Meshack Otieno is a freelance film-maker who specialises in the field of cinematography. He also does photography. He has worked with Ginger Ink, SuperSport, Media For Development International (MFDI) Tanzania, Bloomberg News in London, and NusuNusu Productions, among others.
1. How did you get into the arts?
In my early years, I could draw and paint really well. At 12 years, I participated in an international painting competition for young artists and was the first runners-up.
This was a sore loss for me because I had hoped to take the prize, so I subconsciously diverted my attention away from the arts.
The government’s decision to strike out Arts & Crafts from the school curriculum shortly after justified my decision.
In high school, I Initially wanted to study law, but I failed to score the required grade to get into law school, so the following year, I decided to repeat Form Four – my performance was better, but again, I missed the required grade.
2. That must have been devastating!
It was, but with immense understanding and support from my mother, I re-directed my path back to the arts, where my strength lies.
One day, my mom brought home film school brochures and advised me to visit the Mohammed Amin Foundation; my focus completely changed. When I saw the process of film-making, I instantly fell in love with it and decided to study film.
3. Why do you think there are fewer female photographers/videographers than male ones? Is the tide changing?
In my film class, there was only one girl. A lot has changed since then though. I know many competent female camera operators in this sector who are just as good, if not better than their male counterparts.
There are now female photographers with amazing work, and they have a similar trait: a sense of assuredness in themselves. They’re usually very focused and competitive, which is the right attitude to have.
4. What do you do when you’re not playing with light?
First, I’m a dad. Second, I write music, and I’m a recording artist as well.
5. What do you think of mentorship?
Mentorship comes in various forms, and does not have to be official. It is not hard to spot the passionate ones who just want a chance to express their art.
Whenever I come across such a group, I make an effort to arrange film-set visits for them because there is always need for extra help in this sector.
A friend and I recently set up a film production company, MIRACL Eye Productions, a chance to pass along what we know.