Our very own screenwriter

After fumbling through my cluttered notebook and finding the blank leaf on which to write, she switched off her phone

Friday February 13 2009


After fumbling through my cluttered notebook and finding the blank leaf on which to write, she switched off her phone, took a deep breath and with a smile, said she was ready. What I had thought would be a fire-and-respond approach turned out to be a light exchange like we were long lost chums. ***image2***

It pretty had much to do with my interviewee’s modesty, charm and fluency. Judith Lucy Adong was here to share her experience as the only Ugandan of the six writers of the new Kenyan series which started airing on M-Net East on January 20, 2009. The others are Kenyans and one Tanzanian.

The Agency, which runs for an hour every Tuesday at 8p.m. and at the same time on M-Net West on Saturday with a repeat on Sunday, digs into the politics, rivalry and intrigue in the world of advertising.

There are records of local actors featured in films that have garnered international acclaim but little is known about screenwriters. And being the only Ugandan screenwriter for M-Net, Adong has set the precedence that should inspire others to take the first step on the worthwhile journey of screenwriting.

But it takes hard work, voracious reading and deep interest all made complete by a resolve to get there.
For Adong, it began with writing for theatre and radio. Her first venture into film was in 2006 when she wrote a short film script titled Shadows of Tinted Soul, a story of a 12-year-old child soldier who returns home but cannot adapt to the new environment because of the suspicion with which he’s treated.

It was combined with another and later turned into a high-profile feature film called Imani.
She has also written and directed Downcast, a 15-minute film of a woman struggling for acceptance after declaring her HIV/Aids status. To spite her family because of the rejection she receives, she deliberately infects her nephew, something for which she’s banished.

Adong who with Patricia Achiro Olwoch, were the only Ugandan finalists in the 2008 Maisha Filmmaker Lab, has scripted and directed many NGO commissioned films to raise awareness. Dangerous Opinion is for example about a man who gets meningitis but thinks he’s been bewitched, while Together Fighting Hepatitis E is a documentary that sensitises people about the disease.
An actress and a professional story-teller who last year represented Uganda at the prestigious Swedish Storytelling Biennial, Adong was tipped off in 2007 about the M-Net search for screenwriters from East Africa.
She applied and soon enough, received a congratulatory message telling her she had gone through. She was meant to relocate to Nairobi where M-Net’s regional headquarters are located but the decision was reversed following the post-election violence in Kenya.

As it is, the writing of The Agency began last year.
“For every episode, you are given a one-page overview called the hook which you develop into a detailed episode of between 45 and 50 pages,� she said.

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