Yesterday I came to learn and appreciate why Hollywood prefers South Africa to Kenya for filming. It goes beyond Government support or even the cost of shooting a scene. Actually Hollywood would prefer to spend a lot more in South Africa instead of shoot a film in Kenya because of the following:
1. A well structured film industry in South Africa.
2. Variety of readily available filming locations. In Kenya we have locations that are great for films but those behind the locations don’t even know that the locations can be used for filming. When you identify a location, you still need to do a lot of explaining to the location owner before they can allow you to shoot a film at their location – and sometimes they deny you from filming altogether. I for example was once denied a location because the location owner understood filmmaking to be the same thing as shooting porn.
3. A well connected talent network. Casting Directors in South Africa can get you any type of talent you need for your film after one simple phone call. It’s not so easy to get the exact talent for a particular role in Kenya. It’s not that talent isn’t available, but getting them is such a hell of work.
4. High end equipment and studios are easily accessible in South Africa, but not so in Kenya. I for example I seem unable to get a studio with proper equipment for a feature I am working. Germany and South Africa have become constant references for those equipment.
So next time Hollywood bypasses Kenya for South Africa, even for Kenyan scenes or themed films like Eye in the Sky, know that it is because they’d rather work in a country that has made it so easy to film, than spend a little less but waste time trying to get things moving.
The Kenyan film industry is yet to be professional enough. Filmmakers like myself still prefer shortcuts, and stakeholders in the country still do not want to invest properly to attract high quality film investors.
Maybe some of our studios need to consolidate so that they have the muscle to create an environment that is properly structured for filmmaking.