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The future is bright for film industry in Kenya
INTERVIEW: LIZ LENJO
Q: Tell us about yourself and your
relationship with the creative industry
in Kenya.
A: I am an Advocate of the High Court of
Kenya and Managing Partner of Kikao
Law; a boutique legal services firm that
specializes in intellectual property law,
entertainment law, sports law, media
law and fashion law. I knew intellec
-
tual property law was my calling after
my brief stint in my university days as a
model, musician and actress. During this
stint, I experienced firsthand the legal
challenges in the industry.
I have always had a passion for the
creative industry and I knew if I was not
going to be in the celebrity game, I would
be a supporting force behind the celeb
-
rity culture.
Q: Why did you chose to be an IP lawyer
and what has been your experience deal
-
ing with creatives?
A: The creative industry is very lucrative.
However, the problem lies with the cul
-
ture of ignorance that has been cultivated;
luckily it is slowly changing. The money
in the creative industry unfortunately is
exploited by “smart” businessmen. The
creatives themselves have always been at
a point of disadvantage due to the lack of
knowledge and perceived lack of capac
-
ity to pursue their legal rights. This is
what prompted me to keenly focus on the
creative economy and empower creatives
and creative enterprises on their legal
rights and how to protect and manage
their talent for profit.
Q: As an IP Law expert, what do you think
is the future of Kenyan film industry?
A: With the development of new media,
the possibilities are endless. However,
it calls for creativity and spontaneity
because of how disruptive the internet is
for the film industry. For example, film
distribution companies are slowly run
-
ning out of business because the internet
has cut them off as a point of supply.
The dynamism in technological
advancements is a vital focal point for
stakeholders. The power to anticipate
what can be and could be is important
so that relevant business models can be
formulated in good time to successfully
seize such opportunities as and when
they arrive.
Q: What, in your opinion, are some of
the challenges facing this industry?
A: The greatest challenge facing our film
industry is the lack of communication
and collective action among stakehold
-
ers. The industry is driven by self-inter-
ests which is working to all stakeholders’
detriment. There is great need for stan
-
dardization of practices in the film indus-
try and a dire need for strong associations
that speak collectively. There is strength
in numbers but also the numbers need
to speak with one voice. That is the best
way to create standards in our budding
industry.
In addition, the associations need to
embrace working with professionals who
are experts in different fields to help grow
the industry to the next level. I believe
we need to borrow a leaf from Hollywood
institutions. The associations and guilds
in Kenya are not solely run by the rel
-
evant stakeholders.
Q: What opportunities are there in the
film industry?
A: With the new programming code by
Communications Authority of Kenya,
content is King. This is further supported
by internet penetration and usage. The
opportunities are immense especially
for the youth. Technology has made
content creation quite afford
-
able. One can simply shoot
a documentary or film from
their mobile devices, package
it and distribute it for profit at
very minimal costs.
The opportunities are more
on the digital platforms and
the possibility to distribute
content to an interna
-
tional audience is also
quite easy and fast
with the internet.
Animation and
children’s content
has huge poten
-
tial too. We do not
have as much content
geared towards chil
-
dren as we should. We
also need animations
that tell Kenyan stories. I am aware of
how expensive it is to put together an
animation, but we need to push it more.
Q: How can these opportunities be
exploited for the benefit of the creatives
in the film industry?
A: We need to cultivate the self-love in
our industry and have confidence in our
content. Only then shall we be able to
seize these opportunities and turn them
into income and profit.
Q: How can filmmakers earn a living
from the film industry?
A:
This can be done through licens-
ing and assignments. A good filmmaker
should be able to identify opportuni
-
ties where it is more lucrative to sell
their content and where it is lucrative
to licence it out. A licence is based on
periods of time and one can make money
from the same content from various
sources and territories at the same time
while an assignment traditionally con
-
stitutes a total sale and transfer in the
intellectual property and a once of pay
-
ment. It is always important for a film-
maker to retain the services of an intel-
lectual property lawyer to help them
with such decisions and also be their
legal eye when reviewing agreements
relating to their content.
Q: How can county governments play a
part in development of the film industry
in Kenya so as to create employment
for the youths?
A: County governments need to get
creative and develop film policies
at the county level. It would be a
good idea to develop incentives that
attract film makers to shoot and
produce films by leverag
-
ing their strengths. One
good example would be
to enforce rules where
a production company
would be compelled
to hire some county
inhabitants to work
on film sets to foster
knowledge and skills
transfer in exchange
for discounted loca
-
tion rates.