PASSING OPPORTUNITIES: THE RIDDLE OF UNUNIFIED FILM ASSOCIATIONS
In late 2013 a task force was commissioned by His Excellency to look into various government agencies and make recommendations that are meant to improve efficiency in their various sectors. The task force recommendations will see the merging of the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO), Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI) and Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) to form what shall be called the Intellectual Property Organization of Kenya (IPOK) which I mention due to the relevance of these body in Entertainment Law space.
As I analysed the recommendations, I noted that the status quo seems to have been maintained in so far as the three film bodies are concerned. Which are: Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), Kenya Film Commission (KFC) and the Department of Film Services (DFS). I was rather surprised that these bodies were not merged yet their roles can be managed under one body and roles departmentalized for efficiency. I may not be direct stakeholder in the film industry but as it is now, it is cumbersome that if one needs assistance of any sort regarding a production they must go to these bodies separately.
Allow me to break down in a nutshell the roles of these bodies for those may not be aware. The KFC has the mandate which includes to market Kenya as a filming destination, advise government and help facilitate funding for film projects. KFCB is tasked with the mandate to regulate the film industry through classification and rating of movies showing in Kenya though there are occasions where they have censored and banned movies which is a point of contention in my view. Then we have DFS which is tasked with the duty of issuing filming licences upon inspecting manuscripts to ensure morality of story lines depicted in submitted scripts conform to Kenyan standards as well as archiving of films and footage from National events including production aspects as well.
When you analyse these roles, don’t you think these are functions that could have been handle by one body? In my humble opinion, I would suggest the establishment of a Kenya Film Agency. A one stop shop for all film related issues.
Well, I did my homework to find out whether there was any form of stakeholders’ meeting that was called or lobbied for. Unfortunately, no lobbying was done. I also got to find out that there were attempts to involve industry players but the efforts we not fruitful due to the numerous associations in place.
Here is the strange thing about the Kenyan film industry that I am yet to understand. We have about four independent associations at the moment. Kenya National Film Association (KNFA) , Kenya Film & Television Producers Association (KFTPA), Third Force and Riverwood Coalition. As well as an upcoming Scriptwriters Guild. Mmmmh, does that not sound like a mouthful and confusing?
It has been explained to me before that these associations represent different sector players in film industry and when you dissect how our industry operates, one can possibly argue for the need of all these associations. However, I feel it is imperative that they all form an umbrella body to handle unifying matters like lobbying and industry participation. The umbrella body could constitute of elected representatives from each of these bodies. Last year I did hear of such a development being explored but I am yet to know whether anything has since materialized.
Unfortunately for us, as we continue to drown in our confusion and what is seen as rivalry, some of the crucial policy and development forums and meetings are passing us by. The industry is missing out on influencing the structure and foundation development to help the budding industry. I am not sure whether it is too late to make recommendations for a one-stop shop to be created for the film industry.This question has gone unanswered. However, it is now up to the film stakeholders to stand up and be counted. There is no time like the present to influence sanity and structure in the industry.
In my view, it is doable, but only if all parties work together. The Associations need to get organized. It is time we stopped politicizing the film space and start forging collaborative efforts to make the industry as lucrative as it should be. While we are busy playing politics, the rest of Africa is moving in great strides. In Nigeria, Nollywood is already contributing to its economy and has become a very reputable industry.
KNFA, KFTPA, Third Force, Riverwood Coalition and Scriptwriters Guild, let’s get cracking. We all know the power in numbers. We need to sign the same song and be on the same page as one industry. These are the crucial moments for our industry. With a President who understands and appreciates the creative arts let us help him help us before the window closes.
Don’t let these opportunities pass the film industry by!!!