got me blind drunk in Soho. They're lovely people and it was a great day.

"I turned up at work on the Friday with an incredible hangover. My boss wasn't looking too pleased.

"Chris and David rang me that afternoon and asked if I wanted a job. They said 'we’re starting Harry Potter 3 on Monday – do you have a car?'.

"I didn't, but I had £200 saved up, so I rang my dad and said 'I need a car', immediately getting on a train back to Stretton, where I'd grown up."

Now based in the South-East, Rich was back in East Staffordshire to visit Marston's Brewery, Burton, where he was promoting the company's Beer Town Film Festival.

Rich at Marston's Brewery with a pint
Rich at Marston's Brewery with a pint

The dad-of-two will be a judge in the competition designed to unearth new film-making talent in and around the town.

His keen eye for the off-camera work which makes the on-camera action flow will be a massive asset to the judging panel.

So, as someone with zero knowledge of how the magic we see at the cinema comes to life, I asked what may have seemed like a pretty dumb question to someone of his standing - what's the difference between special effects and visual effects?

"Put simply," Rich says, "special effects is anything you can see, visual is anything you can’t. Rain, wind, fire you can see – that’s special effects. Having said that, those in special and visual effect work very closely.

"If we need rigs for people flying brooms, to reference Harry Potter, they’ll work with us when building them and working out how they need to move.

"We’ll have to work out trajectories on computers and figure out logistics behind particular moves directors want – is the camera fast enough? Is the rig safe enough to move in the way they want it to? Do we have to go half-speed or quarter-speed to make it work?

"And that’s just the consideration you’re giving to one shot, so on a 1,500-shot show, there’s a lot to think about. The role is so varied."

Rich's role on a film starts when he and his team start plotting out a shot-by-shot plan based on a script.

"It's kind of like a comic strip that decides the type of effects that might be needed," he says.

"Not everyone thinks the same and each director has their own style. You have to start referencing their previous work – do they like a long-shot, close-up or hand-held?"

Rich has his own wand box at the Harry Potter Museum
Rich has his own wand box at the Harry Potter Museum

One of the intriguing tasks Rich has to perform is three-dimensional modelling to create what are, in effect, digital stuntmen to perform, quite literally, impossible feats.

"When there are specific sequences where we need actors to do an outlandish stunt that’s not physically possible," he says, "the studio don’t want to put an actor in danger – unless it’s Tom Cruise – or the stuntman can’t do it, we’ll do digital doubles.

"You take the actor and do a cyber-scan, which involves taking the actor and make a three-dimensional model of them.

"That becomes an asset further down the line as we’ve rigged, built and modelled that image for future use. That's one of the times you’re working very closely with the actors - and they’re generally really lovely."

I asked Rich whether he was ever awestruck meeting some of the biggest actors of their generation.

"Gary Oldman was a big one for me and Alan Rickman was another – he was so great, but was very scary as he was a method actor and used to stay very serious between scenes and put you on the spot," says Rich, before doing a lovingly-amusing impression of the Die Hard star charmingly protesting at being scanned for 3D modelling.

"Ultimately, though, they’re just normal people off-camera," he continues.

"The Potters were the best films for getting to know the actors – we were like a family and you’d get to know Dan Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Emma Thompson and Maggie Smith and they’re all brilliant people.

"Everyone has their own acting style, but you’re so focused on the job you have to do you don’t often get chance to sit there in wonder at their acting.

"You’re concentrating on where the camera is, how high the camera is, making sure the crew’s in the right place."

The wand room in the Harry Potter Museum, where Rich has his own wand box
The wand room in the Harry Potter Museum, where Rich has his own wand box

Rich, married to Jo-Ann, has come a long way since his days studying in Uttoxeter, where he was a few years behind Meadows in school years.

Attending Alleyne's from 1993 to 1998, he fondly remembers art teachers Mr Tams and Miss Scott.

Another memory he shared was how he and other GNVQ candidates were frequently taunted by A -level students as being "Generally Not Very Qualified".

He is far too humble to say this, but, if I was him, I would probably feel a quiet sense of smug satisfaction when recalling those days.

It was during his graphic design course at Surrey Institute of Art and Design that he first considered a career in film.

"I ended up living with film and video students and that was it," he says. "I did the graphics to get through my college course but spent very long nights on student film shoots.

"While I was there, they were filming Gladiator in Boreham Wood and all the guys were extras, acting as Roman and barbarian armies.

"That inspired me to start playing about with cameras, editing software and introducing that into my graphics work."

Since then, he has worked on films including Maleficent and Wrath of the Titans and is currently working on Andy Serkis' Jungle Book for Warner Bros.

Rich in the jungle in South Africa working on The Jungle Book
Rich in the jungle in South Africa working on The Jungle Book

"It’s going to be good," he says. "The release date will be next year. It’s animated but is all from performance capture. Andy Serkis plays Baloo, Christain Bale is Bagheera and Cate Blanchett is Kaa."

Also on Rich's CV is work on the Harry Potter and Fast and Furious attractions at Universal Studios, which involved long periods working in Orlando and Los Angeles.

He admits his long hours and location work mean he misses his wife and daughters, two-year-old Isla and five-year-old Evie.

"It’s tough being a dad in my job," he says. "You’re contracted for 12-hour days and can do longer. When shooting it’s six-day weeks but my wife’s an absolute rock and worked in the industry so understands everything.

"It’s not easy when you have girls and they just want to see dad, but you’ll have a month off when your contract ends and you can see your family and hopefully take them away somewhere and make memories that way.

"Can I see myself in this role for the rest of my career? Ask me again in 10 years. I like it – no two days are the same. I like the challenge of sitting down with a director, producer and whole team and working out how you’re going to create that vision."

Rich at the brewery's union room
Rich at the brewery's union room

And Rich says the UK is now a world leader in film production.

"We’ve got some, if not the, best technicians in the world here in the UK now," he says.

"It’s through investment and development and the government making it appealing to come here and shoot.

"What does need more home investment is local and regional film. There’s been a lot of cuts recently to British Film Institute and various other bits and pieces, so arts needs propping up if you’re going to grow your creative talent in the UK you need to fund it like everything else."

And by coming back to East Staffordshire to judge the Beer Town Film Festival, he is doing his bit to nurture that talent.

Rich being interviewed promoting the festival
Rich being interviewed promoting the festival

"Marston's approached me about the competition and I was very honoured she found me and asked me," he says.

"It’s great for the town and great for the area. I want to see what the local talent has to offer -you don’t have to be in London to be working on films.

"I’m pleasantly surprised by the number of entries – 168 and 30 a week being received. I’m interested particularly in judging the animated entries."

More information about the festival and how to enter is online at http://www.marstonsbrewery.co.uk/terms/beer-town-film-festival/