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Life & Work with Cassady Blake Christo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cassady Blake Christo.

Hi Cassady, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
The beginning of my story is like that of many artists, I started drawing I think around seven years old and my family then began to gift my sketchbooks and other art supplies to help foster my growth. However, when I got older, around thirteen years old for some reason, I stopped creating art. I fell into what a lot of other kids do… sports! I think I started playing sports like football and baseball mainly because it was what most of my friends were doing and I wanted to be a part of that and also have fun. It wasn’t until senior year of high school that art popped back into my life. I can still remember the moment I jumped back into the creative world. My cousin had come over one weekend and wanted to watch “The Lion King”, we all hadn’t seen it for some time so we put it on and enjoyed. While watching, I had forgotten how much I loved animation and the characters and worlds that could come to life within the medium. After watching the movie, I went straight to the computer and researched behind the scenes footage and the making of “The Lion King”.

With my newfound excitement and research, I came across a rough sketch of Scar by Andreas Deja. It was this drawing that leads me down the rabbit hole of what an animator and story artist was and how I could become one. So with senior year coming to an end and me just finding out what I wanted to do in life, it was too late to create a portfolio and apply to art colleges. I ended up attending El Camino Junior college and thank goodness for that. There I was able to relearn and sharpen my artistic skills while also building a portfolio and learn more about what it takes to be not only be a storyboard artist and animator but an artist. While rounding out my education at my junior college, I began to research what universities offered the best animation majors. Of course there was Calarts, every art student’s dream school, but who has the funds to go there? Upon my research, I found Cal State Fullerton offered a great animation program and I applied. I was set, fall of 2014 I attended my first semester at Cal State Fullerton and began learning the art of animation. It was here that I learned Character Animation, Storyboarding for Features and Television, Life Drawing, and so much more of what life in the animation industry holds.

Fast forward a few years to 2018 and I was graduating. Upon leaving school, I was fortunate enough to intern with some friends as part of an animated shorts program at Sony Pictures Animation. Here I learned so much about the animation pipeline, storyboarding, and what it’s like to be part of a team of artists that brings a story to life. After our internship was over, the team of post graduating artists and I decided we still enjoyed creating together, so we kept it going with the formation of our own small studio we dubbed “Toon Therapy”, creating animated shorts and the occasional contract work for animated pilots. My path from forgetting about art in my teenage years to realizing that storyboarding was my calling to help creating an independent studio is something I don’t think I could have predicted. I am glad things turned out this way though because I have met some really awesome people along the way, I have learned things that I take with me everywhere, and I am excited to learn a lot more about this industry with everyday I spend in it.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road to where I am now has definitely not been an easy one. Of course, there were the usual struggles of balancing work and school while attending college and I feel looking back that I should have focused more on my education, but you have to make an income in order to pay for the education and put food in the fridge. Other than the early problems of trying to work while going to school, I felt the real pressure once I had graduated. When you attend an art college, you spend most of your time learning new skills while building a portfolio with them. So you think that upon leaving school, you can just apply to studios and you’ll get right in with the work you have to show. Oh man is that the rarest thing of all. I can’t tell you how many rejection letters I got after applying to studios to fresh out of school. I wish universities would prepare students for the harsh realization that they most likely won’t get jobs with their student portfolios and that just because they have graduated doesn’t mean their education stops there. Learning that I needed to continue to sharpen my skills outside of school was something I was hesitant about but eventually realized was the right move to get where I wanted to be.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a Storyboard Artist and Animator. While I do love all forms of animation from 2D to CG to Stop Motion, I would say that Traditional 2D Animation will always be just a notch above. It is because of this that I look to always be a stronger animator and get the best performances out of the characters I am working with. I think that this helps translate into my skills as a Storyboard Artist as well. I aim to use the strongest poses possible while boarding in order to tell the most compelling story to the audience. I would say that I am most proud of my eagerness to learn. What I mean by that is not being afraid to ask my colleagues for advice and input on a scene I’ve just boarded. I hope I can always be better each day at what I am doing and in order to do that, I believe there is always more to learn and expand on. So as much as I pride myself of being a good Storyboard Artist and Animator, I think what sets me apart is my hunger to do things better than before and to keep improving.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
My advice for networking is to not think of it as networking. I know that sounds weird, but when you think of the word “networking”, it sounds so dry and sterile. I would say to think of replacing the word with “make friends”. It takes the edge off of feeling like you have to be strictly professional with people. Making friends with a mentor however will cultivate a relationship of trust and respect. You should want to learn about the person you eventually work with and be their friend, not just use them for connections and advice. I recommend going to events like CTN or Ground Zero Animation Expo or Lightbox and try to connect with people there on a human level and just have fun. When someone who can be a mentor sees that you are excited to meet them for just being them and not just a networking connection, I think you’ll get farther with your goals and in life.

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