Usually, when someone finds out I studied film at Kenyatta University, they ask how the course was. And always, I laugh and say “It was a lie”. There are things that I legitimately learnt of course but about 80% of the whole course was indeed a sham- and that 80% is me being soft.
I got an A in animation because I could draw decent stick figures and write a story, I think. I could not animate then, and neither can I now. One of the units we were supposed to do in 4th year was Documentary Filmmaking. We got to the end of 3rd Year only to be told that that unit was scrapped off. This, considering that we had to take extra units from departments such as Fine Art, Music and even Psychology, as part of the university policy. Of all the above, it was that one important part of filmmaking that the campus decided we could get our film degrees, without having done.
After graduating, I had to learn it on the go while shooting my own projects and sometimes botching parts of commissioned ones. And in just a few weeks, I gained so much confidence handling the camera by shooting this way. I can’t help but imagine how much further I would be skill-wise, if I had spent a semester simply studying that unit. I can only hope the current film students have it in their curriculum.
I used to dream of getting a masters after my under grad, majorly because I really wanted to teach film at university level- in KU, even with all of its bullshit; just so that the film students that keep coming could be taught by at least one person who actually practices film. (The qualifications for being a university lecturer have gone up since then though.)
I heard how shit the payment was but I was prepared. If I could teach a couple other places, it could surely work, I believed. Another thing I was prepared for was that, like my undergrad, the 2 years of taking that masters would consist majorly of teaching myself things in classes I would pay for, just to get that important piece of paper.
I had it all planned out.
I would take two years off school after graduating, to get a feel of things on the ground and to practice what I never got a chance to fully do while in school. So that when I went back to do a master’s degree, it would be with a wider understanding of film and the Kenyan film industry especially.
On August 4th 2019, I clocked exactly two years after graduating, and my faith in formal education has dwindled even further. I can no longer stand the thought of going back to KU to study because I know for sure that I will be short-changed. If I will pay for classes I will end up teaching myself, I may as well simply teach myself by practicing the craft.
Taking lessons in short practical courses, then spending more time practicing, is something I have been doing this past year and intend to keep doing for the next year or so. I don’t know if I will ever get a master’s degree or more in film. I’m not even sure what I would like to major in the most between Screen writing, Film Directing and Producing.
I love to write scripts but I sure do not want to spend month after month writing new ones, especially not knowing which will actually come to life. I love Directing as well but it is soul wrenching and I certainly cannot manage it project after consecutive project. Producing films is something I can certainly do project after project. However, the control freak in me will probably want a story to go a certain way after a couple of projects and then I’ll be back wearing my Screenwriting or Directing hat more prominently.
So there’s one dilemma.
The second is theatre and how big it’s becoming for me.
There’s Too Early for Birds (TEFB) which promises to hijack my life in even bigger (amazing) ways and I’m here for it! And as one of the people behind its production, I have been taking part in a musical theatre workshop; the NBO Musical Theatre Initiative which has been happening for 10 intensive days every 6 months, since June 2018.
Even though I studied theatre (my BA was in Theatre Arts and Film Technology), Musical Theatre was something I had no idea was a thing (again, Thank you KU!). Writing for the stage was also something I had previously decided I was simply not good at. And because I learnt to write for the screen faster and film interested me more, I was content with not knowing how to.
Now I do want to know.
My understanding of how theatre works or could work has changed so much that I am considering writing some of my film ideas into theatrical musicals- once I get the hang of it that is. And it’s a huge shift too because, I thought I didn’t like musicals in general. Most of the ones I watched were either too corny, the sudden breaking into song or dance made no sense, or there was simply too much singing and I often I could not make out what they were saying. I’m talking about Les Miserables with that last one.
But I’ve now had a chance to watch The Music Man which is so catchy, and several Sweeney Todd Theatricals- all of which I didn’t like much. I have always been fond of The Sound of Music, Lala Land was fucking amazing, I still deeply hate Les Miserables and Hamilton made me cry.
It was however, watching this version of Aladdin that opened a whole other world for me theatre wise. I know the story of Aladdin, all the songs in the film by heart; and I was not prepared for the spectacular sets, lighting and stage stunts and how they made the story so much better on stage.
More than simply writing, I am also greatly drawn to theatrical spectacle, and would love to explore more of it! I look forward to that as I sign up for more Art Department roles in the short films and theatre projects that come along.
As time goes by, I intend to keep following up on my different interests and experimenting with them, even if that makes me a jack of many trades and a master of none- for now. Maybe this is how I’ll always be. After all when I was choosing careers in high school, I remember wishing to live as many different lives as possible, through the things I do. And I currently am.
As long as each day I am doing different things that truly interest me and teach me about myself and life, and how best to achieve results I want, I am happy with that!
PS- I had named this post ‘Master of All’ , but as I was searching for images, I was drawn to magic, casting spells sort of imagery.
A few months ago Twitter suspended my old account on very stupid grounds and I started afresh. I called myself @AVoodooChile after Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’. (I truly really wanted @avoodoochild but that was taken lol!)
I had only recently started listening to him and while the way that particular song begins was what drew me in, it was the lyrics that truly gave me an epiphany.
At a time I wasn’t quite sure about my footing, I had a chance to look around at the things I had done right, and I thought : ‘I’m not a fucking puppet to life; I can move things my way! I have done it before, so I damn right can do it again and again!’
So here’s to learning to bend the elements. The whole lot of them!