Why film industry in Uganda is struggling

Thursday July 23 2020

 

By Roggers Akanyijuka

On November 8, 2019, at least 18 regulations were gazetted to operationalise Uganda Communications Act of 2013.

While as they tackle a number of areas in the communication space, I will hold closer where my throat chokes, and our interests dance in the dark as filmmakers. Filming licenses and permits for film production and advertising of exhibitions of film production permits, are undue.

This would mean that going forward, any person intending to produce a film must first seek a license in that regard from UCC. Second, the same person or the hired producer must also get a production licence for the film in question and finally, maybe, seek for permission to advertise the film, failure to follow any of the above, you qualify to stay out of the industry forcefully or retire helplessly.

Many film companies and groups are struggling to have just one film produced due to the high cost of production either at hiring equipment and worst still, purchasing. Film in Uganda is more than the word film, we do a lot of improvising to get the pieces of the story together because there is no money to accomplish a single day on location.

I have seen many artists begging for support. Save for almost years to see their story on screen, we can’t push them back just like that. The film initiatives and start-ups also range in scale from independent professionals to small productions to large studios. This means there is no one-size-fits-all model for backing up industry contributors.

And more than in many parts of the economy, policy interventions - most importantly those that aim to nurture creative talent and encourage the development of intellectual property, need to be carefully targeted to help individual artists and creative companies of all sizes to succeed. Film, documentary, and photography production are very expensive ventures worldwide.

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A number of governments have come up to leverage such production costs to enable film enthusiasts to ripen the industry and have some sense of employment. This has worked for them and continues to be one of the industries that contribute to their national budget.

That said, the new license could be perfect, but good at a later stage when the industry that has started taking baby steps has held a strong grip on the ground and yes they will be welcome.

The arts have and continue to attract thousands of youth to try out their lack. In a single year, many youth join or start-up art/entertainment groups and companies with a lot of passion to make a living.

Many have used their informal experience to make wonders. Most of the great filmmakers have not gone to school for a degree or a relative transcript. Many are school dropouts, but have made the country proud with educational content, entertainment, and better still when they win awards.

These need a hand rather than asking then to keep in the shadow of the unknown. On the other hand, still, the film/art industry houses thousands of professionals who have no hope of finding suitable careers in specificities of their academic credentials.

The art world welcomes them and preoccupies them in a bid for a better tomorrow. I know all these licenses are all meant for a good intention in the eyes of those who are not practical on the ground.

Film industry is estimated to be worth billions of dollars, if it is supported and nurtured to materialise profit.

Roggers Akanyijuka,
Abroggers068@gmail.com

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