For the past decade or so, there has been a renaissance of the film industry in Kenya. Evidence of this is in the increased number of films and production houses, not forgetting the emergence of an alternative ‘industrial model’ of film production and distribution that is known as Riverwood. The government has also set up the Kenya Film Commission to implement policies that will enable growth of the industry.
With internet penetration increasing by the day and a clear trend towards mobile being the king of consumer media devices in Africa, the future seems bright for the Kenyan film industry in terms of market access. Already, investments such as Buni TV are being made into this foray.
So far, industry players have identified that the Riverwood model works, that Kenyans are hungry for locally-produced content and that there is enough local talent for a vibrant industry. Financing is also available, though this still needs some cultivating. However, policy is still at its infancy, with stakeholders not yet engaging as closely as they should in order to build comprehensive policy. Aside from the Kenya Film Commission, the ICT Authority and Ministry of sports, culture and the arts have also worked with film-makers on separate projects as part of the process of creating a national strategy for the creative industry although this was not exclusively focused on film but also looked into other sub-sectors of the creative economy.
One of the missing links in the film policy-making process is the absence of aggregate information about the industry as a whole. Aggregate information is a key element of making good policy because it sheds light on the big picture instead of relying solely on stakeholders’ specialised perspectives. Information that I think would be interesting to have about the Kenyan film industry is:
- Market information: consumer tastes purchasing trends and other consumer insight
- Production information: cost of production, supply chain, bottlenecks
- Talent: number of actors, directors, producers, camera operators, editors etc. and the level of skill for each of the talent groups, including the skill gaps (this would be useful when developing training programmes)
- Marketing and distribution: distribution processes, challenges
With such information, stakeholders would be able to make informed policy that would be more likely to succeed.