LIZZ NJAGAH'S ADVICE ON HOW TO GET INTO THE KENYAN ACTING SCENE
I keep getting asked questions about how to make it in the Kenyan acting industry. I've sent countless facebook messages back and forth advising young people on how to get their foot in the door, then it hit me, why not write an article about it and just direct everyone who asks me to it..bright right?
It seems everyone wants to be either famous or make lots of money (only thing is, this rarely happens to Kenyan actors unless you're Churchill or Papa Shirandula and both of them will tell you how long and hard they had to hustle before they got their big break) my first piece of advice is if you want to be famous, become a radio presenter for Kiss or Classic FM ;-) and if you want to be rich work for the UN in a war torn Country.
But if, like me, you feel the inherent need to act, then keep reading.
First thing you need to do is use the internet, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and now we have our very own actors.co.ke etc. There are many agencies on Facebook. Join as many as you can and then keep checking back to see if there are any auditions, most of them send messages when they have auditions and actors.co.ke even has an events and auditions section where they put up audition posts and share them on their facebook page.
Join all the local TV show facebook pages cause most of them announce when they are holding auditions. That's how I heard about auditions for Changing Times, on their Facebook page. For ground work go to the Kenya National Theatre, French Cultural centre, The Phoenix Players and The Godown arts centre. Their notice boards normally have posters about auditions.
You also need to have an internet presence, build a personal website, a facebook page or create a profile on our own Kenyan IMDB..yes, actors.co.ke. So that if people are searching for actors in Kenya, your website will pop up. Get business cards done, with your name, picture and number on it. Get professionally done pictures and create a showreel. Simple
Actors face 80% rejection (that's a lot of rejection- don't take it personally) it's part of the job, so dont stop going for auditions just because you're not booking the job, use each audition as your training ground to acing your next audition. A lot of hollywood actors say they'd never book the job if they had to audition for it.. We don't have the luxury of not auditioning so you need to get great at it, because it is your 30 second interview. The director gets to know you and your capabilities in those two minutes you are in the room. Whenever you are at an audition, remember to relax and breathe (sounds crazy I know, but just try it and you'll see a difference)
Stage is another way to get into the industry, go to all these Theatre groups and tell them you're interested in acting, plus find out when they have auditions. If they don't have auditions scheduled there are other ways you can help out, become a stage manager, or offer to help with ushering.. Phoenix Players always need volunteers, ask them what they need and fill that role. Another thing I love about Stage is, it's the best training ground you can get for acting, especially in a place like Nairobi where there are very few legitimate film schools, if any.
And on that note, Student films are also a great way to get your acting juices flowing, they wont pay you any money but the experience you'll get off them is priceless, and you'll get content for your show reel (an actors calling card and a must have for any serious actor) its a compilation of stuff you've done. Approach film schools like KIMC and ask their film department if they need actors for any short films they may be doing.. The thing about acting is the more often you do it the better you become at it.
Workshops, another great way to build your acting skills, you don't have to wait for a Theatre group to hold them. Come together with a bunch of friends and get acting exercises off the net and act out scenes together from plays that you really loved and give each other constructive criticism. You could invite a more established actor to attend and give tips on acting. I know a bunch who wouldn't mind helping out young and upcoming actors. Hiring a space at the National Theatre or at the Phoenix Players for an hour or two doesn't cost too much, you could split the cost between you..
This industry is not only about talent, it's also about relationship. What good will it do you to have talent and not know anybody, how will they know you have talent? And if you're worth your salt, word goes round that you're good. Go to all the events you can, movie launches, album launches, watch as many plays as you can, attend Kalasha award ceremonies, you meet people at these events, make sure they remember you.
My biggest advice to you is dont give up, good luck and I hope we get to meet up on set some day. This biz is hard, it's not as easy as one audition and you get the job, some of us had to audition over and over for the same directors before they gave us work. hang in there.. and it'll pay off in the end.xoxo
By Lizz Njagah