It is with great regret that we have to say that Jean will not be attending the Wildscreen festival in October this year. This will be the first one she has missed since 1988. Unfortunately she will be on a course of chemotherapy, and has received advice that she should not fly. On top of the lupus which has dominated life for the last year or more, this is somewhat of a hammer blow, but the specialists seem optimistic, so maybe in 2018 she will be able to have her festival swansong. For this year, though, Sajid Darr will be flying the Viewfinders flag – please keep an eye out, and make him feel at home! Here he is:
KENYA’S FILM SCENE
Changes are taking place in the film industry in Kenya, which are affecting the way crews come and film here. It’s a two-edged sword, and the consequences could be far reaching, upsetting the happy balance that we have had for so long.
The basic film licence used to be issued by the Ministry of Information, now pretty much defunct, and swallowed up by the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts. This film licence has to be applied for by a licensed and registered Film Agent. The film licensing department continues to operate in the same office, with the same staff and the same routine, but the licences are now issued by the Kenya Film Classification Board, part of the same Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts. Likewise the Kenya Film Commission is under the same regime. The government want to establish a new umbrella organisation to be called the Kenya Film Authority, while the private sector want to parry that with a Kenya Film Federation. Understandably, people are confused, on both sides of the fence. 18 months have passed since the President of Kenya made a hard hitting speech in LA promising reforms.
Another very serious issue that has reared its head is that stills photographers are asking tour operators to get them ‘off road’ permission in national parks and reserves. This is illegal. Off road permission is restricted to film crews, only on production of a valid film licence bearing the name of an official ‘film agent’, and on payment of the required fee. What is happening is that tour and camp operators (particularly in the Masai Mara) are paying the wardens in order to obtain a letter authorising off road driving. Paying cash to the wardens has now been officially banned, but this is Africa, so the ban is not working. Genuine film makers pay for a film licence, they pay a filming fee according to location, they pay Customs to bring their equipment in, They pay a lot of money, far more than the average tourist with a stills camera. If they arrive in the Mara, legal off road permission in hand, and find several dozen minibuses going off road, they are not going to have exclusive access to the animals that they have paid for. The reason for not allowing everyone and his brother to go off road is also to protect the environment, as dozens of uncontrolled wheels criss-crossing the savannah can only result in unsightly ruts in the mud and damage to the already fragile grass. If and when the KFA is established, these are issues that will be brought up by the local industry players, along with others such as the issue of Special Passes (temporary work permits)from Immigration. Here the system broke down completely, and the official response has been to direct us to apply on line. This does not work either, and the result is that all film makers are coming into Kenya on tourist visas.
Things change on a daily basis, so we urge you to seek our advice for the most up to date information. We are your fixers, our name is on your film licence, and we are therefore responsible for your crew and equipment for the duration of your stay in Kenya. You do NOT ‘save money’ by attempting to make your own accommodation and transport or internal flight bookings direct. Things can go horribly wrong if you do this. We know our way around Kenya better than you do, and we do not charge extra for arranging your logistics.
GREVY ZEBRA COUNT
For the first time, a count of Kenya’s Grevy Zebra population has taken place, using their individual and unique markings (like a bar code). Photographs of individual animals, always taken of the same side of the animal, enable scientists to identify every zebra. Cameras with GPS ability also help track zebra movement, thus providing valuable information on distribution and movement. The Grevy Zebra Trust, KWS, the Northern Rangelands Trust, Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Marwell Wildlife and the University of Princeton collaborated in this exercise, aided by local pastoralists, warriors, students, residents, farmers and a large number of the general public in the larger Laikipia area. The total count was 2,350 animals – alarmingly low, but the operation, along with a major photographic exhibition, was deemed a huge success and one that will be repeated.