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Kenya’s Film Industry Taking On Hollywood

Ways Kenyan filmmakers can be competitive in the international film market

It’s every filmmaker’s dream to produce works that appeal to audiences across borders. Breaking into America’s cinema industry, “Hollywood” is usually considered a success. In recent years, Kenyan filmmakers have made big steps to keep up with their worthy competitors in Africa with the eyes fixed on the main prize; entering the international stage.

As a filmmaker, how do you break from the local bubble and take your place at the main table, the global market?

Content

In every production, the storyline determines the success of your film. African producers have always been blamed for being afraid to push the envelope. You can take the cue from the west, not every movie must follow a familiar script of a village girl falling in love with the rich kid. Strive to cover unexplored themes such as discrimination based on sexual orientation through some Kenyan movies have been banned due to themes considered ‘immoral’ by the Kenya Film and Classification Board. It’s worthy to note that some of the regulations by KFCB have been stifling creativity.

Take the case of the movie, ‘Rafiki’ depicting a homosexual theme which was banned by KFCB but premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Despite its ban, the movie achieved its purpose. Content has always been a challenge for African film producers. It is time you showed us your ingenuity.

Talent

Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman and Lupita Nyong’o have one thing in common, that is talent. It’s the sustaining factor for every film. On-screen talents have a difficult role to show the audiences the theme explored in the movie. For a long time, jobs in the creative and arts sector have been perceived as less-serious and not financially viable. Due to this, creative talent in acting, video shooting, and editing, directing and producing haven’t been developed and nurtured.

You can take a course to build on your talent or take practice lessons to master your craft and create unique works. Casting talented individuals will give you a competitive edge on the international map.

Equipment

The equipment used in the production of a movie or TV series determines the quality of the output. Consumers are not naive and will spot a scene shot with a cheap camera. Internationally acclaimed films are always shot with the Rolls Royce of production equipment such as cameras, lighting, and film editing suites.

Having quality equipment doesn’t automatically translate to an ideal result. You must employ skilled technicians and operators to exploit the shooting capabilities of such equipment. The behind-the-scenes tools affect the scenes in a movie.

Some of the expensive cameras used in Hollywood, the industry’s standard of measure are ARRI ALEXA XT and Panavision Genesis which costs around 6.6 million shillings and 9 million shillings respectively. Think about ‘Black Panther’, the African-inspired superhero film, the scenes are an out-of-this-world. This couldn’t have been achieved without capable equipment.

 

Marketing

This is often overlooked by film producers. For a film to gross over billion of shillings, aggressive marketing has taken place. There is often the ignorant remark that “if it’s good, it will sell”. That doesn’t apply in the world of films because everyone is striving to get the attention of film critics by producing riveting content. Your marketing always puts you out there.

With a successful marketing strategy, your work may gross in high earnings which means that you will recover your investments into the film. A challenge in Kenya has been bringing on board corporate organizations to sponsor your work. This is often associated with risk/ fear of the unknown. What if the movie doesn’t sell? How do I get my money back?

Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights

Many film producers are not conversant with intellectual and ownership rights in place to protect their works. The Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) registers works of artists to prevent anyone from using it without legal authorization from the owner.

Piracy has been a cancer in the Kenyan film industry because many Kenyans illegally distribute the works of artists and producers. With high piracy levels, the returns are low hence the need to obtain a copyright of your work.

The state has put punitive measures to deal with film pirates. When you own a work, selling your rights to a production company or TV network earns you money. The creative industry is billed to become a major contributor to the economy in coming years. At the end of the day, it all boils down to your innovation.

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