Pontact has survived two years of more downs than ups where many others would have gone under.
The horrific Westgate attack in September 2013 has had a devastating effect on both the tourism and film industries. And the continuing travel advisories from UK and USA are still keeping producers away with the resultant high insurance premiums.
But more negative than the above is the fact that Kenya still does not have a financial incentive in place to compete with South Africa. As you know, Jenny has been on what seems a lone mission for at least ten years to convince the Kenya Government, latterly through the Kenya Film Commission, of the enormous benefits International films bring to the country. However, we are closer to achieving this goal than ever before – we have a supportive President, Vice President and Cabinet Secretary and the Kenya Film Commission team are more proactive than ever before.
Up until August 2013, we facilitated several documentaries and shot a local TV commercial for Huggies. In November 2013, our good friends and loyal colleagues from Cape Town, Sweet Spot Content, returned to shoot a TVC for Tusker – it is always a pleasure of work with this super efficient team under Linda Novelitz and Director Myles Goodall and brings our crew up to speed.
Which boded well for a December shoot for Half the Sky Foundation in their ongoing documentary series Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women, with guest presenters Mia and Ronan Farrow.
2013 was a traumatic year for Pontact but mainly for Jenny and Ben, the latter by then in a wheelchair. The plot which they had called home for 43 years was invaded by land-grabbers who proceeded to chop down all the trees. We (Pontact) managed to get a High Court injunction from April to September, but the Landlord failed to fulfill their promise to come to the rescue and eventually we had two days to move out, and break down the 7 Props stores. Freelance crew rallied and came to the rescue but still a massive amount of props and equipment was stolen by the “new owners’” thugs and we were lucky to escape to safety and a new home for Jenny and Ben in Limuru.
Then sadly Ben passed away in April 2014, sadly missed by Jenny and his re-united son Ben in Holland, but also by the larger film community in Kenya who unanimously said he kept them cheerful and made them laugh. His loss means we welcome two new Pontact Company Directors, James Munga and Kat Combes.
In spite of this, Jenny did manage to attend Cannes Film Festival in 2013 and 2014 and made good contacts and the way forward for Pontact’s first possible feature film. We have several foreign feature films and TV series waiting in the wings to shoot in Kenya if and when the Government provides financial incentives. Meanwhile we continue to service small documentary crews and the prospect of a couple of Pilots for series. We take comfort in the fact that everyone is in the same boat with no foreign feature films for 2 years.
Courtesy of Jean Hartley of Viewfinders Ltd. I append below an extract from her recent newsletter :
SECURITY AND HEALTH SITUATION
On a related subject, in that the topic seems also to be a reason for tourists and film makers staying away from Kenya at the moment, there is NO Ebola in East Africa. The press have filled people with alarm, and failed to point out that the outbreak is a very long way from East Africa. You are closer to it if you live in Western Europe, East Coast USA or the UK. Since the Ebola outbreak began in 2014 Ebola has claimed approximately 8,000 lives. In that time, more than 650,000 people have died of HIV/Aids in Africa; 350,000 have died of malaria; and more than 250,000 have died of starvation. Please – let us have some balanced thinking here.
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Come back to Kenya – the weather is glorious, we have some of the best anti-terrorist intelligence in the world, we are not afraid, there is no Ebola, and the gasoline price has just gone down to just over one US Dollar per Litre.
And the financial incentive is just around the corner. Watch this space.