2020 was supposed to be a lot of things. My main goal was generate enough work (doing what we love, educating kids about health) that we could employ all the puppeteers full time. Lofty. But doable.
When COVID hit, we had just set ourselves up for a nationwide tour of schools, had 4 shopping centers ready to sign LPO’s – we were gonna make it!
But, instead, our education model was immediately irrelevant. We are best at packing in hundreds of people shoulder to shoulder, and holding their attention for 70 minutes, punctuated with laughter and sprinkled with the tough messages they need to hear.
That went away. ALL OF IT.
Then, through The National Business Compact on Coronavirus, on behalf of the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus along with partners from AMREF and UNILEVER and more… we were asked to make videos. For kids and their caregivers.
We had never made video before. That isn’t our thing. We always want to go where there is no TV – pack ‘em in, and give them something they haven’t seen before.
Little did we know our puppetry based public service announcements would immediately air on the TOP TWO networks in Kenya, many, many times per day.
Suddenly we went from reaching thousands of people each month, to reaching millions of people every day. Multiple millions.
Then we got calls. More videos. Somalia. Yemen. A broadcaster in South Africa.
Now we were asked to do more languages in Kenya. Nine. We made videos in nine languages! (Not to mention the series of videos we made for Somali kids that ended up getting translated for kids in Yemen. So, eleven!)
We signed MOUs with partners in media. We were asked to flight our videos on a UNICEF platform. We made audio versions for radio. We were interviewed by some foreign press. Accepted info film festivals – you name it.
Did the puppeteers get full time jobs? Well, no. We are still far down the food chain of subcontracted subcontractors of subcontractors so rent is still a little tricky. But here we are. A known quantity.
It’s bitter sweet. Sweet because now we get the calls, we don’t go job hunting. Bitter because well, we’ve been making high quality content for YEARS and no one seemed to care until we turned on a camera. But boy did they care. We won the local Kalasha award from the Kenya Film Commission for Best TV Advertisement in Kenya. From a video we made in our leaky garage no less. Huh?!
But we care. We always have. And that passion and dedication to quality translated pretty well to video and is now getting recognized.
2021 here we come!