BY PASCAL MWANDAMBO
They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. And for the Voi based Wafuasi Theatre Group things are beginning to look up following their successful contract with a local TV station that will be showing their most popular movie Natasha.
The Group director Granton Mwandawiro says this is a giant leap forward for the youthful actors who came together to hone their acting skills and earn a decent living.
“The TV station has agreed to pay us Sh 60,000 per show for our most popular movie Natasha which to us is an achievement after years of struggling to make movies and sell them to a largely unresponsive audience,” said Mwandawiro.
He says the group which was formed five years ago has undergone major transformations to make it the brand of Taita-Taveta and the whole Coast region in terms of acting high quality movies which the group distributes to VCD shops and also hawk in the streets.
In fact to say the group operates as jacks- of- all- trades is not to underrate their acting capabilities but rather a pointer to the fact that multitasking has its benefits as well.
“Many people do not understand the nitty-gritty of movie making and I should not be perceived as being too proud to say that we are the trailblazers in Taita-Taveta county to show the local communities that movie acting and production can be good business with relatively good returns where the market is responsive,” said Mwandawiro.
Despite the group having received a loan of Sh 100,000 from the Voi Uwezo Fund kitty, the group has largely being self-sustaining from the word go.
“We make money to sustain our activities through monthly contributions of Sh100 per member and group contribution of Sh 2,000 per cast. We sell each CD at Sh 200 which is the market price for original CDs,” Solomon Muingi , the group treasurer told i-mpact news during an interview.
Muingi who is also a freelance journalist and radio presenter says all their five movies have shown potential of curving a niche in the local market with Natasha having sold over 2, 000 copies so far and proving its place in the local movie market.
“People are curious to know what locally made movies are all about while some are quite eager to buy movies they can identify with, especially when members of most casts are people familiar to them,” says Muingi.
Other movies by the group are Fumbo la mji(700 copies sold) Mbalamwezi 1 and 2( 1,000 copies sold for each movie) and Blood Love(over 800 copies sold).
According to Mwandawiro, their plans are to be on the big screen some day.
“We aspire to go into famed places like Hollywood and be like Lupita Nyong’o who has earned fame both for the country and continent,” says Mwandawiro.
He says movie making can only be a lucrative business where there is specialization which leads to better production qualities.
“Due to financial constraints we have had to stick to some local producers but our future plans are to move out and also engage other reputed producers,” says Mwandawiro.
Mwandawiro accuses the county government of failing to identify and develop local talents while giving prominence to artistes from outside the county.
“Devolution is about counties developing local talents and nurturing them but it’s sad that artistes hired from outside our county are paid up Sh50,000 per show while some of us are paid peanuts or even shut out completely from performing during public functions,” he says.
However, this should not be taken to mean that the group is discouraged from soldering on.
In fact the mantra, “ never say die” might describe their zeal to succeed as they embark on their sixth movie Hidaya.
According to Mwandawiro their latest movie will tackle challenges of day to day living in a soap like manner, and exposes evil in contemporary society and how some gullible people suffer from close associates who cannot be trusted.
Apart from making movies the group also does event organization, stage acting, advertisements and brands promotion, all which go to boosting their income.