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Meet the Ben Martin Apprentice Award Winner, Okori

As the team make the final preparations for Austin next week, we chatted to Bristol-born creative director, designer, artist and BMAA winner, Okori Shakir Lewis-McCalla. Find out more about Okori’s roots, his love of anime and what he’s looking forward to at SXSW.

Published on Friday, 6th March 2020

Meet Okori

“I come from a creative and entrepreneurial family originally from St Thomas, Jamaica. My granduncle founded the Voice newspaper, my grandfather is a Reggae artist and my Mother is CEO of her own fashion company, so I like to think that influenced me to pursue my own dreams and carve my own path in life. 

“Like most boys growing up in the 90s I was a big fan of anime. Shows like Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon and Naruto were regular scheduled programming at my home in Fishponds. It was my desire to recreate these shows in my spare time, through pencil and paper, that led me into art.

“Drawing wasn’t my strong point so it was hard to excel in art class, probably in part to me only being interested in drawing characters from my favourite tv show at the time! I was also into video games but, oddly, because I thought they were such a cool medium. I think I grew up in a time where video games were just beginning to be acknowledged as an artform, much like film and tv, and not just something that turns kids into ‘mindless zombies.’ I loved how video games placed you in the mind of the protagonist and allowed you to put yourself in situations you could only dream of before.

“Fast forward and this underlying love of psychology, art and computer screens coupled with a strong sense of ambition is what led me to where I am today – seeking to explore a career in UI/UX & Tech.

“Growing up I knew very little about the creative industries in Bristol. I think that’s what pushed me to study in Cambridge (Lord Ashcroft International Business School), but it was being away from Bristol and coming back that really opened my eyes to how vast and booming the city is which is why I moved straight back. So when I found out about the BMAA and that it was essentially a nosedive into the industry, I knew I had to apply.

“The biggest challenge I faced in my career was definitely making my first ever film, especially when it's for a nationwide platform like the BBC and will be watched by thousands of people. The opportunity came about through the BBC New Creatives scheme. Managing a whole crew and cast of around 20 people whilst writing and directing a film is about 100 times harder than it sounds! But it was fun and the end result was well worth it.

“Now that I’ve won the BMAA and am travelling to Texas next week it’s hard to pin down what I’m most excited about. The food, talks, art exhibitions, film screenings, the robots... Or the world renowned ‘Southern Hospitality’? Honestly, I’m not too sure. But what I am sure of, is that I am excited. Funnily enough, I’m not really nervous about anything. My perspective is just ‘enjoy it’, take what comes with Texas and the internships as enjoyable experiences which I no doubt will learn and gain a lot from.”

Okori has recently appeared on a podcast with the Technullogy Team where he talks about growing up in Bristol, Game Culture/Ethics, Film Making, Script Writing, Philosophy, Creativity and more. Listen to the podcast here.

Support the BMAA

Upon his return from SXSW, Okori and the BMAA runners up will have the opportunity to take part in a series of paid internships at local agencies. For more information about supporting the BMAA and offering a paid internship for Okori and the runners up, click here.

Bristol Media would like to thank our 2020 headline sponsor, ADLIB, for supporting the BMAA. Thanks also to Babbasa and the growing list of agencies who have committed to making a difference: Armadillo CRMTallt VenturesMcCann BristolMr B & FriendsOakwoodImmediate MediaEpoch DesignHaloTorchbox and Diva.