Kenya Growing As a Movie Production Destination – Kenya Film Commission

Kenya has been losing out to South Africa as a filming location for movies with an African setting or about a Kenyan story. On the other hand, Nigerian films dominate the airtime in local channels, a fact that begs the question, why is the local film industry not fairing as well? The Star’s Lola Okulo recently interviewed Kenya Film Commission CEO Lizzie Chongoti on the role of KFC in addressing these challenges and promoting the local film industry.

What is the process for a foreign film company to shoot a movie in Kenya. How many licences do they need to acquire?

Actually it is very easy to shoot films in Kenya. You fill an application form for a licence which is one or two pages depending on the type of production. If it is a documentary or short series you pay Sh5,000 and get a licence within a day. If it is feature film you pay 15,000 and can get a licence with hours. All you have to do for all film production applications is to indicate which filming agents you are using, budget, location, details of the crew that you will have. Licence processing is done at the department of film services which is under the Ministry of sports, culture and national heritage housed at KIMC (Kenya Institute of Mass Communication) in South B.

How much does the industry generate on average annually?

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics has not gotten into formal statistics gathering for the film industry yet. However i can conservatively say around Sh3 billion per annum directly mostly from licences and classification jobs which are done by the Kenya Film Classification board. A lot of the indirect revenue generated by the film industry is not captured at the moment such as accommodation and travel expenditure by film crews. The industry has a potential of ane stimated Sh40 billion revenue annually and has the capacity to create 250,000 jobs annually if supported.

How much will it cost compared to say South Africa that gets most of African – set movies? For example, Good Lie movie had its Kakuma scenes shot in South Africa? Why?

It does not mean that every time a film is shot in South Africa that there is something wrong with Kenya. At the end of the day its a business decision. For example one of the recently shot films had a scene for Kakuma refugee camp. But it is difficult and expensive to shoot in a refugee camp hence opting for a different location whereby the film makers can simulate that setting. Not all films will be shot in Kenya anyway. That said, South Africa has good rebates which is true. Dubai and Morocco offer no tax rebates but waive fees such as immigration and park fees. If we have a good comprehensive film package, we shall be able to drive traffic here. However we know there is a need to have an incentive package to boost the industry. There are discussions ongoing with Treasury. We want to give something that is globally competitive.

KFC attends most of the Cannes Film festivals. How do they help in selling Kenya as a location?

The more festivals you screen your films in the better for your country. Kenya participates in a number of festivals not just Cannes.For the Cannes Film Festival we have also partnered with the French embassy which has sponsored several of our film makers to attend the festival. It exposes them to great opportunities in the industry.

Recently we participated in Association of Film Commissioners International festival. All film commissions in the world are invited for this event and it is held specifically to market locations.

We have also sent delegations to the American Film Market which focuses on content and is a platform where content buyers and film makers get a chance to pitch content to investors.

What plans does KFC have this year to promote the industry?

In October we plan to host the first international film and TV festival and market which will culminate will be under the Kalasha brand and culminate in the annual awards. With digital migration taking shape and over 100 free-to-air channels now available we are required to help the country achieve the 60 per cent local content among broadcasters. KFC is acting as a catalyst because there is suddenly a huge demand for content. We want to make Kenya the place to go when broadcasters are in search for content.

We shall invite top film makers across the world. It is not going to be just a regular festival but a business opportunity for players in the local film market. We shall also invite equipment distributors to showcase their products.

KFC is also working on plans to campaign for the Good Pitch event to be held in Kenya in 2016. Good Pitch is a forum that brings together film financiers and this year it was held in Norway. If we manage to have it hosted in Kenya, it would provide a wonderful opportunity to unlock sleepy funds that are idle elsewhere.

Also because we do not have a one-stop shop for permits you find film makers have to go to different agencies to get their licences before shooting such as county offices, Kenya Wildlife Service (if they need a scene shot inside a national or game park), immigration to get work permits, Kenya Revenue Authority for approvals to bring in equipment where they are charged Sh30,000 for temporary importation of equipment or one per cent of the value of the equipment, whichever is lower.

What are the problems KFC faces in its work of promotion and regulation of the local film industry?

We could do with more resources because we don’t have too many revenue generation streams as a commission. We could also be well placed if there was a film fund to create a film market and to help improve quality of works by Kenyans in this field. Film markets need to be well resourced.

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