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Regulation in the Kenyan Film Industry: The Way Forward

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Cap 222 gives all the creative powers of filmmaking to the Kenya Film Classification Board. Studios can only produce what KFCB allows them to, which is a serious undercutting of creative freedom. Click To Tweet

In my last two articles, I talked about Cap 222 and its impact on the Kenya film industry. How this rule conspires, in hardly perceptible ways, to rob the Kenya film industry of creative vigour and new talent. Even with all the goodwill of the board to promote local filmmaking, Cap 222 makes all the effort moot.

Filmmaking is just like any other economic activity in that private efforts best advance the industry. If Kenyan film is to grow to its highest potential, it will be through studio competition. The studio is the bastion of growth in filmmaking. It’s where all the great ideas are conceived, nurtured, and developed. 

However, Cap 222 gives all the creative powers of filmmaking to the Kenya Film Classification Board. Studios can only produce what KFCB allows them to, which is a serious undercutting of creative freedom.    

Give film studios freedom of acquisition and development of scripts

No one is saying that the industry should be regulation-free. The Kenya Film Classification Board fulfils an important mandate in ensuring clean content, so this is not an argument for its disbandment either. Simply put, there are better ways to regulate that do not entail monopolizing the creative process of filmmaking.      

Provide  studios with operational guidelines

Rather than requiring the completed script before issuing a film license, the government should adhere to the clapperboard rule; (proposed) title, duration, and producer/director.

Rating should be the last activity in the process before marketing and screening, all of which the KFCB may lord over without affecting the quality of the output.

Avoid needless and disruptive friction with creatives 

The KFCB has the habit of bursting into the scene from time to time, often overshadowing the very creative works they claim to promote. This creates a perception among Kenyans that creatives have some sort of hidden agenda to corrupt morals.

A huge slight for a bunch of nerds with cameras whose only wish in life is to entertain and touch lives. Usually, the storm calms down, but at a cost; Kenya has lost one of it’s most outstanding directors to the ever-welcoming hands of Hollywood. We cannot build our local industry if we keep losing talent to our competitors.

The KFCB should focus on regulating film distribution and exhibition

The Nigeria film industry is the biggest in Africa today. Nigerian filmmakers are not only dominating Netflix playlists, they are taking the whole damn pie. In Comparison, the Nigeria Film Act does not concern itself with film creation at all.

The entirety of film regulation in Nigeria focuses on exhibition and distribution. This leaves the creative community the freedom to create for the market wants. The rewards – their films dominate in the Africa film market, including our very own.

Regulate exhibition and distribution

Any business suffers when the government keeps interfering with its operations and the film industry is no different. Too much policing inhibits creativity.

Focus on attracting investments into the filmmaking industry

There are too many untold stories in Kenya and in Africa, for that matter. Film offers the perfect medium to tell these stories, but we still have a big problem with raising capital. A few years ago (2019) a limited number of Hollywood-controlled cinemas meant filmmakers had limited options for distribution.

With Covid-19 and the cessation of public film exhibition, digital distribution has been growing. The field has been evened-up a little bit. As long as we can make better movies, we can compete with anyone now!   

The prerogative of filmmaking studios

The KFCB has been doing quite a good job of trying to attract new talent to the industry. I just have reservations as to the suitability of a government agency to do this, especially without corresponding studio cooperation in the making of movies.

Film studios need to wake up and smell the coffee. Or rather, wake up to the opportunity at hand. Not only Kenya but the entire East and Central Africa can become a single film market for Swahili/English movies.

Studios run the world of filmmaking simply because they control more of the filmmaking process. This allows for the seamless transition of projects from scripting, shooting, editing, and marketing. They are better placed to take advantage of this opportunity.

Local film equipment

Already, the support industries are developing. For decades, Kenyan filmmakers had to import filmmaking equipment from abroad, but the efforts of one Paul Kihuha, the founder of Pro Tisa Film Equipment, have been changing that. Now Kenyan filmmakers don’t have to import their filming equipment. At the same time, it promotes creative activity at the grassroots.

What will happen to Kenyan filmmaking when Cap 222 is repealed?

Countries that don’t regulate the creation of film have a higher number of film projects launched on average compared to tightly regulated countries. Nigeria and the U.S. regulate distribution, which accounts for the high number of films produced there.

Operating under a less restrictive act, filmmaking will thrive through collaborative efforts. The KFCB can still remain as the moral police of the film industry. But the banning of films should be eliminated. Instead, focus on age restrictions to protect not just our children, but our youth also.

But the editor gets the option to edit the film without having to go through the trouble of getting a revised script approved. Business sense dictates that everyone will want to make GE movies to capture a wider market.

A more profitable industry, more taxes for the government, better quality entertainment for Kenyans, and we get to tell these stories we keep singing about. Repealing Cap 222 is literally a win-win-win-win situation.      

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