“Some Ugandans consider local productions of low quality and opt for other international things”
With a long standing experience in the audiovisual field, Ashraf Mayanja has come from Uganda to join the East African Independent Producers Summit.
Q:How long have you been in the production industry?
A: I officially got into the production industry in the year 2000 but ever since 1981, I have been involved in acting and in various screen plays.
Q: How did you get where you are in terms of the courses you took in school,etc?
A:Initially I studied medicine and became a dentist but I have always had a talent for writing. I am a story teller so I still wrote scripts here and there. Most of them have not been published but were just done as screen plays. I juggled the two careers but in 2003, they were both proving to be involving and I was forced to choose one of the two. I choose to be a full time producer, but I still do what we call preventive medicine. While acting and writing scripts I try educate on how to keep healthy teeth, what to avoid and what practises to adapt but I do not do any extractions and other such procedures. I studied acting and drama in Makerere University . A few of my scripts have been published like London Shock, Feeling Struggle, Mother in the city, The Honourable and The hope.
Q:Let`s take London Shock as an example, what is it about and what inspired you to write it?
A:London Shock is about immigrants, Ugandans who sell all the property they own and then go to the UK to places like London hoping to get a better life than what they had in Uganda. There they end up becoming street sweepers, which is not exactly what they had anticipated. Eventually most of them get deported back to Uganda where they come back and they have absolutely nothing because they sold everything before they left. My bother was actually the person who inspired the story because he sold everything and left then got deported and came back to find nothing. We did it at first as a screen play and there was a lot of demand for it. Ugandans loved the story and wanted more so we had it run as a television series for four years.
Q:Do you find that in your country there is a market for local productions as opposed to international productions?
A: In Uganda you can get anything from Hollywood to Nollywood and Bollywood but you will find that all these other films will not cost as much as a Ugandan film. The people do appreciate local productions, some more than others. There are downtown people who will appreciate them more than uptown people. The people from uptown always think local productions are low quality and opt for other international things. In Uganda, we have 105 radio stations, 15 newspapers and 7 television stations but on all these, to have them airing a local production is rare. To get airtime on a television station you would have to buy it, and it is not cheap. This is why we came together with various people to form the Uganda Film Network, to advertise and promote local productions. The government is also giving a hand. They have now abolished all taxes on filming equipment. Previously, getting a camera to shoot with was very expensive but now things are much easier.
This is Mayanja`s second time in Kenya. He is actually hoping to premiere his film on The passion of The Ugandan Martyrs while here.