CASE STUDY: TAKING A DEEPER LOOK AT THE MUSICAL SERIES GROOVE THEORY
Despite Kenya having over 16m active media consumers, its film makers are struggling to make inroads into the local market, trailing rivals telanovas Nollywood and Hollywood, in what industry players blame on lack of specialization of roles, and an absence of audience research.
However, partnerships with incoming TV channels are now beginning to fuel Kenya's own film industry. One such partnership, between Kijiji and Zuku, has delivered a world class Kenyan production, Groove Theory, that has earned 4 nominations in this year's Kalasha Film and TV Awards, after it's first series, which premiered in November 2013.
“The show was a co-production, Kijiji Entertainment provided content, while Zuku distributed and marketed the show,” said Kanjii Mbugua the CEO of Kijiji Entertainment and producer of Groove Theory, which is the first musical series in Kenya.
Kijiji, which is about to commence filming of the second series of the show, partnered with Zuku to make the musical show, after Zuku had run content from Kijiji's industry leading Village Musical - a series of theatre musicals staged every Easter and Christmas now in its 6th year of production.
The decision to now shoot a second series of Groove Theory followed from the show's immediate success, and the affirmation that both parties shared the same production qualities and standards. Zuku has been keen to partner with local production companies to produce local content that is of high standard and appreciated by the local viewers.
Currently, Africa remains the world's least developed broadcast market. With a population of more than 525m viewers, it constitutes a great opportunity for growth, with proven demand for quality content, according to the African Broadcast Network.
A Kenya Film Commission 2013 report states that out of 44m people in Kenya, 70 per cent have access to basic media representing 30.8m. Out of this, 51.2 per cent are active viewers. However, local programming reaches just a quarter of the population, Afro Cinema & TelaNovas reach 35 per cent, while Hollywood movies dominate with a 40 per cent market share.
This means local producers have yet to understand what appeals to local audiences, and are still struggling to market the films to their targeted markets.
A recent report released during the AITEC Broadcast, Film and Music Africa 2014 states that the biggest challenge in film making in Africa is distribution and marketing. The report further states the need for film makers to work together with sponsors to gain an advantage in such kind of markets.
The emerging trend of partnerships with pay TVs or local channels is now making this challenge easy for producers. The producer does his research and makes the right programme for a targeted station. This means he gives up the rights to exclusivity to broadcasters, but in return gets major sponsorship, international sales and exposure.
However, African filmmakers have assumed all roles in production, which has taken a toll on the success of their productions. According to research done on the perspectives of the Nigerian film audience, many African filmmakers, in order to be able to write and film, become many things in one - directors, producers, editors, properties men, trainers etc, or make videos and films on commission where no specific person does a specific task. This makes it difficult for the producer to handle content creation, marketing and distribution, leading to major losses to the film.
The research also points to the need for African film producers to improve on their creativity and acquire more theoretical and technical knowledge in order to enhance their expertise and produce quality films that measure up to internationally acceptable standards.
“African film producers must strive to produce films of high production quality; films with different and distinct, rather than similar themes; films featuring different artists or talents rather than repeated, similar faces; and films with different, rather than similar, titles and story lines released at close intervals. They can only do this professionally through partnerships” said Kanjii.
However, this does not come easy. Film makers need to show the audience and distributors what they are offering in a convincing manner with high quality production and story lines.
Kanji said that sometimes to understand the audience, the producer has to surprise them and give them something new, out of the norm, and be willing to go that extra mile by involving other people.
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