‘Better days ahead for filmmakers’

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By Farayi Mungoshi

GIVEN the success of the collaboration between Zimbabwe International Film Festival Trust (ZIFFT) and the women film makers of Zimbabwe in hosting the Zimbabwe International Film Festival from August 28 to September 2, I can only say the future is in our hands.
In a fashion almost reminiscent of the Southern Africa Film Festival days, back in the 1990s, which also attracted filmmakers from across Africa and beyond, Harare saw filmmakers from different countries and nationalities jet in to participate at the film festival.
The festival, now 19 years running and headed by Nigel Munyati, last week dared to explore the business side to filmmaking.
Munyati, in his closing speech said filmmakers should start thinking business.
He said they should regard themselves as entrepreneurs and businesspeople, hence the theme for this year being ‘Business of Film’.
In my article last week, I argued we need more education as far as film is concerned; that owning a camera does not necessarily make one a filmmaker.
As there are different phases to making a film, we find that while most of us are now able to come up with a product at the end of filming, we still don’t know how to convert that to profit.
Neither are we aware that filming and producing a film are only part of the production process and therefore incomplete.
The marketing and distribution phase of film production is still dogged and marred by piracy which has reduced the actual cost of DVDs ranging from between US$5 to US$14 in other countries, depending on the country’s economy, to just a US$1 in some African countries.
In South Africa, DVDs on the streets cost just R10.
An original copy of Neria in Zimbabwe is pegged at US$5 by the production company Media for Development Trust while on the streets of Harare you can get a copy for just 50 US cents.
It is this phase (marketing and distribution) that most filmmakers are still not acquainted with here in Zimbabwe.
Filmmakers, like musicians and authors, have to find a way around piracy in order for them to make any returns.
The big budget films in Africa face disappointment as most are poised to fail given the fact that our economies do not allow us the same comfort as those of our European and American counterparts.
People in developed countries throng the movie houses to watch new movies, while in developing countries they swarm onto the streets in search of the new movies from vendors.
It is the ‘zero budget’ movies that seem to benefit or at least break even.
In a telephone interview with Adoration Bizure, the producer of the film Deception and the new film Camouflage, he said he managed to break even in his movie Deception.
Joe Njagu of the Lobola fame said they managed to make approximately US$70 000 on Lobola.
This is of course bearing in mind that there is no such thing as a zero budget.
Producers still need money to ferry actors and crew to locations for shoots, money for food while shooting is also still needed.
Money is needed to hire cameras, lights and sound equipment along with grips.
But given the costly budgets to acquire all these things and in order to keep making films, filmmakers and actors have had to swallow their pride and come together for far much less than they are supposed to be paid in order for them to at least come up with just a single production.
In most instances, people have agreed to be paid after the film production has been completed and the film premiered and sold, but this has proven to be a set-back and has created more enmity and back stabbing among filmmakers when they fail to make any profits from sales.
While the vendor story sounds like an old one, it still does not take away the fact that certain people are benefitting from and reaping where they did not sow while the planter suffers.For as long as the marketing and distribution phase of filmmaking is not discussed and piracy dealt with, the industry shall continue to suffer.
The film sector will continue to find it difficult to rise during these trying times.
It might be relevant to bear in mind that pirating of DVDs in such countries like the US can land you in jail or be fined up to US$150 000, while in Zimbabwe vendors can get away with just a US$20 fine and in some cases, the vendor also gets away with the goods for which he/she was fined.
Talking to some of the filmmakers who have continued in this field, most said they are driven by passion for filmmaking.
But for how long shall passion continue to drive them while their children are sitting at home because of unpaid fees?
Police need to join in the filmmakers’ cause and crack down hard against these criminals.
It is understandable, the economic hardships we are currently faced with cannot make this wrong a right.
However, we cannot let other people’s hard work and sweat continue being peddled for peanuts and expect a whole industry to grow.
It is demeaning and disheartening and as a result some film makers have since given up making films.
However, change is now in sight.
The significant rise of local content on ZBC, the involvement of film and music in the new education curriculum, even the roads that are being resurfaced and developed around the country, the rise in erected advertising billboards in and around the cities are all but just signs of greater things to come.
Thus for the disheartened filmmakers who lost money to piracy and those who want to venture into the field I say: “Hang on, you are vital for the future of Zimbabwe.”
Keep the faith and fighting spirit and if you persevere a little longer, the world will know you and where you come from.
But be forewarned the first lesson towards achieving all these goals is humility and the ability to work under others who have already started steering the boat towards the collective intended destination – a developed film industry for the betterment of our sovereign nation, Zimbabwe.
The need to work together is now even greater.
And with ZIFFT and The Women’s Filmmakers of Zimbabwe coming together to give us yet another most powerful and most fruitful film festival in Zimbabwe, in years we can all draw a lesson that: “Divided we fall but together we stand and overcome.”

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