by Muthoni Kimani
June 12, 2020
The film industry has been on fire in the last couple of days after creative Silas Miami asked a way overdue question;
“Are Gingerink films and One fine day Films still paying Kenyans Ksh 1500 a day to make a film?”
This question brought light to many as Kenyan filmmakers shared their experiences with Gingerink. This included Film and Tv director Likarion wainana.
In an extended essay on his Facebook page, Likarion wrote;
“Recent posts on social media, made specifically by Silas Miami have had me doing a major playback of my memories making my first feature.
Memories I had masked over with a layer of humor but today talking about the experience opened me up... Let me first say that I do not own Supa Modo. Supa Modo is NOT my film, at least it no longer is,it is a film that I wrote(the story) and Directed.
I signed off ALL the rights to it. IP rights, remake rights, adaptation rights everything. No one forced me to do it, no one tricked me into it. I went in knowing full well what lies ahead.
The terms of the contract were laid out clearly:- 1500/- per day for a year's work. After you deliver the final cut of the film that is it. You are done. I deliberated a lot about it, Supa Modo(at the time called Hero Origins) was my baby.
A story I had with me for 3 years before being presented this contract in 2017. At the back of my mind, I said, "Likarion, you will own and control your next film so just do it". So I signed it, for my second feature.
It was and still is one of/if not the greatest opportunity of my entire life. I love Supa Modo with all my heart and saying otherwise would be a great disservice to the cast and crew who worked their behinds off to get it done and also to the audience who have invested their emotion with the film and embraced it fully.
That being said,Supa Modo broke me mentally, physically, and emotionally. Let me explain. When the film was done and the festival circuit around the world came those expenses were going to be on me.
The festival will cater to your flight and accommodation only. All I had on me in 2018 was the money(from the contract) from 2017 to work with.
So I struggled to get visa fees, food money, pocket money. It was just too insane but I pushed myself because I needed to go to those festivals to market my Baby, to make contacts, etc all for my next film but back home I couldn't secure work.
Everyone assumed that I was an expensive Director now, I mean Supa Modo is killing it at the box office and bringing in loads of cash. Little did they know that I did not receive any part of those millions (again part of the contract I knowingly signed).
So I was out of work mostly so the traveling then got depressing for me. Going to a foreign land with sometimes just 3k in your pocket to last you 5-7days was starting to get to me.
Smiling for the cameras and festivals, doing the interviews, and the photo ops then going back to your hotel room to cuddle up in a corner to think of where my rent for next month will come from.
I once landed from a trip abroad where Supa Modo won 15000euros(none of it going to me) I smiled for the cameras, gave my heartfelt honest speech and took the award and I came home to find my house locked by my landlord and I just sat there, on my suitcase, holding that award outside my door for hours trying to muster the courage to get up and push on.
This film was going to kill me. I couldn't do it anymore. This wasn't the life I wanted. My friends, noticing this, staged an intervention fearing that I would do something to myself. No, just no. As the success of the film became bigger the emptiness in my heart also got bigger.
I poured my entire heart out while making Supa Modo, being reminded daily that this was a 'student film' and that I was a 'student' there to learn but that was something I said no to. Even if it wasn't going to be my film I was going to make it MINE, so I fought every day to defend the vision of the story I had.
Day in day out I stood up for what I felt the movie needed then one day my body gave in and I collapsed on set(at the cliff) and for the first time in my life I was hospitalized overnight, I had pushed myself to my limit. Laying on that hospital bed as I went through 7 IV drips in a single night, I thought to myself "You will benefit from Supa Modo, so just push on.
It's a once in a lifetime opportunity" so I went ahead and finished the film, and now after I have made my art I was still going to collapse yet again from the strain of being jobless and penniless.
I had to stop, my bank was empty and so was I. To date I never truly recovered from the financial dent Supa Modo made in my life and now I start my career again, going back to TV directing to recover but I am scared.
I am scared to make my next film. Scared of starting yet another unhealthy path. I need to benefit from my art. I am not going to make another film and not benefit. I will not make another film and sign off the rights again I have learned that now.
I am not going to make another film and destroy part of my sanity. So enjoy Supa Modo now because I don't know if I can make another film…”
Film Director Njue Kevin was not left behind as he wrote;
“IT'S TIME WE OWNED BACK OUR KENYAN FILM INDUSTRY!” “Don’t forget what the fight is about... WHITE PRIVILEGE & RACISM in the film industry. #KECreativesDeserveBetter”