By Daisy Nandeche Okoti
Published July 31, 2015
Movie-making is much more than just shooting with a camera and editing the footage on a PC. An ‘industry’ is the sum total of different but inter-connected things working together as a single unit, a system.
Those were the words of Ogova Ondego, a media and information literacy specialist, during the 88th monthly Lola Kenya Screen film forum (LKSff) at Goethe-Institut, Nairobi, on July 27, 2015.
Ondego, who spoke during the five-minute ‘Expert Speak’ segment of the programme, said movie-makers were selling themselves short by failing to package themselves and their work professionally. Lack of Curriculum Vitae and Motivation; not labeling their DVDs/SDs well; not adhering to deadlines; careless sub-titling or not even sub-titling films; failing to follow instructions when submitting films for competitions and festivals; not providing promotional material such as photos and trailers, profiles of key crew and cast members, and general indiscipline were some of the shortcomings Ondego identified as some of the factors hindering eastern Africa from transforming its movie sector into an industry.
LETTERS HOME, a nine-minute film that tells the story of a young woman who lives dangerously in Nairobi city while portraying a very perfect picture of herself to her grandfather in the village, was screened and discussed.
LETTERS HOME is directed by Brian Munene and produced by Likarion Wainaina, both of Kibanda Pictures.
The director, who said he ‘works mainly as a writer’, said he decided to direct the film after he fell in love with the script that was written by Wainaina who was to later team up with him as produce.
“I felt that the story was something that really needed to be told. I wanted to show that Kenyans have their own stories and we can tell them ourselves,” Munene said. “Kenyan films do not necessarily have to centre on crime or drugs to sell. Kenya has many yet-to-be told stories that can be told with the uniqueness which only our own filmmakers can since they are a part of the society in which these stories unfold.”
Responding to a question from Dim King’oo, an actor at Phoenix Players of Nairobi on the challenges that “continue to bog down filmmakers in Kenya in the area of story delivery”, Munene said writers must adhere to the dramatic structure employed even by Aristotle in their scripting.
“The audience needs to identify with the protagonist’s goal in order to make sense of the antagonist. When a writer fails to adhere to the basic drama structure, the resulting work based on that faulty script is likely to be problematic. The audience needs to understand what the conflict in a story is. Most Kenyan scriptwriters ignore the basic story structure and this is where the problem is,” Munene said.
Though insisting on having a well told story as the key to the success of a film, however, Munene said he does not underestimate the importance of a good director’s eye in interpreting the story and transforming it into a film.
“My choice of Likarion Wainaina as my cinematographer was informed by his experience in film directing as well as cinematography. I knew I could count on him to provide guidance during the project,” Munene said.
Likarion Wainaina’s works as a director and cinematographer—BEFORE AND AFTER, MY FAITH, THE AUDITION—have been previously featured at LKSff.
Lawrence Makaya, who identified himself as a film director and producer, asked the director how he managed to bring on board some of the best actors in the country.
“Did you know the characters that you wanted as you developed the story or did you finish first and then look for cast?,” Makaya asked.
“I sent my script to the people I was interested in working with and the response was overwhelming. I had them on board and the shoot began. I must mention that I was a bit skeptical when I approached Raymond Ofula because I thought that he would not be interested because mine was a small production,” Brian Munene said. “Filmmakers should not be afraid to approach the people they want to work with because of their high profile. The worst that can happen is for them to say no.”
Ashford Kirimi, an actor, asked how much money was spent on making LETTERS HOME.
“I got the equipment for free and the location for free as well. With the profile of actors I was working with, I doubt I would have been able to pay them,” said Munene. “Someone tipped me off about an organization where I could get film equipment from if they liked my script. I approached them and they said yes.”
Brian Munene’s words underscore the importance of filmmakers working within networks.
“Filmmakers in Kenya should not struggle to do things on their own as this could be one of the things that continue to hinder their growth. You will be surprised at how many people out there are willing to help you if you simply speak up,” said Munene.
On the vision they have for the film, the director said they are making two more short films to be put on the same DVD with LETTERS HOME.
“We are tapping into film festivals, film awards and platforms like Lola Kenya Screen for exhibition and possible advancement,” Munene said.
Also screened but not discussed were MAXI’S WORDS animation by Galen Fott and Jerry Hunt of USA and TRUCK MAMA documentary trailer by Zipporah Nyaruri.
The Discussion Moderator was Bridget Mutua, a budding actress.
Meanwhile LKSff, whose next meeting, the 89th, is on September 28, 2015, invites knowleageable and experienced practitioners working in any area connected with the movie sector–cinematographers, production designers, casting directors, critics, actors, screenwriters, event organisers & presenters, distributors, policymakers & implementers, trainers—in Kenya, to register their interest in being considered for the five-minute ‘Expert Speak’ segment that enables practitioners to talk about their work during the forum.
LKSff is also looking for short films (maximum 30 minutes!) from eastern Africa for screening and discussion. Interested practitioners may contact LKSff through lolakenyascreenorg(at)gmail(dot)com.