A mental health initiative on a mission to empower women by;
- Encouraging mutually beneficial collaborations
- Cultivating powerful community involvement
- Creating impactful work opportunities in the creative community and beyond
- Nurturing healthy and authentic narratives that drive a new era of community and social impact
Founded by Kate Snow, Natasha Likimani, Serah Mwihaki, and Mkaiwawi Mwakaba with a goal to utilize their strengths and skills for the empowerment of women in all economic demographics, and committing to fostering relationships using their creative work for the development and growth of African women, the African Female Filmmakers Collective (AFFC), in collaboration with the Kenya Film Commission and RafikiHub, embarked on hosting a mindful morning of conversations on mental health and wellness titled, Conversations with the Collective.
MEET THE FOUNDERS
Kate Snow is an Actress and Entrepreneur, having completed her studies and worked as an Actress in London for a number of years, Kate returned home to Kenya in 2017 and continued to pursue her career as a professional actress featuring in the film, ‘You Again’ and the short film, ‘Relationship Goals’.
Alongside her professional acting career, Kate launched a creative online platform, RafikiHub, which empowers, educates, and nurtures Kenyan and African artists on their journey to becoming professional performers within the arts sector.
The positive reputation RafikiHub has attracted through its highly demanded educational training, mentoring, project management, casting, and talent management services has allowed her to collaborate on exciting film projects with highly reputable local and international production entities from the UK, US, and South Africa.
Mkaiwawi Mwakaba is a Director, Editor, and Writer. Having worked in the TV and Film space over the last 15 years, Mkaiwawi Mwakaba is a seasoned film professional. She began her career in the newsroom at the Kenya Television Network (KTN), setting her off on a path that led to film. Rising through the ranks in various roles, she eventually found her niche as an editor. She has garnered experience on the editing bench, having worked on multiple TV drama series, documentaries, short films, and the internationally acclaimed, award-winning Kenyan Feature film Nairobi Half-Life.
As an Editor turned writer/director, she is keen on using storytelling to educate, advocate for change, and influence narratives. Her interest is in topics centered around women’s issues, children, and the African continent.
She also runs RedFlash Films LTD, a post-production outfit based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Serah Mwihaki is an award-winning writer and producer. She’s one of the three writers of the critically acclaimed film Nairobi Half-life.
Through a career spanning two decades, Serah has created and written 63 episodes of the highly acclaimed original drama series, ‘Changes’ which ran for three years on Africa’s largest broadcaster, Mnet E now Maisha Magic East. She has written more than 1200 episodes of telenovelas, Kona and Selina both on Maisha Magic East, Go TV, and Showmax and the sassy drama Single Kiasi on Showmax. Currently, she’s working on telling stories that matter through Television, Film, and books.
Natasha Likimani is a renowned and prolific filmmaker with over a decade of experience in the industry. She has collaborated with Oscar-nominated filmmakers such as Tom Tykwer and Mira Nair. Her first film, Veve, won the AMVCA Movie of the Year and was the first Kenyan movie to be featured on Netflix.
She has written 5 films and more than 13 TV shows that have aired across Africa and received critical acclaim, shows such as; Mali, Kona, Makutano Junction, and Demigods.
She holds the record for having the most films on Netflix as a Kenyan and African screenwriter.
CONVERSATIONS WITH THE COLLECTIVE EVENT
Held at Four Points by Sheraton, Hurlingham, Nairobi, on May 30th, 2023, the Conversations with the Collective was met with honorable attendance by revered film industry stakeholders to discuss intricate matters regarding the mental health of filmmakers.
Representing the Kenya Film Commission, Filmmaker John Kyallo read a statement by the commission’s CEO, Timothy Owase, which outlined the commission’s efforts in engaging industry stakeholders to install more mental health programs for filmmakers and the reforms put in place to structure policies in the betterment of filming conditions in the industry.
