Kenya continually loses out on opportunities to be chosen as a filming location for international productions. As we have seen recently, we have even had films such as The Lion King and Eye in the Sky get shot in other countries yet the script location is Kenya. All this happens despite the fact that we have amazing capabilities in terms of cast and crew, and highly coveted wildlife and natural resources. We need to be serious about developing, supporting and marketing ourselves and our nation. These are the things the government needs to do to Make Kenyan Film Great, with a focus on positioning Kenya as a global filming destination.
1. Give film Incentives – The first thing that any producer wants to know in considering a country as a filming location is, ‘Are there operational or financial incentives?’ At the end of the day, filming is business and the lack of these is why Kenya loses out to competitors.
2. Make information about drone filming accessible and uniform – Drone technology is now part and parcel of filmmaking around the world, just like the internet is part of life for any researcher. We make it difficult for serious filmmakers when information on issues such as the use of drones is inaccessible. This information needs to be on official websites so that when international producers ask us of the drone policy in the country, we can point them to such sources. We understand that national security is a legitimate concern, and propose that official information simply demarcates where drones can be used and where they cannot, or what permission may be needed.
3. Loosen the laws around LGBTQ – Some of the recent cases highlighting the banning of Wanuri Kahiu’s film have made Kenya appear to be a restricted draconian society and our competition rides on this. The media attention that accompanied this highlighted the idea of a possible 14-year jail term for LGBTQ acts. These kinds of things make it difficult for us to attract foreign producers and convince them Kenya is the place to film in despite the move being a Kenyan story or having Kenyan themes.
4. Simplify and streamline licenses and permits – Planning finances for filming in Kenya is complicated. Multiple payments are required for one filming location. The same complication is seen in regards to accessing facilities, getting licenses, work permits and visas. For example, in order to film a manyatta in Masai Mara you will have to pay for the following in this order: Owner of the manyatta, fees to the boma, fees to the reserve, fees to the game park (KWS), fees to the county government, a national license from the Kenya Film Classification Board, a special pass at the immigration department for foreigners and visas. These costs can add easily up to over $4,000 to capture one shot and this is not including crew and other logistical expenses. Streamlining regulatory requirements will reduce the cost of doing business in Kenya and make operations easier for filmmakers.
5. Set up a film fund for local content producers
Kenya has talent. Hollywood, Bollywood, and Nollywood are where they are because of investment in local talent. We have the same if not better to offer, and it is unfortunate that funding and subsidies for local productions are virtually non-existent locally. The fact that huge loans and fertilizers can be given to farmers means that the same can also be extended to filmmakers. We also need to get away to ensure that broadcasters pay better rates for local content because the paltry amounts they pay creates a cycle of mediocre productions which Kenyans then refer to and take no interest in and continue saying that local content is second rate.
Martin Munyua is an award-winning director. He has over 20 years’ experience in film and TV as a cinematographer and director for commercials, feature films, dramas, and music videos. He is Currently the chair of Kenya Film and Television Professionals Association (KFTPA).