By Ogova Ondego
Published June 24, 2013
Quality, quantity, identity and commercial viability are some of the issues expected to raise temperatures at the 67th monthly Lola Kenya Screen film screening, discussion and networking forum in Nairobi, Kenya on June 24, 2013. In focus at the meeting that is scheduled for 6.00PM at Goethe-Institut shall be an experimental film initiative called Jitu Films that sought to produce an avalanche of straight-to-video full length popular motion pictures that could be sold at incredibly low prices resulting from the economy of scale of production. It produced about 25 films in less than 12 months before it took a break.
Though Alexandros Konstantaras, one of the innovators of Jitu Films says “Jitu had created an almost perfect environment to create and shoot films in a fortnight,” Charles Kimilu of Jamhuri Film and TV Training School feels that quality rather than quantity should be the guiding principle in filmmaking. He argues that making as many as 20 films in a year would result in low quality productions.
Cajetan Boy of Et Cetera Productions shares Kimilu’s sentiments. A specialist in scripting, Boy poses, “Are you using already worked on scripts? Do you have a well oiled production team? What kind of quality are you aiming for?”
Kimilu chimes in, “I will not make movies because of the standards you set for me. I will continue making movies with the knowledge that each production will be better than the previous one. A step at a time and I will get there.”
Charles Omondi of Kenyan Movies had set the ball rolling when he said in May 2013 that he is going to make 20 films by the end of 2013; he has already made five and has to make 15 more in six months for his goal to be achieved. That means he has to make at least one full length film per fortnight.
Is it possible to make 25 full length films in 12 months?
“Yes,”Konstantaras says. “If you have a couple of full time committed editors you can do it. My question still is: what are you going to do with this content? Making content without having somewhere to sell or distribute it is almost pointless. So unless there is a proper sales plan (which I am more than happy to hear and follow) then you end up creating numbers without taking numbers back. Yes, let’s create content but not without a proper business plan.”
Konstantaras explains, “The big problem with Jitu Films was that there was no legal distribution way of selling these movies and by trying to create one they ended up losing more money than they invested in the productions. Everything is possible under the right circumstances. And at the moment the right circumstances are still a work in progress in Kenya.”
What else did Jitu Films fail to do?
“Jitu didnt do their research well enough when it comes to distribution. We believed a couple of down town conmen and we ended up having thousands of DVDs and no legal distribution line. So we had to create one for ourselves through the supermarket. But the cost in the end (to keep this distribution line alive) was much bigger than the investment made in production. Now Jitu is on hold till something changes. I believe Jitu had a vision but was much ahead of their time. I still believe that they will revive when the time is ready,” Konstantaras says.
Cajetan Boy wonders how a sector that describes itself as an ‘industry’ can make only two or three films in a year: “Considering the number of cameras in this country, the number of “producers”, “writers”, “directors”, “actors”, “editors”, and “schools” , why is it that we can only produce 3-4 movies annually . . .collectively?”
“My worry is that we are not learning from other people’s efforts and/or mistakes,” Konstantaras says. “Everyone tries alone wanting to become a pioneer, without consulting, asking, researching from fellow filmmakers in order to improve. Unfortunately most of these efforts go down the drain because they come across the same problems that were never sorted out.”
It is great to make films but it is even greater to know the reason for creating moving images. It is an art, yes. But it should also put ugali, sukuma wiki and ugali on the table. The Jitu Films model is a great one to learn from. It is important to talk about/discuss/debate issues of common interest before proceeding with action; some call it research, baseline survey or calculating the cost of a project before implementing it.
It is expected that LKSff, a specialised platform for practitioners in the eastern Africa audiovisual media sector, shall continue to help in setting standards by providing the platform on which stakeholders critique, encourage and explore ways of integrating film production in Kenya and eastern Africa with other socio-cultural and economic sectors in order to come up with a vibrant film industry.
Since 2005, LKSff–the initiative of ComMattersKenya/ArtMatters.Info in conjunction with Goethe-Institut that is held every last Monday of the month throughout the year–has been one of the first places where new films can be seen and new talent spotted.
LKSff is part of the Lola Kenya Screen (LKS) audiovisual media festival, skill-development programme and marketing platform for children and youth in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa region.