Filmmaker Philippe Bresson is a respected figure in the local film industry. He is behind local productions including popular shows like New Beginnings, Better Days, Changing Times and Single Kiasi. He has also worked with various corporates to come up with interesting adverts and is now working on passion projects which he promises will push boundaries and change narratives.
The producer candidly spoke out in an interview with WoK about his displeasure with some of the industry’s policies and what he hopes to achieve in the near future.
Kindly introduce yourself and what you do
My name is Phillipe Bresson. I am a film director and producer.
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For how long have you been a film director?
I have practiced my profession since 2007, so that makes it about 15 years.
Why film production and directing? Where did the passion stem from?
I initially began my career as a music producer, producing and directing music videos. When I was a kid, I could give very detailed and vivid stories. My stories were always very detailed and gave a vivid description of the stories I was talking about. I think those were hints of how my passion for directing and producing came from. I was always fascinated with telling good stories.
How many films have you directed and or produced so far?
I have done 25 films and 11 series. All of them are local productions.
Do you have a favorite out of all your projects?
My top two would be New Beginnings and Single Kiasi.
What do you like most about your job?
I love the fact that I have the freedom to create. Sometimes we are controlled by networks and other players in the industry, but I believe that the better you are at storytelling, the more freedom you have to create and impact the industry.
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What do you like least about your job?
I do not like the crazy long working hours. I also do not like it when I have to work with people who are not aligned with my vision. In our line of work, successful execution of a project could be threatened by creative conflict. We however barely work with people like that. It is much easier for us if we are working with a team that is in sync with our vision.
Do you have other director that you look up to?
Locally I feel I am at par with most directors. We are always trying to challenge each other and inspiring each other to do better and come up with better concepts and generally work towards bettering our skills.
Internationally I look up to Michael Bay. I admire his style of storytelling. I also closely follow the work of Martin Scorsese who works a lot with Leonardo Dicaprio.
You are a Managing Director at Insignia Productions. Tell us a bit about that and how you started the company.
We started the company back in 2006 through a show called Better Days. We later slowly got into production, doing documentaries for other companies. We later did Changing Times and Mheshimiwa, both of which aired on KTN.
Do you think you are where you hoped to be by now?
No, I do not. I feel we are able to do more and achieve much more with our company. We are hoping to work on projects beyond Africa and basically work our way up.
What would you term as your biggest career achievements?
My biggest achievement I would say was a show we did called Changing Times. Through the show a lot of actors who are well-known now were exposed. Another show we did called the Comedy Club also brought comedians like Njugush to the limelight. Knowing that in a way I was involved in the birthing of many great actors gives me great satisfaction. Our latest project Single Kiasi is another one.
New Beginnings is also one of the shows I am very proud of. We were able to air the show in Nigeria and South Africa, with great reception.
You are a pioneer in the local film production industry as we know it. What are your thoughts on the current film industry environment?
Unfortunately, the industry is yet to reach its full potential. If we had serious people in places of power to influence certain changes, we would raise the bar of film production across the region. Currently we are definitely not where we should be.
What can be done to alleviate the situation?
For the longest time, local producers have been trying to lobby for the use of local talent in advertising campaigns for big companies. We however continue to see big companies airing adverts made or produced abroad. If we are the consumers of the product, why can’t we produce an advert that is locally made?
If these companies are charged high levies to air internationally-made adverts, they will turn to local creators for local production to cut costs. This will in turn create employment, enable money circulation for the local economy, and empower the industry.
Another way to alleviate the situation is to address the issue of budgets for local content aired on TV. We currently have no body or union to address the plight of the industry players. If we did, then issues of fair pay would be resolved. We would be able to have a standardized rate for local production. The ripple effect of this would be better pay for actors, producers, directors, basically the whole industry would benefit.
If you were not a film director, what would you be?
I would definitely be in real estate. I have been trying to dip my toes in that sector.
Do you think you generally have to be a creative to enter the film industry?
Not really. If you look at the United States, there are different professionals play different roles in the industry. This includes accountants, entertainment lawyers and the like. So you should definitely understand the industry, but you do not have to be a creative.
What genre do you focus on?
I am able to do directing for films in different genres, including horror. The challenge with this however is budget. Genres like horror and action need a lot of budget for it to at least be believable.
What has been your worst experience working as a director?
A lot. One is not being paid for a long time, sometimes up to 2 years. Things like that always put you in a difficult place, as you can even shut down the company since you are not able to run it.
What are some of the hardest lessons you have learned in the course of your career?
I should have been more fearless. I feel I postponed a lot of passion projects that would have catapulted my career faster.
As a director, how do you identify good talent?
I just have an eye for it. The person has to be convincing. When I am watching a scene behind the camera, I should be able to believe the actor. From their voice, their posture…all these traits are able to set apart a good actor from a bad one.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on my passion projects.