Participant Interview – Willis Abuto


Willis Abuto

In this series of blog posts, we will highlight experiences, insights and talents by the GESCI-AKE participants. Our first interviewee Willis Abuto has been working for several years with an impressive list of clients: VICE Media, Comic Relief, BBC, Ndani TV, Afrofilms International Ltd and TeCaPicha. We asked him about his secret sauce for success.

How to get started?

Q: How is it that you started your own “start-up” in sound design and engineering? Did you work on that already before GESCI?

WA:  I begun working as a freelance 2010 but never was too serious with sound recording until I met my mentor in 2011, when studying TV & Radio production. Now I am studying more sound recording and sound design at GESCI.

My big break came when my mentor connected me with my first international assignment. Networks and relationships are key.

How to foster client relationships?

Q: How did you build such an impressive clientele?

WA: Once you get one big break, and do your job well, you get referrals. Your reputation does travel. International clients tend to lead to other international clients.

That said, I belong to many social media groups in my field and connect with professionals all around the world that way. All my social media accounts are for professional purpose. I also keep in contact with my former clients. I get in touch to say hello and to find out about their future projects. They know that I’m interested in them, and know that I’m up-to-date with their work.


Filming with BBC in Kenya


Filming with BBC in Tororo, Uganda

How to become a great creative professional?

Q: How would you advise someone stating his or her career as a professional in the field of creative industries? Any specific tips?

WA: DO YOUR BACKGROUND RESEARCH — and continue to learn more, every day! This is really, really important.

First, you need to know what your field looks like right now. You need to research new technologies coming to the market so that you can convince your clients what to do and how to do it — and that you can do it. You need to know what you need to learn to keep up with industry standards.

Second, you need to research your client. You need to know the company you will be working for: How they operate, what they have done in the past, with whom have they worked, and even what their rates for creative professionals are. I use professional social media groups to connect and find out from other creatives about details like that so that I can match the standards of my clients and know to ask for the correct rates for my services.


Filming Iten Women group perform their traditional songs in Kenya with VICE Media

Q: How about the business-side of things? How to become a business-savvy creative?

WA: As I said, doing research is a big part of it. A significant part of my work is about keeping up-to-date. As is constant networking. I’m looking forward to all the new contacts and insights I can get via GESCI.

But I’d also like to add that us creatives also need to be smart about collaborations. We do teamwork, and it’s great and fun, but at the end we’ll all go our separate ways and need to make a living. So for example, when I get an assignment by someone I don’t know that well, say, an independent who is just starting or established, I will make sure I ask for a part of my fee upfront. This way I am on the safe side of the business.

What is your favourite work project  – so far?

WA: That’s a tough question… I’d have to say the one for VICE Media that we just completed, about Kenyan long distance runners. With the Rio Olympics, it is about to get worldwide exposure as it’s to live at the conclusion of the Rio Olympics 2016.  The VICE crew is without doubts professionals.

Follow Willis Abuto on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and connect with him on LinkedIn. And read more about Willis in this article – The SOUNDMAN!


Last day of shoot with VICE in Kenya.



In the news: Week of 1 August

Music Producers Explain How They Created a Hit

Meet Africa’s Superheroes:  Leti Arts’ first game, Africa’s Legends, launched three years ago, and has since been downloaded more than 50,000 times for free, mostly by people in Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and some parts of the U.S. and UK.

A Fun Video on Sound Design: Striving for both the most mundane and the most insane noises known to man, these Foley Artist’s are the unsung hero’s of many iconic moments in film.



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