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After a scrutinized in depth research I carried out on the Film and T.V industry in kenya, it sort of hit me that we do not have a vibrant cult following and if there is one, it’s not as vibrant as it’s supposed to be.  I’m not talking about the cult following where people are normally gathered in the woods wearing black garments and masks with burning fire torches, chanting and holding inverted pentagrams, as they are about to perform a ritual. I’m talking about a group of fans that are highly dedicated to a specific area of culture - and in this context, the programs being produced and aired.

Films and T.V series that gain a cult following or a strong fan base are usually known for their magnetic characters, memorable dialogues, complex plots that create twists and turns that make the viewer startled and wanting more of that. For instance, I’m a cult follower of Family Guy(the irony I know). Ask me anything about Family Guy and I’ll give you an answer right away and I undoubtedly know all the 11 seasons at the back of my head.  For example, -this will sound utterly ridiculous- in the show Peter Griffin fights a giant chicken named Ernie who constantly appears 12 times throughout the 11 seasons (Season 2,4,5,8,9,10,11) and the fight is normally between 1 minute 44 seconds to 5 minutes 32 seconds.  I can adlib most of the phrases of the show, trust me.  A cult follower normally gets carried away when he talks about his/her favorite show, like I almost forgot that I was writing an article dubbed “Is there any hope for a cult following in the Kenya film and TV industry?”. By the way,  were it not for the amount of words I am limited to, I would have gone on and on about Family Guy.

We have barely few shows that have a cult following in Kenya.  The only recent show I can think of that had something close to a cult following was “Changing times” by Insignia Productions. The show swept many viewers, especially the youth between the ages (14 to 26). Everyone used to talk about the show. It truly had die-hard fans and it could be reflected on Facebook having approximately 29,000 likes.  The show kept people glued to their screens forcing them to cancel any plans they had on Tuesday or try as much as possible to beat traffic not to miss any minute of the show.  “Tahidi High” is also a show worth mentioning. Having avid fans in Kenya approximately 115,419 likes on Facebook.  “Tahidi High” made primary students wish to join Tahidi High School not knowing it was fiction. “Machachari” is another show with a huge following.

I know what you are thinking. Is the number of likes on a facebook page now determining which shows are popular? Yes and No. Yes, with the advent of social media craziness around us, the likes of facebook and twitter are good marketing tools and you can judge how a show is viewed with instant comments and how many people want to find and get associated with your social pages. However, getting a following on facebook for example is easy. All you have to do is offer free airtime and get people to like your page. My research however led me to receiving statistics from TV stations where my conclusions also come from.

As much as Stakeholders would like to blame the audience for not embracing local content to the point of obtaining huge fan bases, the question still remains: are they doing more than enough to obtain a fan base?  This question can be posed to producers, scriptwriters and directors. Are those ones in production creating content that have pithy dialogues, likeable characters, complex plots that interweave of the course of several episodes or seasons?

Where lies the problem? What solutions can one propose or am I wrong and we do havve avid fans of our programs that can tell a plot of a story from how it started to even argue what they forsee the ending to be?

Written by Mark Kaiyare

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