What’s Good Studios, a Kenyan Startup is still new to many but the founder, Cris Blyth, is a man whose name is familiar to many.
In a recent interview with The Standard, Blyth shared his journey from Hollywood and how he made Kenya his new home.
What prompted your move to Kenya?
We were working on some projects here, and we fell in love with the place, it really seemed like there’s so much going on here. Before settling here we had worked in Uganda and Tanzania but there was just something different about Kenya, and having lived in 23 different countries it was about time time I tried something new. I needed a new adventure.
You left a good career in Hollywood and came to start from scratch…
I’m a gipsy. I’m originally from Scotland, and I’ve worked in many different countries, and moved to LA 17 years ago. However, when I left the UK, I had a great career in video games, but it seemed like a new adventure then, and coming to Kenya is a new adventure also. But the fact we were starting something new and different was the most exciting part. In Hollywood if you are a director you only stick to directing and I’m a person who likes doing a little bit of everything.
You were nominated for an Emmy Award once, how was this experience for you?
Well, it’s a highly political deal, and I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to win. However, the commercials I made were really popular, and I’m still glad they were given recognition.
What do you think is ailing the Kenyan film and production industry?
A plan, commitment and money.
However, before any of that can happen, we need what I call the ‘machine’ that LA had. There are standard rates for every production pipeline, and there’s a system of residuals and royalty payments that keeps people in the industry and keeps the ‘machine’ going.
Also, another problem is equipment distribution. Right now, the ‘producer’ can bring in a camera without duty or taxes, however, we need to build an industry to enable equipment distributors to grow and ecosystem and an industry that can expand.
Do you look back at time and wish you never made the life changing decision of moving here?
Well, it’s challenging, but I’ve not regretted it.. wait, do you have something to tell me ?
How long did it take you to get in your feet financially.
We’re a startup, so there’s a lot of stumbling. Earlier on in our time here we were lucky enough to win the OLX “Sell It” show with Eric Omondi. It was really popular, and that opened up a lot of doors for us. We also did the ‘Drink Responsibly – Your replacement’, which again was popular, we won an award from that.
You work very closely with your wife Tilo Ponder who is also the co-owner of What’s Good studios, how do you guys cope?
We both do different things, so we work well together. She’s an incredibly smart woman. She works more on the longer term thinking and direction, I make sure the engine is running and there’s enough fuel etc.
How would you describe the work you do?
A bit of everything.. from directing, editing, to also doing the music to some of our shows and commercials .
What do you think of Kenyan women?
I think African women in general are very beautiful. I do find it interesting that some apply a lot of makeup and add hair, when they look just as beautiful without anything added. I’ve seen this so many times. I think the natural look is better.
If you were to move to an island for three months. What three things would you take with you?
Depends if I would have power or not.
I would take
My 30-year-old synthesiser (Fairlight CMI)
My bass guitar
A Red camera (for stills and video)
I would hide some chocolate somewhere too.
What advice would you give to fellow producers in the industry?
We need to add more logs to the fire to keep it burning. We need to create more local content that is going to catch the eye of other people and market the Kenyan film industry more. It’s heartbreaking for producers to pick a country like south Korea to shoot a movie over Kenya just because it is hard to shoot one here. Working together and allowing growth of new fresh talents can help grow the industry a lot.