14 February 2017

Uganda: Lack of Structures, Piracy, Killing Uganda's Film Industry


Evelyn Cindy Magara is the CEO of Nyati Motion Pictures, a film producing company in Uganda. She spoke to the Independent's Agnes E Nantaba about the future outlook of the country's film industry.

What are the key elements in your management philosophy as a manager?

For a manager in a film industry, the starting point is to have people who fit in story and making sure that team players like cast directors understand the story.

Film is like a military academy where rules are rules and should be observed. As a manager, I make a shooting schedule for effective time management.

A manager in such an industry needs technical people in the line of photographers, editors, designers, costumers and writers who are very key in telling the story.

We front the smartness rather than hard working notwithstanding the fact that a director is involved at every point and so cannot delegate a directing job.

What is your assessment of Uganda's film and arts industry?

Uganda's film industry is still at its infancy but with signs for growth. Unluckily, there are no proper structures and systems in place to ensure that artists, distributors, actors and actresses have one voice towards the development of the industry.

For instance, there are no managers for actresses in Uganda, a scenario that has seen producers of movies like Queen of Katwe bring in foreigners as actresses and production assistants to do basic things like moving tables and cables.

In places like Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, you pay the government a lot of money prior to carrying out any film on their land. Uganda doesn't have an established system.

Uganda Communications Commission came up with the Uganda Film Festival. And while we acknowledge that it is trying hard to grow the industry, it is yet to establish a Film Commission like it is in Kenya and Tanzania. A film commission would manage the industry on behalf of the players and thus making the industry grow faster.

What is the biggest problem affecting Uganda film industry?

Our biggest problem is that we don't value our work and neither does government do. The film industry can employ literally everyone like it does in Nigeria if we had the structures in place. Even when they try to put up structures, there are unending fights between UCC and Ministry of Gender over who should handle the task of managing the industry. We aim to tell our stories to improve our society and for this, we need financial support.

What needs to done to spur growth of Uganda's film industry?

We need to establish systems like a Film Commission or an authority that will oversee the activities of the industry as well as come up with a copyright law that will deter piracy of movies produced. This will boot the industry in terms of revenue generation. We also have a very big attitude problem towards locally made products including movies.

How can marketing Ugandan produced films be improved?

It is more than just marketing strategy and it still goes back to structures. We have businessmen who have not yet seen the potential in film. For instance, in Tanzania where the film industry is second to Nigeria in terms of people employed and the amount of movies produced, all movies go through two companies which means the industry is organized. There is no piracy.

It is only in Uganda where people make movies at a low budget without paying actors and other technical people and again involve themselves in selling the very movies. For as long as we still have people who write the movies, direct it, act and sell it, then we are doomed.

Our local Television stations would be of great help but if they are still showing Latin American soaps and other imported films at primetime, then we shall keep crawling.

There are claims of poor quality scripts, unsuitable actors, and actresses as the major reasons for the poor quality poor quality movies produced. What is your take on this?

Ugandans are very talented actors, be it educated or not. We are only lacking the technical bit because much as Ugandans can write good stories and act well, we lack lots of good camera men. And this is because we have not had a film school. But having up to 80 movies produced a year, out of which 20 % are of good quality, is a sign that we are improving.

What opportunities can Uganda film industry take to stir its growth?

We can export our movies taking advantage of the cable TV's because they offer a higher price and the audience is bigger compared to local TV stations. Film producers and directors can also take on co-production roles in the region.

For instance, for the Queen of Katwe movie, the directors had to make sure they include a Nigerian actor who is based overseas and an academy winner Lupita Nyong'o so that the audience in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda have an attachment to the actors and actresses.

Where do you see Uganda's film industry in the next few years?

In the next 10 years, we shall be a walking industry having graduated from crawling possibly with a commission in place. Film has a potential to adsorb many of our unemployed youth. And since oral literature systems died, we can only seek refuge in film.


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