The grand ballroom at the Sarova Stanley was packed last Thursday night as personnel representing all aspects of Kenyan burgeoning film industry were on hand to witness the country’s Inaugural National Scriptwriting Competition Gala night.
It was definitely a ‘milestone moment’ for the local film industry as no one had ever seen such a productive collaboration as the one that orchestrated this ‘first’ in Kenyan film.
Never before had the Kenya Film Commission teamed up with Kenya Film School and Kenya Government’s Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology to establish such a scriptwriting competition.
Signaling the otherwise obvious recognition that filmmaking in Kenya can go nowhere without brilliant scripts, the quartet of characters first went fundraising and was able to assemble Sh2 million in prize money for the winning scripts.
The competition itself was announced early this year. It attracted a total of 549 submissions from all over the country. Judged by a jury of seven, all of whom are active participants in the industry, (either as lecturers, producers, screen writers or cinematographers), the shortlisting brought that number down to 20.
It was those 20 who were given VIP seating at the Stanley on August 29th as no one had leaked who the winners would ultimately be. What was known before hand was that the winner would receive a cool Sh1 million, the first runner up Sh500,000 and the second runner up Sh300,000.
All 20 were entitled to attend a Master Class in film on the following Saturday, August 31st. But that was a small consolation for those who did not win. Nonetheless, the entire competition exercise marked a major turning point for the industry seeing as the Kenya Government, represented that night by the ICT Ministry Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru, was clearly behind the project.
What’s more, one long-term goal of the competition is to produce world-class scripts which can subsequently be developed into full-length feature films, produced by Kenyans together with an international team of producers from China.
Announcing the winners of the competition was Victoria Goro, Deputy Director of the Kenya Film School. Second runner up was Ken Nderitu for his film ‘Crossing the Tsavo. First runner up was Cyrus Kilavu for ‘Ndundi’, and Kenya’s first million shilling winning scriptwriter was Benjamin Odiwour for ‘Dust in my Eyes’.
Honorable mentions went to Steven Gachomba for ‘Poacher’ and Jirongo Luyali for ‘Lost in the village'.