DEAR KENYA FILM INDUSTRY, THIS IS MY RANT TO YOU!
I am a Kenyan filmmaker! There is nothing fascinating when that phrase is said to an ordinary Kenyan. Perhaps my statement is over simplifying the whole idea. After being in so many forums and film discussions which are always filled with people from the TV industry and a government official who happens to be in all of the forums repeating himself in all of the functions they attend and after being in film events that hold huge potential, I have decided that I will be that member of the industry who will draw the line. In this article I will be the judge of what is needed to take the Kenyan film industry to the next level. Ladies and gentlemen, I have decided to take the fall and I will receive the criticism that will come with what I am about to say. I will not mention any names neither will I witch hunt anybody for whatever negative action they are imparting in the industry but I will shed light on the positive aspects that we need to focus on in order to make our industry grow.
Let’s start with opportunities;
First of all,apart from the opportunities brought forth by foreigners, the local film opportunities are being taken by the older members of the industry. I will consider everyone as a member of the industry even though others might argue that the `Kenya film industry’ does not exist in the 1st place. It’s just a phrase we all say to try and resurrect the dream. Hold on, don’t throw stones yet. I am sure there are sparks ignited by saying that but look at where we are now at the height of technological advancements and abundant funding…we are still lagging behind in making more quality feature lengths a year. This I could blame on the “big fishes” of the industry. Big fishes here meaning….well, we all know what I am talking about. Case in point: I was called to Kenya Film commission to have a discussion on the collaborations between the government and YOUTH filmmakers. Perhaps I was in the wrong meeting as the meeting had more than three quarters of the quorum will not be described as youth. My rant could be for nothing and perhaps the younger filmmakers are not stepping up to the game and taking matters of film seriously. However, the so called big fishes are people who have been in the industry for more than 15 to 20 years and we recognize their assertion worthy efforts. It is however high time that they give way to the young so that the new batch has a chance to get a piece of the cake.
Secondly, most of the big fishes have a foot hold of four Key media avenues; TV drama/comedy, TV ad and commercial, TV music videos and NGO documentary production. These are the avenues that earn the big cheques. Here is where I draw the line, if the people who do work for TV are the same names showing up in film circles, we have a problem. TV to me is a good arena where unlike film they use talent and creativity but it all boils down to ratings. They worship ratings. Ratings and Cheques are directly proportional. I won’t say that working in both TV and Film is unprofessional; I would say that specialization in film is important. Film is very sensitive and it’s a mix of art and science and to master both of those would take time. It is why world class productions take time because time is essential and a key ingredient in all of this. I however doubt that TV people would have time as a factor yet their schedule is always a demanding one. Point still remains, specialization is Key.
Thirdly,acting! This is touchy considering I have been well acquainted with actors and we have made good friends also considering that I might start a career in acting if I will manage to rise above my shy nature. Cinema acting – Theater acting – TV acting- please pick one, stay with it and master it. It’s really embarrassing when you witness bad acting, fake accents but character ‘assassinations’ are the norm. We have the richest theater this side of the Sahara but when we try to fix the same acting in movies, we go wrong. The recently premiered Nairobi Half Life is a brilliant movie and the main actor Joseph Wairimu was able to play as city gangster life in pursuit of his acting career following his migration from the rural area. Through an interview with him Joseph himself admitted that the transition from theater to film is very difficult, “in film you get the chance of living the character and explore him and every day I learnt something new about the character that I was”. Neil Schell, amongst the notable cinema acting coaches says “in film acting is not about projection but about strong portrayal personality. You stop pretending and start living the character. Be it and be real.”
Fourthly, Kenya has vibrant expatriates and a large Diaspora community. The Kenyan film industry should use them in marketing and distribution Kenyan films abroad. Holding film festivals abroad and creating links between the world wide film scenes with the Kenyan film scene. If a Kenyan community in Maryland, USA or in Bonn, Germany will initiate a program to highlight Kenyan films that would be a great achievement in getting Kenyans away from Kenya to catch up with the latest films and current happenings back home. It will also give Kenya a new status in the films scene. This has been tested and proven successful in the Music scene with A list Kenyan musicians performing abroad and I am sure the diaspora is hungry for what we are cooking.
Last but not least, we need faith and support in every member of the industry. I acknowledge the hard work that filmmakers in Kenya are doing. Some of them have put in so much work but haven’t seen the fruits yet but Rome was not built in a day. I wish I had a better saying other than that but I don’t. With every contribution we make to the industry it serves as a brick to the foundation we are laying. We will be heroes/Heroines because when the times got hard we didn’t quit we stayed and made films, we told our story even if no one really listened. So attend each other’s screenings and buy each other’s films because it is that kind of supports that keeps us going. So I am going to sign out from this article without stylesx and I have to go back to my day job that is not filmmaking but I am still a filmmaker even if my current boss calls me a Translator.
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