Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hey look, a target! Let’s shoot it!

The film industry is not about making movies- it’s about selling them. Most of the best Kenyan filmmakers, however, are much better at making movies than they are at selling them. There are many amazing Kenyan movies that have never made any significant profits- save for the wondrously astounding Riverwood movies showing on Kiss TV... No, that is not appreciation for their ‘support of the local industry’.  

Generally, it is hard to make money selling Kenyan movies in Kenya- the business of film is tight here, and I realize that with the new budget and taxes on landlords and what not, I will soon need more paper than just my scripts. I took a business management class last year, and since I’m an 8-4-4 student, I forgot most of the course content soon after- but thankfully, I kept my notebook, and will use it as my first reference as I try to learn about selling movies. One of the things that we were taught is the importance of identifying a target market. This falls right in line with the idea of producing media content for a specific target audience. 
If you’re new to the idea of target-what-nots, I’m not going to type my notes here for you- you have Google- read for yourself!

Targeting Kenyans:
It is hard to sell anything in Kenya because most of us are broke. But if Rufftone can sell Vita500 then damn it, I can sell a movie!
There are many factors involved in identifying a target audience and establishing a niche in their consumption of media content, but I broke it down in it the best way that I learned from 8-4-4: Urban vs. Peri-urban vs. Rural
(The 'peri-urban' one wasn't taught in 8-4-4, I discovered it independently [wink]) 

Urban 254– Nairobians
Kenya has three cities: Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa. However, Nairobi is the most cosmopolitan, with the most hoity-toity Kenyans. As a Nairobian, this is my most comfortable target and the main productions that I have done so far have been stories targeted at urban youth; stories about people much like myself. From my experience, I say targeting this audience is like trying not to think about a white rabbit as you read this sentence about not thinking about a white rabbit. Pointless and most likely futile.
With American movies and series selling for Ksh.40 in town and in most neighborhoods, Nairobi is basically a ‘Hollywood stronghold.’ While Kenyan movie premieres on Saturday night, most of Nairobi is at home watching the news, in a bar drinking and smoking, on the phone arguing with a girlfriend, or on Facebook/2Go flirting with someone they've never met. If they’re at the movies, they’re watching a Hollywood blockbuster at iMax. They are averse to Kenyan movies (thanks, Kiss TV with the wondrously astounding Kenyan flicks for that!), and would only watch if their cousin acted in it.
Upper-class and middle-class Nairobians aren't actively supportive of local productions... No, Camp Mulla videos do not count as local productions. 

Lower-class Nairobians are a much better target than the middle-class and upper-class, because they are less indulged in Western ideals. They still present a tricky audience to capture, since they have more urgent things to buy with their money than movies, like fuel, water and Blue-Band sachets.

Peri-urban 254: Small-towners
These people live in the middle, and are not too westernized but not shady either. Peri-urban Kenyans are more receptive than urbanites to variety, and are not too fixated on Hollywood and Western media. This is where ‘Riverwood’ filmmakers begin to make their money, I hear…

Rural 254 – The Masses
This is a tricky target audience, because rural life generally doesn’t offer much space for movies and entertainment.
If your ocha is in Central Kenya, you’ll probably be defensive and demand to know who told me that ocha has to be backward. Speak not until you have spent some days in the remote Kenyan ochas in Western, Eastern, North Eastern, Nyanza, the Coast e.t.c. Places with no electricity, where the older people still think that Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi is still president because he’s still on the money, and the younger people are too busy getting pregnant to care what Korean Air said about the indigenous people with primitive energy. I mean, places where nobody listens to Classic 105 in the morning, imagine that! 

I would love to make content for this audience, and I plan to, once I have enough research down to make a good movie. Unfortunately many rural folk are struggling economically so targeting this audience is almost as disappointing as targeting the uppity urban unsupportives.

Hey look, a target! Let’s shoot it!
As a filmmaker, it is important to identify which audience you want to target with a film, so that you can tailor the film and its marketing to this audience. Specific targeting has worked in various aspects of business, and film production is no different.

For me, the peri-urban target audience is probably the most viable and I see it as one that could very effectively influence other audiences in Kenya; Nairobian-ism is a young culture that is easily influenced; where others go, it follows. It is keen on trends, and if there is a buzz around something worthwhile, it soon catches on in Nairobi… Except for condom shoes, nobody knows where those came from... If there are good movies creating a buzz in the peri-urban circles, chances are that the urban will pay attention. 

Blue Band sachet: