NEWSLETTER - MARCH 2012
We all thought that we had sailed through the 2010 world recession unscathed, but in fact the productions we had been working on were those that had received their funding prior to the collapse.
Then it hit us. Projects we had been expecting began to inexplicably postpone, or even cancel. For the first half of the 2011, Pontact survived on small productions – shooting a week or less per month – for which we were pathetically grateful. Then the Revenue Authority visited all EPZ film companies demanding back payments of tax deductions we had all been unaware of. We struggled, but weathered the storm.
January 2011 saw us handling two BBC World current affairs documentaries by FBC Media, Third Eye and Develop or Die, followed in February by a film tracking the Bob Marley connection in Africa with Cowboy Films. The first, a trying experience, and the latter a fascinating insight for our Fixers Maggie and Karanja. October saw our trusted friend Debbie Harrison of Kaelo Worldwide Media, South Africa, return to film the Nairobi Marathon for Supersport.
February 2012 brought a crew from Geyrhalter Filmproduktion GmbH, Austria, shooting a worldwide documentary entitled Ochlophobia, meaning the fear of crowded places. Prior to their arrival we confidently ventured to the crowded places we knew from shooting Die Weisse Masai and Winterreise, namely the chaos of Country Bus Station, and Kamukunji Road, only to find the chaos and crowds gone. The pavement hawkers have been moved to their own market, and the bus station neatly paved and re-organised. Even the Pumwani Maternity Hospital horrifyingly portrayed in The Constant Gardener, is now clean, pleasant and efficient. And there are no passengers hanging onto the sides and roofs of the commuter trains plying through the slums. Wonderful news for Nairobi, and praise to the Government. But do not worry, we can still find crowds, noise and chaos, just in smaller pockets!
This was a very short and intense shoot for Filmbyen of Denmark. It was part of an episode of the Danish political TV series which is gaining international popularity. The Producers were so happy that they vowed to return to Kenya at the earliest opportunity. And our good friend Maj-Britt Paulmann Dalsgaard has been true to her word, as you will read later.
In May, we had some fun featuring a bright little girl for Nickelodeon Kids Around the World. It was our first chance to work with the Director of Photography, Abe Martinez, from LA who first came here as part of Survivor 3 camera crew in 2001. He remembers Jenny well as the Nairobi coordinator who allowed him and his wife, Amy, to camp in the production office after all flights were cancelled because of 9/11. We look forward to more Nickelodeon jobs having gone through the long and complicated paper chase for the privilege of working with MTV.
This film was mostly shot in South Africa with 4 days filming in Malindi in July 2011. Produced by Curious Pictures and directed by Rolie Nikiwe it features several Kenyan actors. As with most films these days it was low budget, with minimal Kenyan crew. It is a gripping story of football and love which uniquely serves to raise awareness and explain the science of AIDs to the youthful audience.
KAPRINGEN (Working Title)
Maj-Britt, Line Producer of the Börgen episode we shot earlier in the year, proved true to her word and persuaded the respected giant, Nordisk Film, to consider shooting their pirate movie in Mombasa. This is the first feature film about Somali Pirates shot in Kenya.
Starting with a search for a suitable – and affordable – ship, the pre-production was long and strenuous. There were so many factors of filming that we had never encountered before and it was a fascinating exercise for the Kenya team, led by Jenny and with Hans van Schooneveld being our “man at the coast”. Once the ship was identified and negotiations begun, we had to find a suitable berth outside the Port, as entering crew and cast into the Port on a daily basis was not an option.
Gaining the trust of the local Somali community was another major undertaking. The very existence of our subject – Somali pirates – had brought untold problems and unnecessary harrassment to this community who are only trying to make a living like every other Kenyan. A few months earlier, 3 Somali youths had been offered a job with an American filming group who, it transpired, were filming without the necessary permissions, even using weapons, to make a cheap pirate movie. They were caught, the Americans skipped the country, leaving the 3 Somali’s to stew in Shimo la Tewa prison. Thanks to community leaders, we eventually auditioned and cast an excellent group of actors.
Even though it was only 13 days shooting, Kapringen was a great experience for us all with Producer, René Ezra praising the crew and cast for setting a standard that the Danish crew back home would have to live up to. We wish Nordisk all the best and have no doubt that Director Tobias Lindholm has a winner with Kapringen (due for Danish Release in September 2012).
COMMERCIAL BANK OF AFRICA TVC
We returned to Nairobi straight into production of a TV commercial with Sweet Spot Content of Cape Town. The talented Director Miles Goodall and his wife, Linda Novelitz, had worked with Pontact many years ago on a Celtel commercial and this was a good opportunity for the younger (and some of the original) Kenyan crew to work together the South African team.
In mid-2011, Pontact competed aggressively for a job with One Night Film of Sweden to shoot a pilot entitled Ordinary Day. Producer Kristofer Hennel, decided to shoot in January and we duly agreed on a very tight budget. Originally we intended to shoot behind the Ngong Hills but our first location scouting proved very disappointing and we decided there and then to move the shoot to Soysambu Conservancy in the Rift Valley. This meant accommodating the entire crew and cast for the 4-day shoot, which was not in the original budget. A lot of number crunching followed and our Accountant, Joram, performed a miracle, in turn presenting production with a challenge to keep within budget. The combination of a hardworking crew, cooperative and helpful location owners, perfect weather conditions, and a lot of luck made up for a very successful and unforgettable shoot, within budget and on schedule. There is absolutely no doubt that Kristofer Hennel (Producer), Robert Wauu (Director), and Krum Rodriguez (DOP) will return to shoot their feature film on the strength of this short film.
We take this opportunity to give some crew members special mention
Ben “Bobo” Safari courageously offered to tackle a new (for him) position on two separate productions. We threw him in the deep end … and he swam! First was Casting Director for the CBA tvc, and second 1st Assistant Director on Ordinary Day. Congratulations.
Sam Koigi has worked with us on previous occasions in Malindi but this year was especially creative as Props Master on Kapringen, and came from the coast to work with us on Ordinary Day. Thanks Sam.
Our dear friend and colleague, Han van Schooneveld, who has helped us on so many coast shoots, has been very ill. He spent the whole of January in Nairobi Hospital. But Han is a fighter and happily he is now back home in Malindi and hopefully on the mend. We all wish him a speedy and complete recovery.
And suppliers …
- Geyrhalter Filmproduktion crew from Austria have filmed all over the world. They said they had never passed through Customs formalities with their filming gear so quickly. Fast-tracking takes on a whole new meaning with clearing agent Kalpesh Solanki of Filmline.
- Gitau and Waziri, formerly with Rolf Schmid, have set up a formidable catering unit. They have started small and we applaud them and wish them well. They have provided excellent location catering with small budgets and sometimes difficult conditions.