Friday, November 30, 2012

Filmmaking Connections- Five (actually, Six) Networks for Kenyan Filmmakers

I know someone that wants to be an actress. She has experience acting in high school plays and a little bit in church- she killed it as Mother Mary in an Easter play one year. She attends auditions whenever she hears about them, but she has never landed a role on screen. Three years of running the audition circuit, and she gave up the idea of being an actress- why? "This industry runs by connections- people that don't have connections never get anywhere." Well... In my experience, she's right. 

OK, truth is, the afore-described is not an actual person that I know, but a hypothetical example... However!  I know that the experience of my hypothetical aspiring actress is relevant and applicable to many people out there

 Most entertainment-based industries rely on knowing people that know people- that's just how things happen. It's important then, for anyone that wants to be involved in the film or TV industry in Kenya, to get in on some of those 'connections'. Most casting auditions, job openings and other events are never announced on mass media, so if you don't know the right people and they don't know you, well... Before I ever got any experience in filmmaking or TV, I attended the Lola Kenya Screen Film Festival; I met some people that have the same ideas as I do about making movies in Kenya, and those were the first 'connections' that I made in this industry. Through Lola I got exposed to other networks, including Maisha Film Lab (which is where I got my first screenwriting mentorship). Because Beth at Lola knew that I wanted to write movies, so she would call me if anything relevant came up. Because I attended Maisha Screenwriters' Lab, I got onto their mailing list so I would get information that was relevant to what I was trying to do. Because I posted on the Kenya Film Commission Facebook page, I got to meet Mwaniki Mageria, a distributor working on getting some local broadcasters interested in Kenyan movies... Connections are good, if only you'd get in on them! 

So in that case,  because I want my blog to be relevant now, I've prepared a list (in no particular order) of networks that are easily accessible for Kenyan filmmakers. This is especially for aspiring filmmakers that don't know where to start with your big dreams- these are the networks that helped me get more involved with the Kenyan filmmaking scene:

1. Lola Kenya Screen:

Lola is based in Nairobi, and their tagline is 'Keeping films for children and the youth in focus'. The have a training program for young filmmakers, so if you know a young'un that might be interested in making movies, they'll know what to do :) Lola hold an annual film festival, and it's always good-times, so even if you're not in Nairobi, you can plan to attend it. Apart from that, they have the Lola Kenya Screen Film Forums held every month at Goethe Institut- basically, they screen movies and invite the people that made the movies to answer questions and give information about their movie and the process of making it. Cool things, ya!? Ya! Check out

This is an online community, primarily of actors, but very relevant to anyone in the film and TV industry. Their website and Facebook page are constantly updated, so it's a great source of information on the industry goings-on. It's awesome also that they post articles targeted at helping actors to improve their skills, land roles and generally grow in the industry. Any aspiring actors, this page is a must!  Even if you're not an actor, should be on your web browser 'Bookmarks' list. 

3. FilmBiz Africa & FilmKenya Magazine:
I've put these together because they're both print magazines based on the African film and production world. Absolutely must-reads for filmmakers, so be sure to pick up a copy if you can- they're widely distributed, so you should be able to get one if you're near a major town in Kenya. You can join their communities on social media- Facebook and Twitter, and you'll benefit from the updates and connections that you'll find there! 


4. Daystar Filmmakers:
This group started as a community of filmmaker that are students (or alumni) of Daystar University in Kenya, but today it hosts many people that are not linked to Daystar at all- everyone with a passion for filmmaking is welcome. Just like, FilmBiz Africa and Film Kenya, the Daystar Filmmakers family on Facebook shares information regarding auditions, job openings, movie screenings, skill-development- anything relevant to aspiring and working filmmakers and TV content producers.

5. Movie Jabber:
This one is a movie enthusiast's hang-out forum based on the Facebook Group 'Movie Jabber'. "What are you watching?" That's the question that people answer there, and it's always fun to discuss movies and series. As a filmmaker, this page is invaluable in keeping up with what different audiences are enjoying, what people are hating- what works and what doesn't, for different audiences. The beauty of this network is that every month, people meet up and go to the cinemas and catch a movie together. Again, this meet-up is currently based in Nairobi For me, Movie Jabber brought back the cinema culture- Ibefore I went for a movie with 'Team Jabber', I hadn't been in a cinema for probably two years... (o.o) Go to, or join the Facebook Group.

For screenwriters, it's imperative that you check out John August's blog and podcast at Absolutely invaluable. A lot of the infoamtion is based on the American film industry, but there is a lot to learn to to relate to on John August's blog.