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EA films to make money using Internet, DVDs

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Some of the  actors in the film that is expected to be Africa's 'Slum dog'.

Some of the actors in the film that is expected to be Africa's 'Slum dog'. 

By Bamuturaki Musinguzi

Posted  Sunday, January 15  2012 at  12:00
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Film makers in the region who converged in Kampala for the 8th Annual Congress on East African Cinema explored the possibility of exploiting the Internet, film training initiatives, alternative means of fundraising and distribution including the networks of the film pirates as some of the means to propel the industry forward.

The congress, held during the Amakula Kampala Cinema Caravan Festival from December 14–17 2011, focused on how to leverage the East African Common Market for cinema.

This is against the background of a 130 million strong population in East Africa that not only offers a potential market for film consumption but also reveals the multitude of stories that can be told cinematically across the varied cultural tapestry of the five member nations: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Summarising the current state of the industry, Prof Martin R. Mhando, a Tanzanian filmmaker, said: “Cinema is dead in Africa because no one goes to the theatre anymore. Maybe a few members of the elite class watch films in theatres, but the cinema market does not make much money like it did in the 1960s–80s. We can’t sell in Africa and yet our market is here at home.”

“We need to identify our target audience. We may not get them in the cinema hall, but we should make the products that they actually want and these could be DVDs, television, makeshift video halls or via YouTube,” noted Charles Asiba, chief executive and festival director of the Kenya International Film Festival.

Asiba, who is also the director of the Kenya Film Commission, added that: “Cinema should be the high end product of a filmmaker.

If you can have a theatre release that should be the ultimate — but it is only a select few who turn up. The Nigerians have been producing home videos for the past 15 years and it is only now that they are turning to theatre productions because they have created audiences for their films.”

“We have witnessed a revival of pop music in East Africa thanks to the new generation. With the middle class now listening and appreciating local music in place of the once dominant Congolese music, the film industry could borrow a leaf from the music sector and target the video market and not the cinema market.

We could also copy the Bibanda [video halls] in Uganda and develop our film structure around that kind of distribution pattern,” said Mhando, a film professor at Murdoch University in Australia.

“We have observed that more people are watching DVDs in the comforts of their homes. So for us to claim to be doing film business, we have to take our films to homes or even the makeshift video halls, as long as we can generate income. We can’t claim to have a film industry if we are not making money,” Asiba added.

“My advice to the young filmmakers is that they should look at cinema as a business and not an art. As much as it is a creative industry let’s look at the business end of our productions. Why are we making these films? Can we live on them? Can they sustain our livelihoods?” Asiba asks.

According to Richard Geria, sales and marketing manager of Fast Track Productions, the emerging market for African film is online. “The online market is presenting an alternative channel for the distribution of film content.

The regulation for this new outlet maybe non-existent but it offers film producers an opportunity to make money.”

Fast Track Productions has developed a platform called AfricaFilmOnline.tv that is still being tested and should provide its customers with a variety of African content. It is a Video on Demand (VoD) service where members will sign up to download television episodes and films. Payments will be made using debit cards, credit cards or mobile money.

“We have noticed that there is a huge demand for African films. We have uploaded all the 90 episodes of the first season of our television series ‘The Hostel’ on our platform and we have been overwhelmed by the demand for DVDs of the series. Our targets are the Ugandans in the diaspora and the high enders in Uganda who can afford the latest gadgets,” Geria revealed.

According to Geria, the film producers will be entitled to 25 per cent of the revenue generated after sales.

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