PRODUCER OF "FLOPPED" FILM 'WRONG NUMBER' SHARES THE LESSONS LEARNT
Its months now since I launched my film “WRONG NUMBER” which I wrote and co-produced with Zeph Mwangi (Bubbly). Analysts, critics and fans alike hailed it as the biggest premier ever in Kenya and in the region even getting an 8/10 in launch logistics. Limos, Red carpet and even drinks. Premier of any product is crucial; it prepares the ground for the actual or main event and is also publicity logistic. Its simply part of the hype and important.
Mwangi Kaburugu and Zeph Mwangi
The film itself never gained that rating. It got a rating of 4.5/10 (read a critics review of it here). Something I couldn’t devote my energy in disputing. It’s simple, how many first projects done by first timers reach to the level of a grand premier? Minimal, if any. I had the most talented crew and cast. Many of them students from K.U. and other institutions. Plus a few outsiders whom I considered to be the source of direction in the film. Personally I was still green in matters filming. I was driven by the urge to put a story on screen. I bet my co-producer has the same tale.
I had the best team in terms of talent and passion. Though many were still green and hadn’t taken a project of such magnitude, they were tenacious enough and their sacrifice was extreme. I can’t lie that all went well. We had our share of challenges. Challenges that could have been avoided but as I said, I had limited experience as a producer then. A shoot that was to take 90 days ended in the hall two years later. Having consumed lots and lots of resources to salvage and launch it the way we did. It’s a project that gave me experience that I believe no film school can. It was an opportunity that took so much energy but I can never regret. Hands on experience don’t come easy. And it’s expensive.
The likes of Biko Nyongesa (whom I refer to the “African Denzel Washington”),Koi Ngunjiri,Winnie Njoki,Jamlek Maina,Jacktone Busaka and others are pure talent and I strongly believe if well mentored and accorded opportunities will live to transform the industry. It’s a team that I would love to work with on another set, this time round under a different professional engagement and arrangement. They form part of the core of the future of film industry in Kenya. Biko,Koi,Winnie among others recently did a short film that won an international award in Europe. See what I am talking about the bright future our young film makers have?
The launch was glamorous even though not many media houses gave it spotlight, the fans that streamed to watch it for the two days went home a happy lot. We are planning to release Wrong Number DVDs once we are done with some adjustments and already talks have happened with a major distributer. Soon those who complain of not being able to grasp what wrong number was all about will get their hands on it.
Well so much water has passed under the bridge since then. I have involved myself in assisting and mentoring some groups doing pilots or short films. The most notable short film is STICKING RIBBONS produced by Kevin Njue from K.U. that went ahead to scoop an award in Zanzibar International Film Festival. I was a consultant producer and assisted in casting where my co-producer Bubbly formed part of the main cast. I got to interact with top talents like Jim Bishop and Maureen Koech in the project.
I have met, interacted and consulted most of the industry bigwigs. From River wood, to “up town producers’ and even engaged the govt itself on matters film. All in the quest to know what is not happening in the Kenya film industry. The term “industry” has been controversial and some preferring to use “sector” due to its small size. I have also met most of the renowned actors plus distributers and that includes DVD, cinema halls and other modes of display. I have literally met representatives of all the main players of the game.
The film industry in Kenya can generate well over 50 billion annually plus thousands of opportunities but sadly, the total creative industry last year generated about 3.4 billion and this includes music and adverts. And the huge chunk went to the later leaving the film sector with nothing to dance about.
The film industry in Kenya is still small, unexploited and I guess even the govt is yet to take it serious. I know I might be ridiculed for nearly saying “Sirikal saidia” but for any creative industry to thrive and assist the govt in revenue input, then the govt MUST be involved, especially in curbing things like piracy, policy formulation, taxation etc.
But the producer or owner of the film plays the biggest role. He has a vision of where he wants to take the film. Or where the film wants to take him. The govt or other agencies can only come in to assist after he has initiated the process. People make films for different reasons. Some do it for fun. Others for fame. And others to win an award in a festival. But the major purpose of film is what Hollywood, Bollywood or Nollywood do it for the generation of income.
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