To further create awareness of mental health among creatives, AFFC in partnership with RafikiHub announced a monologue competition earlier this month centered on mental health awareness requiring participants to record and send monologues based on mental health awareness with over 50 performers participating.
Lucy Maina and Derrick Kinyanjui emerged as the top two participants. At the event, monologues from the two finalists were screened and Derrick Kinyanjui was announced the winner, being awarded a cash prize and a free mentorship program from one of the founders of AFFC.
What is Mental Illness? A question that raises a lot of misconceptions and one-sided perceptions. Psychiatric problems, Madness, and Depression are some of the perceptions attendees confessed to have often heard regarding the topic with one also siting that in some communities, any form of mental illness is considered a taboo. This sparked a conversation on mental wellness among filmmakers.
Being filmmakers themselves, those in attendance gave testimonies on the experiences they faced or witnessed others face while operating in their line of work that triggered a form of mental illness. Stories that fell into lines of; Bad working conditions, Verbal and Physical abuse, and Gaslighting, among others were put into the light revealing some of the ill-treatment creatives have to endure that greatly affects their mental state.
To give a proper outlook on the matter, Somali-born British psychotherapist and social activist, Dr. Leyla Hussein OBE joined in the conversation virtually spearheading an insightful mental wellness session that covered topics like, Identifying and dealing with trauma, Burnout and Creation and Respect of safe boundaries.
DR. LEYLA HUSSEIN’S MENTAL AWARENESS SESSION
Secondary trauma is incurred when an individual is exposed to people who have been traumatized themselves, disturbing descriptions of traumatic events by a survivor, audio-visual materials depicting traumatic events or traumatized individuals inflicting cruelty on one another.
Having to deal with all kinds of behaviors and mannerisms on set not to mention long working hours among other factors, filmmakers are highly vulnerable to being exposed to trauma.
As outlined by Dr. Hussein, signs of secondary trauma include Anxiety, Flashbacks, Depression, PTSD, Insomnia, Fear and Phobias, Nightmares, Numbness, Alcoholism, Sexual Dysfunction, Relationship breakdowns, Anger and Conflict, Shame and Guilt, Physical or Chronic pain, Overwhelmed or Out of control behavior, the response being a random shift in world view resulting to frequent burnouts.
Long working hours in the film industry is a normalized occurrence, this was well proven in a typical 24-hour exercise done by the attendees at the event which required each person to write down how they spend their 24 hours in the following order.
- Work – (hours spent at work)
- Refreshing and Relaxation – (hours spent on relaxation and outdoor activities)
- Home / House activities – (hours spent at home with family/house activities)
- Sleep – (hours spent on sleep)
Contrary to what most wrote down, much of their hours falling on work and less on sleep alongside the other categories, a Healthy 24-hour guide was presented by Dr. Hussein outlining what the typical 24-hour should look like.
- Work – 8 hours
- Refreshing and Relaxation – 4 hours
- Home / House activities – 4 hours
- Sleep – 8 hours
With the intense workload that comes with the process of filmmaking, filmmakers find it hard to uphold the recommended Healthy 24 hours. For one to recognize burnout, Dr. Hussein recommended the following be done.
- Observe how you react to people
- Self evaluate your behavior and look out for change
- Explore how you react to difficult situations
- Examine how your actions affect other people
Creating and Respecting safe boundaries
On set, colleagues spend so much time together and get to know one another on a personal level, a good enough reason to set boundaries as a way of self-care.
- Work boundaries
- Social boundaries
- Personal boundaries
- Digital boundaries
- Emotional boundaries
To uphold a good working environment, a Workplace Wellbeing Toolkit was recommended, which entails.
- Financial discipline
- Common Sense
- Investigating mental health warning signs
In addition to Dr. Leyla Hussein’s insightful session, an in-depth discussion was held among the filmmakers in the room on possible solutions and policies that can be made for the betterment of filmmakers’ state of mind and working conditions with much expected from the Kenya Film Commission in making necessary amends.
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