In one of my all-time favorite Sidney Sheldon novels, ‘Windmills of the Gods’, the wordsmith precedes the first chapter with a poetic quote by one H.L Dietrich that states, “We are all victims; Our destinies are decided by a cosmic roll of the dice, the winds of the stars, the vagrant breezes of fortune, that blow from the windmills of the gods.”
The basic tenet of the quote alludes to the belief that our individual destinies and fates are pre-determined and that we’re helpless to change them otherwise. Thankfully, the novel goes ahead to dispute just that, detailing the story of a young woman, Mary Ashley whose life is interrupted by a sudden and mandatory appointment to ambassadorship, quickly followed by the mysterious death of her husband. Marked for death by the world’s most proficient and mysterious assassin, and plunged into a nightmare of espionage, kidnapping and terror, her fate seems sealed. At least to the pessimists and to the naked-eyed. But Ashley is about to dramatically change the course of world events in ways unimagined, and take charge of her own destiny, like a boss…
But this is not the story of Ashley…that has long been told by the legendary Sidney Sheldon. This is the story of Steve Mugo, a testimony to what passion, resilience, hard work, ambition and defiance to conformity can accomplish. Born and raised from a humble background in Kayole in Eastlands Nairobi, Steve describes his ambition and determination right from his childhood to become more, to sail against the tides of conformity that has drowned many youths in his neighborhood. The raging tides of drug and substance abuse, the tides of crime and criminal gangs, all of which are often docked by a bullet or an eternal ruin and halt to an otherwise bright future.
Steve’s passionate fire in cinematography was already burning long before he joined JKUAT to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication with a specialization in Broadcast Media,. This was his chosen path to write his story, to take control of his destiny and the course of his life.
Currently living that dream, Steve describes himself as a cinematographer, a video editor, director and a photojournalist. Basically he’s a one-stop shop for everything production. But that’s not all. Unlike most university graduates who prefer to get employed, or whine about unemployment, Steve set out from the onset to be his own boss. He credits his entrepreneurial spirit to his mother, and this, together with his ambition and passion for production, saw him establish the Ambition Media House, a full-fledged media company that specializes on all matters production. Ranging from music video production, commercials, event coverage, photography, TV production, film production to web designs, Ambition Media House is in Steve’s words, a paragon of quality productions and the ultimate home to over-delivered expectations of any client they work with.
Steve’s dedication & passion in everything he touches has been evident through three award nominations, first the Xtreme Video Awards 2016 (Director of the Year), followed by Groove Awards (Cliche) and then Kubamba Music Video Awards.
Steve’s journey however, has not been devoid of pitfalls and false starts. Matter of fact, he’s not yet where he wants to be. The magnitude of the challenges has been almost as great as the ambitious goals, but with resilient defiance he has soldiered on. So how has the ride been like? I engaged him on this journey, and in his words, had the following to say.
Briefly describe your journey in cinematography so far
My passion as I’ve said dates way back, but it was after joining Campus that I got down to a spirited quest towards gaining skills and expertise in this area, and this entailed going an extra mile beyond the lectures. During my free time I would go through video-editing and photography tutorials on YouTube as well as do practice with the studio equipment that was available in the School of Communication & Dev’t Studies. From there I went out of the University to seek mentorship and work under some professional video directors like Young Wallace and Sammy Dee. I would go to their shoots, edit videos for free in order to gain experience and that was basically the start. It greatly paid off.
Do you recall your first paying project you undertook?
Definitely, my first job nilipewa na Norbert, who is currently my business partner at Ambition Media House. I think it was sometime in second year or so, and it was a movie clip for one of the University clubs, The Journey. Nakumbuka alinilipa 200 bob by the way.
Looking back in time do you think that was a fair price?
Haha, haikua mbaya for a start…kwanza hiyo siku nilibuy soda na keki, na kuna picha nilipiga bado iko Instagram.
So how did Ambition Media House come to be?
From the start I never wanted to seek employment but rather be self-employed. Ambition Media House was a result of a collaborative effort from me, the co-founder Ms. Irene Muthoni and Mr. Norbert Owuor. We shared the same drive and passion on matters production and set out to start the company. We started by doing events, photography and saving almost everything to acquire better equipment. Thanks to God right now we can boast some of the best equipment in the production field.
How would you say your experience in JKUAT has made you better in your profession?
In so many ways actually. The lecturers were so hard and no no-nonsense. It has taught me that there are no excuses in life, and this pushes me to exhaust all the avenues of success in my art daily. I also learnt a lot on the importance of humility, especially from working under different people more experienced than me. It enabled me to work and learn from so many great producers. The other thing is the serious hardship I had with school fees. Ilinifunza kukuwa hardcore and persistent despite the challenges. Nimekam kujua at times life hukua hard, na solution si self pity but kujikaza. Pia imefanya nikue very disciplined in terms of managing my finances.
What would you describe as some of the most memorable experiences in the University?
I can answer that in two ways. The best thing that happened to me was meeting Irene, my soulmate and business partner. She has been a key pillar of my existence ever since. The worst experience was being kicked out of a Photography CAT for failing to be keen on some instructions, which meant I would have an automatic supplementary. It was the worst because of the passion I had in the Photography unit, but I took it positively.
From your experience in production, what has been your greatest lesson on the opportunities and challenges?
Everyday there’s a musician who feels they are good, everyday there’s a star who is born, and everyday there’s someone who wants to have a dream wedding. It’s upon me to actualize all these, and this has made me realize that the opportunities are endless. I’ve also learnt that you can only make it in this industry if you’re committed and passionate at your work, coz it has a way of naturally filtering out those who are only in it for money.
Greatest challenge as a music video director?
I’ll be honest on this. Some big artists are very difficult to work with, because they’re never willing to pay. In their misguided arrogance, they tend to think due to their fame, doing a video for them is a boost and a favor to you as a director and your brand. Which is unfortunate because any quality production, which we highly invest in at Ambition Media for instance, takes a lot of resources and skill. I’ve actually enjoyed working with upcoming artists more.
What makes Ambition Media House unique?
First, this company is passion-driven in everything we undertake. We invest heavily on having a good relationship with every client to ensure we’re on the same page up to the point of delivery of the final product. The only surprise we give clients is a good surprise, often in the form of over-delivered expectations. And all these are accomplished with very affordable rates backed by the most original knack for creativity and professionalism.
What has been your life’s greatest principle & philosophy that you live by?
I’m a great fan of Hip Hop, and there’s a line in a song that says ‘Confidence is a stain you can’t wipe off me’. This has been my guiding principle, because the only thing that stands between you and the next multimillion contract is confidence. I believe I’m the best in my art, and I work every day towards living up to that. Another mantra I subscribe to is that ‘Ambition is priceless.’ There’s no limit to how ambitious you can get. This actually inspired my choice of brand name for our company.
How do you intend to give back to the society using your expertise?
As you know I come from Kayole, and I’m grateful to God that I have both parents wo are very caring. But I’ve seen some of my friends, age mates or former classmates being killed because of crime. I’ve seen parents suffer and lament as a result. My desire is to lift these people and empower them. If I’m not able to help right away, I try everything possible to be a role model and a symbol of hope to them. Currently at Ambition Media we offer internship opportunities to students, and other than that we’re currently training some youths from Mathare and Huruma for free on audio-visual production. My ultimate purpose and ambition is to serve God, and to inspire others and show them that everything is possible. No one’s fate is pre-determined, irrespective of your background or status.