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Rising Stars: Meet Christopher Holloway

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christopher Holloway.

Hi Christopher, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I grew up in Baltimore my entire life, specifically hailing from Cherry Hill in South Baltimore. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time sketching what I would see from cartoons I’d watch on TV, like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, Yu-Gi-Oh, Digimon, just to name a few. When I got a bit older (maybe 10 or 11 years old), I joined this local Media Group that supported Baltimore youths interested in things like Art and Film, Writing, and other creative disciplines, called “Wide Angle Youth Media”. It was my time at Wide Angle that helped me discover my passion for making art beyond just sketches but attempting to make a potential career out of it. I also discovered a second passion of mine: Film.

Fast-forward to graduating high school and I found that my passion to make a living by being an artist had severely waned due to “life” taking its toll on me. I ended up giving up my dream to become a professional artist and took a more “safe” pathway, joining the ranks of the IT world. But, I found myself unhappy everyday in my profession. It was missing passion. One day, I was talking with my sister-in-law, Michelle Turner, and she told me she was in college. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she was studying Computer Animation at a school called “Full Sail University”. I was immediately interested in finding out more.

Many months later, I was still thinking of how my sister-in-law was going to college to become an Artist, something that I didn’t even know there were universities for – to be totally honest. I never met another artist in my entire life, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Eventually, I become so mentally unraveled that I could no longer commit to being an IT Professional. I mustered up the courage to contact Full Sail University and spoke with an amazing Admissions Guide named Sable, who broke down my walls of doubt and encouraged me to follow my passion to become a 3D Artist!

After several grueling months of dealing with Financial Aid issues and Housing problems, my wife, three daughters, and I finally managed to prepare to relocate to Orlando, Florida to attend Full Sail University. When we first arrived in Orlando, we only had enough funds to live in a hotel for 30 days. Against all odds, instead of attending Full Sail University as a student, I wound up getting a job there as an Online Enrollment Guide, assisting other prospective students achieve their dreams! Can you believe it?! I did that job for a year and met the most amazingly supportive people I have ever met in my entire life! My supervisors, managers, and co-workers all rooted for me to go to Full Sail as a student and they supported my family and I every step of the way – even financially! They treated us like their own family and I cannot thank Full Sail University’s staff and faculty for their love and support!

After a few years, I graduated from Full Sail University as the Valedictorian with several awards under my belt and a degree in Computer Animation. My family and I moved back to Maryland for less than a year before I wound up getting picked up by Technicolor, a Hollywood feature film Visual Effects studio, to become a Lighting Artist in Montreal, Quebec, Canada! My family and I got our Passports and emigrated to Canada, where I ended up working in a couple of different film studios: MPC (a.k.a. Moving Picture Company) and Mill Film. I got my first feature credit as a Lighting Artist and Compositor for the Universal Pictures film, “Cats”!

After my contracts ended in Canada, my family and I moved right back to Maryland where I continued my Film career working for the Baltimore-based Visual Effects studio, Outlook VFX. I was contracted mainly as a Compositor but also did some Generalist work as well. I worked on OVFX’s original IP, “Kulipari”, which is a Netflix cartoon series but is being made into a Hollywood feature film!

Unfortunately, around this time I began working on the Kulipari film at Outlook VFX, COVID-19 struck the United States – specifically hitting here in Baltimore around March 2020. My contract ended early due to budget constraints and it was virtually impossible to find work after that point. However, during my time being grounded due to the pandemic, I taught myself new skills and decided that I wanted to use my passion for my craft to help bring to life the stories of other visionaries. So, around November 2020, I established my own Production Company, “Black Prism Studios”, an official LLC business, right here in Maryland. My very FIRST client, believe it or not…was Wide Angle Youth Media…the media group I joined when I was a child that helped me to find the passion that I use to make a living today! Everything came full circle.

You see, I started this company because I am a lover of storytelling and there are so many people who have stories to tell and want their projects to look like they belong on the silver screen but don’t necessarily have the money to afford those visuals. That’s where Black Prism Studios comes in! Our goal is to help visionaries tell their stories with the help of Hollywood-grade visual effects and AAA quality service. I also plan to change the way artists and developers are treated, as I found out that not all Film/Gaming studios treat their employees well. Not at Black Prism. This studio will become the GOLDEN STANDARD of how creatives will be treated with respect, compassion, and nurturing.

