Tell us a little about yourself
I am Jennifer Gatero, I began my career in High school when I wrote the script for ‘Better Days’. This was produced after I finished high school, marking the beginning of my love for film. I run a company called Avant films, we do documentaries, corporate videos and Tv shows.
Why did you decide to get into filmmaking
I have always loved to tell stories from the time I was very young. Actually, as soon as I could write I was telling stories. Even before I knew how to express myself on paper, I was telling my brother and sisters stories. They called me Kameme, Kikuyu for “radio”. I was obsessed with Sidney Sheldon growing up, I had read all his books cover to cover by the age of fifteen. So first, I wanted to be a novelist but after my first experience on the set of ‘Better Days’ at the age of 19, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. I dropped out of university to attend the Mohammed Amin foundation.
What projects have you worked on, which one is your favourite and why?
My latest project ‘This Is Life’ is definitely my favourite. For the first time in my life, I got to write a script without interference from anyone. Inspiration flowed and I wrote 8 – 40 minutes episodes ten days, any writer knows, that’s record time. Also being on set was a lot of fun. I worked with the best producer Winnie Adisa and a very talented cinematographer Moses Osidiana. I think that ‘This Is Life’ is a beautiful story brought to life by an amazing cast.
What has been the most amazing moment you’ve experienced as a filmmaker?
When my short film ‘Granted’ won the best short film at the Silicon Valley Film Festival, that was one of the highlights of my career. I know it was selected among hundreds of short films. To get that kind of recognition from an international film festival felt amazing.
Let’s talk ‘THIS IS LIFE’, your recent project. How did the idea come about?
I was watching a video about toxic relationships when the idea of ‘This is life’ came to me. I am intrigued by the concept of toxic relationships. How can someone be so bad for you but you keep going back to them? How can you be in a relationship that has you in tears and turmoil all through but you refuse to let go? I remember watching that video over and over again trying to wrap my head around it. That evening, I started to write the script for ‘This is Life’. As soon as I got back to Kenya, I did a couple of brainstorming sessions with some extremely talented free thinkers and this is how it all came to life.
What are some of the challenges you faced producing the series?
Money. Money. Money. This was a self-funded series, which means I am still paying for it, even now. There is a reason why most people don’t venture into self-funding. It’s very difficult and there are no guarantees. I wanted to produce a series of the highest quality and that means I had to spend a lot of money on it. We didn’t take any shortcuts with costume, locations or casting. We shot the series in 4k Ultra HD, using up a terabyte of footage each shooting day. That all translates to money. It would be great if Kenyans get on the website www.thisislifeseries.tv and subscribe.
Why didn’t you take the mainstream media route?
‘This Is Life’ is very adult themed. It’s been given a rating of 18+ for coarse language and nudity. It’s not easy to get a show like this on air. Also, I wanted to tell a show that’s very real and very raw. Most TV stations are looking for shows that target the “mass” market. Shows that are simplistic in nature, slapstick. ‘This is Life’ is not that kind of show. It’s a show about real issues and real relationships.
For years, I have been looking forward to doing a feature film in memory of my mother. I have recently started working on the script. This will be a film that’s been on my mind for years and I am excited to finally see it come to life.
What advice would you give to young filmmakers in Kenya?
Nothing good comes easy. Don’t come into this industry if you don’t have the passion for it. In this industry, it takes time to learn and grow. Be patient, attentive and consistent.