Film Fund: Can it save the struggling industry?

Wednesday October 30 2013

Martin has had a long and successful career in the Kenyan film industry both on the big screen and television and is currently the managing director of Dreamcatcher productions. Some of the titles he is credited for are Malooned and Rugged Priest.

Martin has had a long and successful career in the Kenyan film industry both on the big screen and television and is currently the managing director of Dreamcatcher productions. Some of the titles he is credited for are Malooned and Rugged Priest. Photo/FILE 

By PHILIP MWANIKI
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When it comes to entertainment, the film industry feels like an unwanted child since the music and TV sectors seem to be doing far much better.

Yet, according to a study commissioned by the Kenya Film Commission in 2007, the local film industry has the potential of earning the country up to Sh60 billion annually and generating thousands of new jobs. Reports have it that the sector added more than three per cent to the GDP between 2009 and 2010.

Yet despite this mega potential, it is grossly neglected and only produces one good film almost once every four years. For far too long, film stakeholders have been asking for the government’s help.

After years of crying and begging, the government may have finally bowed to pressure and through the Youth Enterprise Development Fund launched a Sh300 million loan facility for filmmakers dubbed “Take 254” targeting young and upcoming players in the industry.

“The fund provides working capital for young filmmakers and will be for pre-production, production and post-production.

“Young Kenyans aged 18-34 years may apply as individuals, registered groups, partnerships and companies,” reads part of a statement from its website.

The film fund board is made up of 13 members drawn from the industry led by acclaimed film director/producer Bob Nyanja, who is the Chairman. Catherine Muigai is the Vice-chair and Wambui Kairo is the fund’s secretary.

Others are director/producer Benjamin Odiwour, actor Juma Williams, Performers Rights Society of Kenya CEO Angela Ndambuki, producer/director and writer Jane Murago Munene, creative business expert David Mureithi, producer Alison Ngibuini, Riverwood film distributor John Karani, director of photography Martin Munyua, producer Linda Karuru-Asseko and producer Ezekiel Onyango.

The fund has a staff of four and two board members of Youth Enterprise Development Fund.

300 MILLION MAY NOT BE ENOUGH

Nyanja says that while Sh300 million may not be enough, it is a step in the right direction as it proves the government is showing its commitment to the arts.

Bob Nyanja, Director.

Bob Nyanja, Director. Photo/FILE

“We have to start from somewhere and this is a very good start. The success of this initial fund will go a long way to ensure the government puts in a lot more moving forward,” he said.

Nyanja, who is one of the country’s best filmmakers having worked on The Rugged Priest and Malooned, says that the fund will give filmmakers with great ideas the chance to turn their ideas into blockbuster films.

“This is the time for the Kenyan story to finally come out and be told by Kenyans; it’s time to own our narrative,” he says. “For the longest time we have had other people tell our stories, but with this fund, any competent filmmaker can now do it.”

Nyanja is the man who revolutionalised Kenyan comedy when he introduced comedy trio Redykyulass to Kenyan TV. He was also the man originally behind Churchill Live.

The renowned filmmaker says that if such a fund was available when he was starting out, he would have greatly benefitted from it.

“I would be further than I am today if we had a film fund when I was launching my career. We had to struggle looking for people to fund our productions and that has always been the industry’s Achilles heels,” he says.

“It is not right that even at my level, I can only produce a film every two or three years. I should be doing at least one movie a year and I can bet many of my peers would want to do the same.”

Ten per cent of the Sh300 million will go towards the administration costs, which leaves Sh270 million to be offered to filmmakers.

ADMINISTRATION COSTS

“Our administration costs will never go past 10 per cent,” he says.

The highest and maximum loan amount will be Sh25 million and the lowest will be Sh500,000.

“You can get the maximum loan of Sh25 million, or the medium loan which is between Sh5-15 million and the lowest is Sh500,000 to Sh5 million.”

To be eligible for the loan, one must have a registered company, and have a minimum of three people — the director, producer and scriptwriter.

For companies, groups and partnerships, membership composition must be at least 70 per cent youth (18-34 years).

“We don’t want the script at first, we want a synopsis, which must be a maximum of 200 words, and treatment which should not exceed 100 words. Here, we can get the gist of the idea and tell if it is worth the loan or not,” says Nyanja.

There will be a vetting process that will take four weeks and then the shortlisted candidates will be announced.

People can send in their applications to the Youth Fund website or send to the Youth Enterprise Development Fund offices.

“The project must be completed in four months and we have guidelines that dictate how actors should be paid to avoid exploitation,” says Nyanja. “We will not dictate how much an actor should be paid but there are amounts you cannot pay someone and we will ensure people are well compensated.”

Serah Ndanu ,one of the main acts in the movie 'The Rugged Priest' during the movie's premier at the Junction.

Serah Ndanu ,one of the main acts in the movie 'The Rugged Priest' during the movie's premier at the Junction. Photo/ELVIS OGINA

As with every loan, the money has to be repaid and the maximum repayment period is six years. According to Nyanja, the money will be expected to come from the sales of the movies.

“We expect payments from whatever one makes as profit beyond the loaned amount and an annual interest rate of 8 per cent. Of course we will need security, which can be land, property, or your car so that we can be assured of recouping the money,” he says.

WILL NOT STOP AT FILM LOAN

Nyanja explains that the government will not stop at the film loan but will ensure that it creates a good marketing and distribution platform that will help filmmakers get people to watch their productions.

“Kenya has 30 movie screens countrywide and we want to ensure that every film will be on at least half of all those screens,” he says.

“We know Kenyans love to watch Kenyan-made movies as was the case with Nairobi Half Life and we also want to ensure we have a marketing platform that will help the producers advertise their movies and also sell them. All these Sh50 DVD shops are a sign that people buy movies so we can use them to sell Kenyan films.”

But can the Film Fund Loan Board be trusted to be transparent and ensure that the Sh300 million will be spent on movies?

“We all want to leave a legacy in this industry and we know the pain of being a Kenyan filmmaker. We are committed and want to be referred to as the
people who helped revive the Kenyan film industry,” says Nyanja, adding that nobody in the board is eligible for the film fund loan.