The Kenya Film Classification Board has lifted agency licence prerequisites for local filmmakers. A government agency established under the Films and Stage Plays Act, Cap 222, of the Laws of Kenya, KFCB oversees the creation, advertising, ownership and distribution of film and broadcast content.
With the help of The Kenya Information and Communications Act (KICA), KFCB is equipped to enforce age-related restrictions on content.
This guarantees that any content portraying adult-rated scenes, or is conveyed in a language aimed at an adult audience, should not be televised between 5 am-10 pm.
The classification categories for films and broadcast content stipulated by KFCB are as follows:
- GE (general exhibition) – This is appropriate for general family viewing/all ages.
- PG (parental guidance recommended) – This may entail scenes that may pervert the morals of children under the age of 10, therefore, parents are advised to monitor their children.
- 16 (not suitable for persons under the age of 16) – No one under the age of 16 years is advised to consume this content.
- 18 (not suitable for persons under the age of 18).- May entail scenes appropriate for adults only. The themes could be adult-focused and the results may not be positive.
Additionally, the law instructs KFCB to implement the Programming Code for Broadcasting Services.
This directive states that all programme and non-programme matters including, documentaries, promos, infomercials, public service announcements, commercials, and station ids, should be endorsed and classified by the board before being aired.
These regulations are modelled towards ascertaining that the content being distributed to Kenyans acts per the state’s culture, national values, and aspirations.
In execution of its principal administrative mandate, the Board, among its other roles, oversees granting of filming licences to both local and global filmmakers and registers film agents.
However, on the 2nd of September 2022, KFCB’s acting CEO Christopher Wambua declared that the board is looking into redefining the role of film agents in Kenya effective 1st October 2022.
The decision to redefine the role of film agents in Kenya comes after many submissions by local filmmakers proposing the removal of the prerequisite for Kenyan filmmakers to register as film agents or be assisted by film agents when acquiring filming licences.
“We hope this recomposition removes barriers to entry for aspiring filmmakers, therefore building a conducive environment for the industry to thrive in the aftermath of the crippling effects of the pandemic,” said Mr. Wambua
Funding and licensing fees have been major issues of concern in the film industry. One of Governor Johnson Sakaja’s promises while campaigning for the 2022 gubernatorial seat was to uplift the creative sector by lifting some of the fees creatives incur.
“Until we raise the creative economy to the levels it can be, Nairobi County will not charge content creators, photographers and videographers for filming within the city.” said Sakaja during one of his political campaigns.
In the past, filmmakers had to pay film agents to help them obtain film licences and permits from KFCB.
A filming licence would then be issued for a specific project and timeline as stipulated in the shooting schedule. This licence would automatically expire upon the lapse of the specified dates.
Today, it costs Ksh 5,000 for a filmmaker to shoot documentaries, short films and music videos and Ksh 15,000 to obtain a licence for a feature film or a TV series.
After acquiring a filming licence, a daily filming fee is issued for every shoot day and one might incur miscellaneous fees to the city council for shooting in Nairobi.
Granting filmmakers direct access to KFCB reduces the agent cost, therefore allowing filmmakers to channel those funds to other needs. Filmmakers will however still be required to comply with the set regulations and the laws of Kenya.
“I would encourage upcoming filmmakers to create more short films now that they can easily access filming licences. Success in the film industry comes through consistency and visibility. Make more short films, showcase your work at film festivals, network and connect with people in your industry. This prepares you for success.” said Wilfred Kiumi, the founding director of ADMI.
Mr Wilfred Kiumi, a film distributor for Vumi Central, believes that this new directive will discourage the production of illegal films, which has been an ongoing issue, often due to the lack of funds.
“Filmmakers who are interested in working with distributors should ensure that their films are licensed and should comply with all the KFCB stipulations. The lack of proper certification and licensing discourage distributors from collaborating with you and touching your work,” he said.
James Waruinge, an ADMI alumnus and owner of a production company had some thoughts to share on this matter.
“Revoking the agent licence is beneficial to startup filmmakers looking into shooting short films and music videos. However, for established filmmakers like me, this leaves little to no impact because we face bigger challenges that can be resolved by establishing managerial structures for filmmakers and exerting policy control.” he shared.
“The best way the board can help established filmmakers like me is to create a professional body for filmmakers that will work with KFCB to protect our interests and ensure that the industry is credible. Without a filmmakers association, anyone can pick a camera and claim to be a filmmaker. This has affected the credibility of most professionals in the industry and is one of the main reasons why we’re witnessing minimal career growth. However, it appears that things are gradually moving in the right direction. We can only hope for the best.” he said.
Should the public and stakeholders endorse redefining film agent roles, film agents will solely be responsible for offering logistical support to foreign film & TV producers looking to film in Kenya.
Therefore, all film production companies looking to offer these services will be required to procure an annual certificate upon being registered as film agents.
Their duties to facilitate logistical support to international producers will entail:
- Facilitating permit procurement
- Organising entry through Customs and Immigration
- Site scouting
- Talent acquisition
- Crew sourcing
- Equipment supply
- Accommodation and logistics, etc
This new directive comes at a time when international and regional streaming giants such as MultiChoice and Walt Disney are investing millions of shillings in the Kenyan filmmaking industry. Netflix, through its Creative Equity Fund partnered with ADMI to offer scholarships to East Africa’s future storytellers to access quality and practical education in film and TV production for the 2022 academic year.
Due to the nature of Africa’s family-oriented stories and the cultural values showcased in our films, the African industry has attracted a fast-increasing fan base in North America, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia.
A report by UNESCO shows the African film industry has the potential to create 20 million jobs and generate $20 billion in revenues annually. Thanks to the advancement of technology and the internet in Africa, the future holds a lot of hope for upcoming independent filmmakers. They can produce and edit on their laptops, distribute films on platforms such as YouTube, and increase their chances of reaching global audiences.
The African film industry has shown to have a global appeal and the demand grows daily. For filmmakers who want a piece of the cake, now is the best time to get high-spec training and mentorship.
At ADMI, filmmakers learn under industry practitioners and the curriculum is developed in partnership with global industry partners. Not only will you be equipped to tell African stories, but you will have skills and credentials that are marketable worldwide.