Beating the odds to market a Rwandan film

Film lovers relish one of the movies that were screened on the night.

The emergence of new technologies and a market driven audio visual sector specifically, in the dominion of  film in Africa, presents unique opportunities for fostering sustainable employment and enhancing trade capacity in Rwanda and Africa at large.

Dayo Oguyemi in his publication titled Framing the Shot: Key trends in African Film 2018, notes that with consumer spending on pay television in Sub-Saharan Africa forecast to grow from $4.2billion in 2016 to $6.6 billion in 2022, television is a major component of the audio visual sector landscape in Africa and many common factors fluidly impact the production of television and other audio visual content.

Although the government of Rwanda is aware that the film industry is a fast growing economic sector that holds a great potential for fostering economic growth, the sustainability of this industry presents an important development challenge for Rwanda, as film distribution and audience development have suffered tremendously due to infrastructure deficit in cinema exhibition, digital and broadcast platforms and massive infringement of Intellectual Property Rights.

The industry’s informality and absence of a plan outlining how to capture a return on investment has deterred other forms of private financing and closed the door on potentially lucrative distribution opportunities in overseas markets where chain of title is a prerequisite.

What then?

A wise man once said, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Just like every business project in which detailed planning and organization is key to achieving success, the business of filmmaking is equally or more intricate.

It is imperative to draw on the experience of other countries as industry benchmarks to uncover lessons of the latest trends in film marketing that could help plot a course for Rwanda’s film industry.

Nigeria for example, accelerated a strategic plan in 2015 of building an Innovation Distribution Fund worth US $10 million aimed at improving the distribution of audio-visual content, cutting down on piracy, and better protection Intellectual Property Rights in the industry.

To-date, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics estimates the GDP contribution of the sector to range from $600million to $3.4billion and as high as 1million jobs.

Pertinently, China’s strategy centered on building cinemas. From a mere 1,000 or so cinemas two decades ago, it now boasts of more than 50,000 cinemas. This has consequently, pushed up its annual box office revenue from $660million to $ 8.2billion, second only to the USA.

These benchmark reflections support the notion that far from transitioning into the digital age of film making, creating a sustainable film industry in Rwanda will require investing in the fundamental building block of every successful film industry in the world.

The renewed government support for the Rwandan film industry as reflected through the establishment of the Rwanda Film Office, should be used as a catalyst to sign co-production treaties with other countries and establish International and regional presence at film Festivals and markets.

The writer is a lawyer with specific interests in Corporate, Entertainment and Intellectual Property Law.