Moulding Kenya’s film and TV industry into shape with Njoki Muhoho
Njoki Muhoho is one of East Africa’s most important assets in the film and television industry, with a dual career in management consulting and in the creative industry spanning over 29 years.
Njoki Muhoho is one of East Africa’s most important assets in the film and television industry, with a dual career in management consulting and in the creative industry spanning over 29 years. We spoke to Muhoho about her vision for East Africa’s TV and film industry, and how her recently appointed role as the East Africa academy director for the Multichoice Talent Factory will start to shape the region’s visual production industry.
You entered the East African film and TV industry in the 1990s. What was the industry like at that time?
“When I got into [the TV and film industry], I was very aware of the differences in the quality, because I watched lots of films, I was always very keen on international film, how do they get this and [that] done, and my concern was why can’t we in East Africa get as good as this? We are on an upward trajectory. We have good stories.”
You were the executive producer for one of the first major series in East Africa, an MNET production called “Changes”. It set the bar for film and television in Kenya and highlighted the importance of technical knowledge in the film and TV business. Where do you think Kenya sits in terms of this type of knowledge?
“I think aspects of camera work and directing, we are really good. There is a lot of looking up on Kenyans to share their experiences and quality in filmmaking within East Africa. In terms of improving quality and standards. We have gone a long, long way since the mid ‘90s.”
How else can we grow Kenya’s creative film and TV industry?
“There is one admiration that I have for Nigeria, and it is local audiences. Nigerians watch Nigerians. That means whatever is produced, good or bad, will have an audience. That to me is the one-one of growing an industry. East Africa, especially Kenya, we are yet to grow our audiences.”
What, then, is the solution?
“It all boils down to style, which is why Nollywood, Hollywood and Bollywood are so popular - there is a formula. What is the East African formula? This formula is not something formal that is written, but it is working on your visually, audibly. It is that which conjures pride in large numbers of public relating to your productions and keeping their eyes glued to the screens. It is what makes foreign audiences enjoy our productions.”
Studying the art of film and television is an essential part of honing foundational skills in the creative industry, but seasoned film and TV professionals are not always the ones who end up teaching their future generations in the formal education settings. How can we plug this disconnect?
“Industry professionals, whether formally trained or not, need to be at the helm of academia when it comes to teaching the fields that they work in. [Sadly] you have people teaching film that have never actually worked on set or made a film and vice versa. There is an inconsistency in the region. Only a handful of the well experienced practioners get recruited at the institutes of higher learning to train and teach the budding talent. The Multichoice Talent Factory will come in here to fill this gap.”
What’s your advice for the candidates of the Multichoice Talent Factory academy?
“When I mentor young people I tell them you need to develop a profile. You need to be commissioned so that you learn from the experienced and those initial inevitable mistakes are made on another’s budget not yours (which you don’t have anyways)! When they commission you, they’re going to beat you into a certain shape and you’re going to appreciate quality better. You inducted into the right ways of working. After you’ve developed a profile, and you’ve learned from different broadcasters, then you can go on your own.”