The love of production caught on early for Otoro, who found great enjoyment in watching evergreen productions televised during his childhood such as the Village Headmaster and the New Masquerade, syndicated foreign soap as The Man from Atlantis and Trinity Broadcasting Network TBN’s Another Life. “I liked the fact that those programmes spoke of how families should operate; and how villages and communities related,” he said. So, from staging little acting bits for his family at home, his interest grew, and he went on to study theatre arts at the university.
But the real didn’t get started until after his graduation and National Youth Service Corp NYSC programme. Unlike most people, who would snap up a federal government employment, then and today, Otoro rejected an automatic employment from the FCT Cultural Center, despite winning the best NYSC actor of his set in 1994. He felt the environment was inconducive to his goals. And to live his goals meant establishing his own company.
“I had seen colleagues who had graduated before me and were working in government office. I wasn’t particularly comfortable with the work environment. I thought if I needed to become who I dreamt to be as a professional theatre practitioner, working in a commerce setting, wasn’t going to help me achieve that. From the onset, I made up my mind not to work for government. Not because of the pay but for job satisfaction,” he said.
Having chosen the hard way, he anchored himself with a friend’s production outfit, gaining experience as he learned and collaborated on a few projects with him. Three years, he went on to establish Eagle View Productions, which has hosted popular Nigerian actors as Richard Mofe Damijo RMD, Joke Silva, among other top Nollywood among others in his theatric and broadcast productions (in and outside of Lagos). Otoro is also known for his qualitative stage sets, technical among others.
While the company had undergone a brand change at the onset of the pandemic, he is optimistic of the future and that the brand he had created in the past 24 years will keep them strong and relevant, in a creatively competitive world, where often times despite the best of intentions, issues of inadequate funding and revenue generation affect that of integrity.
He speaks to Chinelo Chikelu on opportunities inherent in production industry and how to advantage of those opportunities.
What is theatre, video and radio production?
First of all, production people are storytellers. We tell stories. We tell stories not just for the sake of telling stories, but to improve lives and bring about development. Theatre, movie, drama basically look at issues in the society, from the point of view of the producer, who decides whatever his aim, be it to educate, entertain or enlighten the public on any issue. We view ourselves as advocates of societal issues.
To illustrate, the most talked about issue in Nigeria today is insecurity. As a theatre arts producer, my job is to tell a story that first, exposes the dangers of insecurity to the nation, and then proffer solutions to both the citizens as well as the government, that these are things that can be done to reduce insecurity to the barest minimum, through our storytelling.
What has happened over time because issue of insecurity wasn’t addressed is that insecurity has had a ripple effect thereby affecting food security, financial security and job security because people don’t have jobs anymore, farmers don’t go to farm anymore. Virtually, every facet of the country is affected. Because I experienced this hardship as well as other citizen, it is my job to tell stories that bring to the front burner these issues.
When people tell me you are just a performer, a dancer, what do you really contribute. We bring awareness to people that if attention is not paid to the littlest things, like the increase in food prices caused by insecurity, those little things can escalate.
My job would be to first expose that there are criminals in our midst, by highlighting in my script about insecurity to people that wherever you live, if there is anybody you cannot vouch for what they for a living, expose them. That is the job of producers.
What we do different from journalists is lacing our work with a bit of entertainment and humour just to make it interesting to watch or listen to. That is what we do. Some call us social commentators or advocates, but I prefer to be called a storyteller.
What are the inherent opportunities in the production industry people can take advantage of?
There are opportunities for people as actors, set designers, costume makers, make-up artistes, lighting directors or personnel, props artistes etc. as long as you are willing to compete with the best, and make impact, the kind that will take you places, and make directors want to work with you. Opportunities abound for those who are prepared to the work, and put in the shift. How much you do determines what you get out of it. You must be ready to work very hard. It is a place for the tough ones.
How can Nigeria take advantage of these opportunities you mentioned?
Though one doesn’t have to go to a formal school to be creative, I always tell people it is good to have some sort of formal education. At least learn how to read and write. That’s the basic skill everyone should have.
One also needs to identify the different associations; guilds one can join. Because you need a network you can leverage on to know who and who are players in the industry. you need to get into guilds, associations related to the profession or craft.
Likewise, make yourself available and reach out, network, ask questions and get mentored. A good way to grow is to get mentored.
If you want to go into production, you have got to realize that you are not going to make it or be a success overnight. It is meant for committed art enthusiasts, and for those who believe in the principle of slow and steady wins the race. It took me some time but I kept at it.
Consistency is the name of the game. Consistency, commitment, dedication and passion of course, are the things that will sustain people.
As you set your goals and work towards them, don’t forget the God factor. That’s very key.
One must have character, integrity, and all the things that make companies what they are. At the same time, you also add up all the other things you need to give you an edge, and to excel in the industry, because it is a very competitive industry and you cannot afford to be mediocre. What stands you out in the industry is the quality of the work you produce, your skills.
Production people are storytellers, and production is all about storytelling. They tell stories not solely for storytelling’s sake but to improve lives.
One cannot achieve success in the production industry overnight. it takes time. It is a game for the slow and steady.
Consistency is key in the production industry. that, and commitment, dedication and passion sustain practitioners.
Get involved in networks. Join guilds and association and get mentored.
Acquire skills that will give you an edge over others to excel. The industry is a very competitive one and brooks no mediocrity. What stands one out is the quality of one work, and skill sets.