I know that with my quintessential understanding of the articulate components of Film, I will be able to continue to assist visionaries around the globe to develop their one-of-a-kind, legendary works of art that will not only astonish their audiences with the stories they tell but most importantly…cultivate the industries that we all co-exist within.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The journey to where I am now has been one of the roughest experiences of my entire life, but if I had a chance to change anything at all, I would go through the exact same thing again but simply do it sooner in my life! My biggest struggle are trying to balance how far the risks I’m willing to take go because I have a wife and three daughters to consider. I can’t do things that will ruin my credit score or destroy our financial stability because these little girls will grow up and need Parent PLUS loans for their college goals.

Every decision I made had to be calculated meticulously and a lot of the time, things didn’t pan out the way I expected them too, but my wife and I made it work. I cannot express enough gratitude to my wife for the support she’s given me during my journey of finding myself. It’s not often that you hear that one can truly go after their dreams in life and achieve them – and I know I could NOT have done it alone.

The support I received from my wife, from my children, from my friends, the people I met at Full Sail University, the networks I built in Canada and even back here in Baltimore – have all contributed to my success and I would NOT be where I am today without all of those important roles these people played in my life.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am mainly a 3D Artist who is disciplined in numerous elements of the Film, Commercial, and Gaming industries – including specializations in Lighting and Compositing systems for both pre-rendered and real-time pipeline systems. Now, that was a lot of technical jargon! To put it in more “Layman’s Terms”, my role as a 3D Artist is to create worlds and experiences that immerse the viewer in the vision of the Director.

My main goal every single time I approach a project is to ensure that the audience forgets that they’re watching a movie or playing a video game and to get mesmerized by the storytelling elements: the sounds, the ambience, the colors, the mood, the emotions. That’s what sets me apart from other freelancers or studios who are just making art “for the money”. I do it because I am passionate about the story being told. And, if I have done my job right, when the credits roll, you’ll realize that you’ve been on the edge of your seat, holding your breath, for an undeterminable amount of time. I love watching people watch my work!

The thing that I am the most proud of is the very first Demo Reel I made after graduating from Full Sail University. It is the demo reel that got me hired into the Hollywood feature film industry. That reel has gotten me talked about by Visual Effects Supervisors, Directors, and talented individuals from all walks of life. While I am very proud of working on feature films, TV shows, and hopefully video games soon – I will never be more proud of taking that first uncertain step, not knowing if you are as talented as you think you are, facing my Imposter Syndrome head-on…and absolutely CRUSHING IT!

We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
To be completely transparent, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I experienced my first true depression. As amazing as it to watch films and play video games, a lot of times, consumers don’t realize the literal blood, sweat, and tears that go into making a project happen. I’ve seen people break down into tears, sleep under their desks, become physically ill, have mental breakdowns that result in their termination, and unfortunately…some even commit suicide. It’s an unfortunate reality and heavy wake-up call to the Art industries for Film and Gaming that the stress artists face is very real and can be debilitating. We are NOT robots…we are human beings, and I think sometimes big studios can forget that.

During my time in Canada, my contract ended early due to the studio I was with getting hit hard with financial problems, which wound up with them shutting down satellite studios in other regions of Canada and the world and laying off thousands of artists. I was one of them. Then, coming back to the States and getting a job here in Baltimore, thinking that maybe things were turning around for my family and I…then COVID-19 strikes, and once again…I get laid off.

Dealing with what I dealt with in Canada regarding how artists are sometimes treated, I still wasn’t fully healed mentally and it caused me to mentally shut down entirely once the pandemic smothered the entire planet. I definitely became a shell of my former self for nearly half a year, but what – or rather, WHO, brought me back from the brink of total mental collapse was my second-oldest daughter, Dereon (currently 10 yrs old). She is an artist, like me, and she has been next to me through thick and thin for the entire journey of finding myself as an artist.

She has watched me fail time and time again, but she has seen me rise up and continue on time and time again…except for this time, during the pandemic. Upon seeing my wallowing in defeat, she told me to pick myself up and continue on because the world doesn’t stop when the going gets tough – and she’s never known me to be a quitter, and she won’t let me start quitting today. I was blown away by her heart and motivational speech and I got my act together. My wife and other daughters got behind me and they all lifted me out of my depression, and it was shortly after that speech she gave me that I started my company, Black Prism Studios.

Again, that support system is quintessential to one’s success. One absolutely, unequivocally, CANNOT accomplish a massive goal by themselves. And I truly learned that hard lesson during the pandemic.

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