‘A Homage to The Film Actor’

Issued By Admin | Article
Monday, 19 Feb, 2024

To be or not to be, that is the question.” famous phrase from the world-renowned Shakespeare play, Hamlet lingers in thought at some point in every individual’s life.  The quote on surface level debates the option of whether to live or die, when faced with a myriad of uncertainties in life. Now, if we are to rephrase it to an artistic perspective/take, one realizes the quote to be or not to be simply means, Where your heart is, there is where you will die, there is your home, to quote Ms. Nini Wacera (Nation 2023). Thuswith this in mind, the phrase becomes, to be an artist or not to be an artist that is the question.

Growing up in an African or Kenyan household, your career destiny has already been pre-determined to fit into the white-collar bracket, i.e. doctor, lawyer and engineer. Why our parents felt the need to forcefully push us towards that direction, is that they knew our futures would be more secured and protected financially, emotionally and mentally and as a warning they told us that these three pillars will be under threat constantly one to many times, if we ever are to pursue the creative career journey. However, in the true artist maverick style, we threw caution to the wind.

Now, without a doubt, as a child, a growing passion begins inside when you realize your heart beats to the rhythm of becoming an actor. This same passion is what sustains you throughout the span of your entire career. You begin believing in the possibilities of becoming one of the greats and reaching to the highest pinnacle of what your talent and hard work can offer you.

Obsessively you embark on solo lonely tedious journey towards this goal. You begin watching countless classic films, attending numerous auditions, creating headshots and reels, going for rehearsals, reading and re- reading scripts, networking (whatever that means) and finally landing a role that will be life changing and will give you your first big paycheck, that you will proudly take to your parents and prove them wrong. However, this reality happens to the 1% percentile of actors in the current Kenyan film industry. The rest of the 99% tarmac hoping to get a win before they ultimately settle and give up on the dream entirely.

Ironically, the same Kenyan film Industry an actor wishes to break out is and has been a major antagonistic force. Most recently, people have begun looking and listening keenly to the ongoingactors’ plight. With the likes of veteran actor Ms. Nini Wacera being at the forefront of this discussion. Both at the ‘State of the Film Industry seminar where she gave a thought provoking speech and an article published by Nation newspaper with the headline, I have nothing to show for my years of acting, Ms. Nini has not shy away from calling to truth, what it truly means to be a Kenyan actor.

In one of her opening remarks at the seminar she says, I would like to dedicate this session to the late great Maina Olwenya whom we have lost as a result of the ills that plague our industry. An industry that is rife with sexual exploitation, injury and violence, that leads to PTSD, depression and anxiety, yes, that is what we as a Kenyan actor deal with on a daily basis.  This statement in itself hits home, with countless of testimonies from actors across board whom lament of the degree of injustice done to them. The sad reality being how much this atrocity has been going on year in, year out. Luckily just as a lifesaver is crucial to a drowning man so is platforms that are ready to take on the task to restore and salvage the hope that slowly fades away in a Kenyan actor’s career.

RAFIKI HUB, an actor’s talent management is notably a great example of a pioneer platform of its kind. It provides a space to support actors to showcase themselves more professionally by equipping them with the knowledge and essential tools needed to safeguard from any form of exploitation.

Founded back in 2017 by Kate Snow a trained Actress- BA (Hons) Degree in Acting for Film and Television from Arts Educational Schools London.  The hub empowers actors by providing a first of its kind experience in the Kenyan film landscape. An Actor talent managementservices.  The services constitutes formulating an intricate and dynamic C.V template, headshot, show reel, masterclasses and workshops. All of this conducted by leading experts in their respective fields under the direct guidance of  Kate Snow whom provide high quality knowledge, giving so much value to the members. Additionally RafikiHub is a game changer for the industry because it offers a seamless link to the casting process by connecting performers with roles in theatre, television and film from credible producers, immediately cutting down the stress and pressure that come with trying to land a job.

With RafikiHub seeking to safeguard and protect the actors’ interest, one question stands out,why are pre- existing organizations such as the infamous Kenya Actors Guild or even the major stakeholders not promoting and encouraging actors to enroll and seek out RafikiHub? The answer to this question only proves the reality of the poor state of the Actors welfare, with greedy and selfish producers wishing to take advantage of less informed and protected actors.

The risks posed from safety on set, to quality food provided and at the very bare minimum accurate payment of cash. The resultant effect is most actors languishing in poverty or worse dying from the frustrations caused on their mental well-being. The debate of rate card brings out a heated conversation on what is rightful owned to an actor, who is to negotiate the contracts, what happens if a breach of contract occurs? Finally, who will be the voice to speak on behalf of actors being that the Kenya Actors guild is failing? To quote Ms. Nini Wacera, We have a body that functions like a disease. It doesn’t work, doesn’t uphold the actors’ standards. (Nation 2023).  Hence, with nowhere else to turn, the need for every actor to be under a secure umbrella like RafikiHub to voice out their needs is the only way to ensure their career’s longevity.

With the controversial debate regarding the film space saturated with familiar faces. Most novice actors feel a sense of desperation to land a role, even if it means comprising their craft. This does not help with the fact that there are no industry regulations and standards for producers to uphold. As a result, more and more non- professional actors are being taken advantage of while those who have been in the industry and have more control are unwilling to give a guiding handto prevent this from happening. 

RafikiHub aims to restore professionalism to the craft with adequate training, mentorship and creating portfolios that are according to international standards. This provides the option that no matter where you are in the world; having gone through RafikiHub you are well prepared and equipped to navigate through any film industry. 

Knowledge is power and with having adequate knowledge on what it means to grow your craft is the only way to make sure you keep the dream alive. After all, to be an artist or not to be an artist is a question that is a no brainer to a film actor willing to go the extra mile to reach his or her destined goal.

Written by Kawira Gitonga