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School dropout finds success in making film equipment

By Esther Dianah | Jan 15th 2022 | 3 min read
By Esther Dianah | January 15th 2022
Paul Kihuha, alias Protisa, makes film equipment. [Esther Dianah, Standard]

Paul Kihuha, alias Protisa, was never academically gifted.

He was often at the bottom of his class and never proceeded to high school.

Today, Kihuha is a self-taught metal engineer who earns his fortune by repairing film equipment and making new ones using scrap metals.

"I have made quite a fortune from my craft, right now I can afford to buy new metals for my equipment. However, I still go to scrap metal shops to purchase other metals for my workshop,” he said.

The entrepreneur, who teaches film, also hires out the equipment he makes for production.

The Kenyan film industry has been crippled by many issues including lack of finance and licensing restrictions. Despite the challenges, Kihuha joins the vast number of young creatives trying to break even in the industry.

According to a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Cultural and Creative industry generates $2.3 billion (Sh253 billion) annually. This is three per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). UNESCO states that the creative economy employs more people than the car industry of Europe, Japan and USA, which collectively employs 25 million people.

Kihuha learnt his craft through apprenticeship, first by seeing his father do vehicle panel beating. “My father saw my ability a long time ago, he carried me to his workshop most of the time,” he said. His parents were not surprised when he quit school because all along they somehow knew his fate.

Despite having quit school, Kihuha vows to support his children and ensure they get the best education. However, the self-confessed metal work guru does not regret his decision to quit school. “When I quit school, my life took a totally different direction, and I believe I am where I am because of the decision I made.”

For Kihuha, there is no child or pupil who is entirely inept. “It depends on the kind of information they have been given. I think our schools put too much emphasis on academics than the different ability each and every child had, which I think is wrong.”

As a child, Kihuha says he was an introvert and had low self-esteem. He attributes his low self-esteem to the kind of background he came from. “We did not have a TV or electricity, so when other pupils discussed certain programmes, I had nothing to say."

Kihuha, who describes himself as a handy person, started as a basic technician producing jikos and vibandas for people around his area. “It was more like a hobby,” he explained.

He then tried his luck in music by becoming a rapper knowing this would be the birth of his long journey in film production.

“While rapping, I needed videos for my music, but the videos were very expensive because of the equipment used. And because I was a fundi, I decided to make my first video equipment, I gave it to a certain videographer who loved it, and that’s how I started accompanying him to shoots. He would pay me between Sh500 and Sh1,000 from time to time,” he said.

His business, he said, has progressed significantly over the years. “I think I have grown in terms of professionalism. Initially, my business was more like Jua Kali. I have invested in machines and my confidence in my products has grown. I am now able to deal with different people, which is really important for my business and my personal growth,” he said.

Kihuha, who now trains people on metal works, has also employed a number of workers. He, however, notes that importation of ready-made film equipment is a threat to his business.

He says that there is so much room for investment in the film industry because, “the creative industry employs without biases, there is so much potential and it is by far the industry that employs many youths”.

Despite the hiccup brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, Kihuha is still positive about growing his business further.

In 2020, the film industry which employs about 30 million people globally was reported to have lost 30 per cent of global royalties from cancellation of public performances alone. The global film industry is said to have lost $7 billion (Sh770 billion) in revenue.

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