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Meet Chaz Bottoms of CBA Studios in North Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chaz Bottoms.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Chaz. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’ve always loved animation as a storytelling genre since I can remember. I grew up in the 90s during the Disney Renaissance and when TV animation was really exploding. I had to figure out how they made cartoons. Growing up in Cleveland, I wasn’t near the animation industry so I had to research animation production. I was eight when I realized animation was a career path and since then, I’ve been a mostly self-taught animator. In middle school and high school, I produced several short films and tests, just playing around with what I could do in animation. I even made a few feature-length projects during this time!
I went to DePaul University in Chicago, where I received my BFA in Animation. During college, I began producing short films that went on to win awards, gaining notoriety in the animation and film community. My 2016 short Introvert was picked up for distribution for ABFF Independent Series on AspireTV. This led me producing work for other filmmakers which led me to freelancing. While I’m testing/applying for studio positions, I am the owner of CBA Studios (Chaz Bottoms Animation) where we produce feature films, short films, music videos, and creative web content. It’s been a crazy ride.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It wasn’t always super clear where my future was headed. When I moved to LA in 2017, I was hellbent on working in the TV animation industry. I still am, but the animation industry is very competitive. I’ve been applying and testing at studios for a couple of years now. Getting rejected can be hard, but I feel it’s a necessary part of the process to become a better artist. Luckily I’m optimistic and never stay down for too long, and my work has gained a bit of a following and continues to grow.  I’m a workaholic and am very passionate about animation and understand artists need to evolve. My love for the art and craft have shined through my freelance work and is what birthed my production company.

Learning how to be a professional freelance artist comes with its own separate set of challenges. I wasn’t prepared for the challenges of being a one-man production studio. You are artist, producer, entrepreneur, and marketer all at the same time! Keeping organized and tracking all the projects makes it easier, but it’s still a challenge at times. Finding gigs was super hard at first, but I feel as though last year I laid a lot of groundwork in creating a solid portfolio for my clients. Last year I produced/animated over 80 minutes of content!

Please tell us about CBA Studios.
CBA Studios is an independent remote animation studio that specializes in short films, music videos and media content. We produce everything from narrative to experimental projects! What I’m most proud of is the growth of the company just this year alone. While I still am spearheading all of the animation and direction, we have grown with our client base. On a few different projects we have been able to hire other artists! Being a remote studio saves a ton on overhead costs, and thanks to my past experiences being a remote freelancer we have the infrastructure and pipeline to complete projects in a timely manner. This has led to opportunities to work with a ton of dope musical artists such as Chip tha Ripper, Lorine Chia, TeaMarrr to brands like SNKR. INC, Nike SB, L3NF, & Fiverr.

What sets us apart is we are a studio that strives to tell underrepresented stories. In an era where we see more black and brown filmmakers getting opportunities at studios, animation still seems to be a bit behind. Our stories and videos feature mainly African American, POC, and women perspectives. Clients’ stories get a personal touch thanks to being such a small studio, which empowers them to be as authentic as possible. Working with a wide variety of clients and budgets, we are really able to push what we can see on screen and that unleashes so much creativity. In addition to media production, I’m currently developing a few original projects for the studio.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
You can never RESEARCH enough about your industry! Coming out of college, I was such a generalist in 2D animation production. I could direct, I could write, I can design and animate and edit, but in the industry you’re jobs are super specialized. Being in the midwest, I had no idea the jobs that were actually available in Los Angeles for people with my skills. Not saying being a generalist vs. a specialist is bad, but I think having the context before moving here would have saved a lot of the “rejection grief” I felt. Working as an independent animator is a hustle, and I had to learn a lot on the go.

Also, I think it’s important to really focus on the type of stories you want to tell and finding your personal voice. A lot of time, that intuition will lead you where you’re supposed to be. Don’t fight it because you’re attached to one image of yourself. Network and go with the flow, take opportunities as they come, and try to knock projects out of the park every single time. You never know who’s watching.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Personal Photo: Hermes Photography (IG: @hermesphotography); The Indies: An Animated Short Poster courtesy of Blue Geek Music, art by Daniel Cardona; Artwork/Drawings c/o Chaz Bottoms (CBA Studios)

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