Opening a Post House in a Country Without Post Houses
Africa Post Office had even more challenges when starting their thriving creative editorial shop: posts houses weren’t a thing in Nairobi before they came along.
In many markets, we are used to the idea of a "post house," a dedicated shop where production companies and filmmakers come in for their projects to get special expertise through the post process.
In Nairobi, post had traditionally been a purely in-house business, so when experienced editor Franki Ashiruka launched Africa Post Office, the job wasn't building a client roster, it was changing client habits to get them used to the very concept of a post house. We talked to them to get their story.
NFS: What was sort of the thinking process behind opening up your own shingle?
Ashiruka: It wasn't an idea that came to me. I was busy doing my thing freelancing all over the place both locally and internationally. And then Andrew White, better known as the advertising guru approached me. He wanted to know if I would be interested in setting up a post house within a space he was constructing. Andrew called it The Village Creative, a collective of independent creative communication practitioners and producers.
NFS: So he wanted to have a post facility in there and he approached you and was like, "Hey, you want to do the post facility within this bigger complex?"
Ashiruka: Exactly. There's no such thing in East Africa. I had never paid rent. So my first question was my going to have to pay rent. And he said yes but shouldn’t worry about that. So I thought why not try? I was tired of freelancing anyways and needed to stop.
NFS: One of the nice things about having a facility of your own is it gives you a little bit of stability?
Ashiruka: Exactly. Where before clients usually asked me to go to them, now I get to say, "no, you can come to me. I have this beautiful place." Which is really an incredibly relaxing space to be working from.
NFS: How much were you able to be involved in creating the facility? Because I looked at all the photos and I was like, what a beautiful post house. It's so rare that young post houses are so beautiful
Ashiruka: At the time Andrew called me construction had not begun. The idea was in his head. Once he started building I would pop in every now and again to see how it was going. "So what's going on or what's the progress?" And he’d describe to me how it would turn out. It was hard to imagine what he meant. The final outcome is the awesomeness you see now.
We started with one edit suite, and now we have three dedicated interchangeable online/offline edit suites plus a basic suite for logs you know, viewings and stuff. I'm not big on color grading because I know there are people more qualified for it. I also know it is a vital process in postproduction. So with my favorite colorist who also happens to be my business partner we set up a remote grading system. Nic is based in Cape Town, South Africa and does his thing on our projects remotely from there. So cool!
NFS: If this is a whole new thing for Nairobi, where most people have been doing all their posts in-house, how has the process been of like growing your client base?
Ashiruka: I have to say it has not been hard. My advantage is I was good to begin with. I already knew how to edit. I have those skills. My work sold itself. So, it was not so hard because I just built my reputation through my work. When I set up Africa Post Office, my clients were happy to migrate with me. And for the new clients, if they want my work, they have to come to where I am.
It's been insane too, the growth. We’re talking about two years! It’s only been two years and we are full up. Working on two TV series concurrently and round the clock, Day and night shifts, 24 hours a day!
NFS: How are you recruiting and growing young talent? Where are you finding them?
Ashiruka: They find me. But the issue about people is they never say what they do really know. Post sounds nice on the résumés I get sent. I talk to someone who wants to be part of the team and they sound really good until I meet them. That’s when I’m like "oh, okay, there’s work to be done here" But I mean we can't take on everyone, so we choose the ones who really put in the effort. Yeah, we see potential in the ones that are good humans. I like nice people. I would rather choose a nice person who doesn’t have the right editing skills than a genius that can edit but is not nice. Editing you can teach. Being nice cannot be taught.
NFS: Have you been able to build dedicated infrastructure?
Ashiruka: Oh yes. I worked with Peter Fairhurst of Visual Engineering. He introduced Avid to Kenya in the nineties and he said: "Let's train you on this thing and then we can show other people how it works." So I always knew Peter had access to up-to-date equipment. He was the first person I thought of when setting up Africa Post Office, twenty years from our first meeting, I called him and said, you know, I need this, I need that. And he said, "Why don't you use EditShare?" - "EditShare?" I asked. That was the first time I heard about it and that was it. I was sold!
It's been a breeze. We sit here sometimes and forget that we have a shared platform and it's like "please put that on USB stick and send it to edit 3" and everyone looks at you like "But we have EditShare!" Just access it from your workspace. It’s so cool.
NFS: We all have 20 years of habits of thinking, "Oh, we've got to find a hard drive. Put it on a drive, walk it over." It takes a long time to get in the habit of being like, "oh no, I can just like, we all have access to the same shared media so we can just put it there and everyone else will instantly have it"
Ashiruka: I don’t know why we never thought of this before, but that's because I was freelancing. I didn't even stop to think these existed, it’s what I needed and it came at the right time.
NFS: I feel like a lot of smaller post houses until about five years ago felt like they couldn't afford it and felt like, oh it's, it's too unreliable and I need to hire a full-time engineer to manage it. And it's only within the last three or four years where it's starting to feel like, oh, I can afford this and the systems are stable enough. I don't need a full-time network engineer.
Ashiruka: It’s so worth it. And luckily touch wood; we haven't once called them since they installed it. It's amazing.
NFS: So what's next? What are the next stages looking like? You've got two shows in right now, which is great. Are you sort of happy with where you are? Are you thinking about expanding at all? Like where are you going next?
Ashiruka: My dream would be an Africa Post Office in East and Central Africa. So, you go to any of these countries, Ethiopia or Rwanda for example, and you find an Africa Post Office there beautifully set up by me but ran by Ethiopian and Rwandese people doing their thing properly and professionally. So that eventually when people look at East and Central Africa and by extension Africa they go, “Right, these guys can compete internationally.” That's my dream. But that’s a big dream. That’s really huge. For now, I just want to find and help a lot of editors in Kenya to be able to edit to the standards of Africa Post Office. Quality that both local and international clients expect. That's it. I want folks to come through this place and leave knowing "I'm a better editor than I was when I came."