By KELVIN MUSONDA –
FOR a long time now, whenever the question:-Why has the Zambian film industry failed to take off has been asked, familiar answers of, a lack of film schools, lack of equipment as the main causes have been herd.
All of which are very true and major causes. This situation has been very hard for many Zambians to deal with as every film industry in the world has taken off with its people reaping the rewards just before Zambia’s eyes.
Another reason that has made everyone wait with great anticipation for the progress of the Zambian film industry is because of how well the music has done and considering how closely related to film music is it’s only natural that everyone expected the film industry to also take off not too far behind music.
Despite all the talk of lack of film equipment and schools as the main reasons the film industry has failed to ignite, most people have ignored the real reason why the Zambian film industry has stalled.
This reason is the lack of or poor reading culture in Zambia. Zambia’s poor reading culture has hurt the country in many areas and film is one of those areas. Someone might ask:-How?
It’s a well known fact to anyone who works or just understands filmmaking that this industry’s foundation is based on the formulation of stories, or as US filmmaker, John Singleton puts it, “what controls the film industry are screenplays” and screenplays can be written not only by people who have been to film schools, but by those who are avid readers as not only is reading a way of perfecting your reading and writing skills but also something that builds your imagination.
The simple and straight forward fact about every writer be it of books, plays or screenplays is that they all read and found themselves being inspired to pursue it as a career by first practicing it as a hobby and not only something you do when exams are near. A good example is Nigeria’s film industry, Nollywood.
Today, Nollywood is the world’s second most prolific film industry, only second to India’s Bollywood and this is because as a country, Nigeria has the greatest literary output in Africa.
This means Nigerians have made reading big part of their culture as a result, writing is not an issue to them.
Nigerian screenwriters are able to easily conceptualise film ideas, scribble them down into workable film scripts within a short time, put out somewhere between 1000 and 2000 films a year and collect an estimated US$ 200 million per year.
Imagine what that kind of money can do for Zambia.
This also makes Nollywood the second-largest employer of mostly youths in Nigeria.
So, for as much as we need film schools and equipment for the delivery of quality films, what will really give our industry the concrete foundation is developing a strong reading culture especially for those aspiring to be filmmakers.
This reading culture doesn’t mean picking up one of those 600 page novels, but rather treating yourself to a piece of literature every now and then.
This can be a poem, short story, newspaper article or just anything to get you accustomed to reading.
You do this, and reading that 600 page novel won’t be an issue and for all aspiring screenwriters, ideas will flow out of your heads faster than water.
To further dispute the theory that lack of equipment is what has caused our film industry to lag behind,I can talk about the type of cameras most Nigerian filmmakers use to make their films.
Most Nollywood movies are shot using very cheap digital cameras that can be found everywhere in Zambian shops and are affordable to most aspiring filmmakers. -(The Author is script writer and film analyst)