African Scriptwriters: Kenyan Scriptwriters Mugambi Nthiga and Naomi Kamau
Mugambi Nthiga is a Kenyan scriptwriter whose films have won awards here in Kenya and beyond. But he is a man of many hats. Apart from working as a scriptwriter in the film industry, he is also an actor, emcee, advertising copywriter, film blogger, an improv comedian and a director for both screen and stage.
Before going into filmmaking full time, Mugambi was an advertising copywriter and strategist.
Many people probably know him as an actor, since this is how he was introduced to our screens. He says he landed his first acting role at the age of 5 years while still in nursery school, although his career started years later. As an actor, he has been featured on several films, TV series and theatre plays/musicals. Some of these include Changes; an Mnet Tv series, Buni TV comedy series, New Beginnings, Oh-Bama; a satirical web series, Jesus Christ Superstar; a theatre musical, Nairobi Half Life film, Stories of Our Lives film and Kati Kati film.
As an improvisation or improv comedian, he is a member of the popular Kenyan improv comedy group Because You Said So or BYSS.
Mugambi Nthiga began his scriptwriting career in Mavuno Church. While directing one of the church’s musicals, he realized that had he been given the opportunity, he would have made several tweaks in the story. After this, he was given an opportunity to write the next play, and thus began his career as a scriptwriter. Since then, he has written and co-written various musicals/plays, TV/web series and films. In terms of writing for film, he co-wrote his first major Kenyan film Kati Kati (2016), alongside Mbithi Masya. Kati Kati tells the story of a young woman who with no memory of her life or death, is helped with assimilation to the afterlife by a ghost. The film won several awards including the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) for the Discovery programme at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. This film was followed by another Kenyan film Supa Modo (2018), which he also co-wrote alongside Silas Miami, Wanjeri Gakuru and Kamau Wandung’u. Supa Modo is about a young girl whose dream of becoming a superhero is threatened by a terminal illness. The people in her village are inspired to rally together to make her dream come true. The film premiered at Berlinale in 2018 where it received the Children’s Jury Special Mention.
As a director, he has also directed several musicals and web/TV series like Stories From The Mall; a tribute to the 2013 Westgate terrorist attack in Kenya and Groove Theory; a musical TV series, among others.
This year, he will join the list of African film directors when he makes his official debut as a film director. This is after he was selected to directed One Fine Day and Ginger Ink TV’s 2018 film which we be shot later this year.
“Your circumstances right now, the places that you are at right now, are not the point. Are you on the path that you need to be on? Are you doing the stuff that you need to do?”
Naomi Kamau is a renowned Kenyan scriptwriter, responsible for some of the most popular TV dramas in Kenya. She is also an actor and producer.
Her journey is an interesting one and proves that if you are passionate about your dreams, you can achieve them. Naomi studies air ticketing but ended up being a highschool teacher. She taught History and English for two years but put down her teaching tools to follow her passion in the film and TV industry. It was not her idea to become a teacher; it was her parents’ and she did not want to disappoint them. However, after two years, she realized teaching was not working for her and decided to pursue her dream.
Many know her as an actor. She started her career as an actor and scriptwriter at the same time with the popular Kenyan TV drama Reflections, which aired on KBC back in the days. She wrote the TV drama, making her debut as a scriptwriter. She also starred in the TV series alongside famous names like Terryanne Chebet, Maqbul Mohammed and Joseph Omari (aka Mr. Tembo). After this, she went ahead to write several other popular TV series including Makutano Junction, Mother-in-Law, Machachari and Tahidi High, some of which she still writes for alongside other writers and other which she has passed along to other writers. All these shows are some of the most popular TV shows in Kenya and East Africa.
She moved on from acting and began hosting a magazine TV show Shamba Shape Up alongside Tony Njuguna.
“Read and Research. You need to know what others in the industry have done so that you can create something better. Better still you can liaise with the people already there in order to create something better. Production is an expensive venture especially for a young person and mistakes cost money. It would be good to know what other people who’ve made it think of your work. That is the essence of having a mentor.”