Uganda tipped on how to tap into film industry

Hellen Lukoma acting. Photo/Andrew Kaggwa.

What you need to know:

  • On Wednesday, Mr Odrek Rwabogo, the chairperson of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID), weighed in on how Uganda can crack the code when it comes to film exports.

The Uganda Communication Commission organised Uganda Film Festival (UFF) has been playing out over the past fortnight with films screening in all cinemas across the country.

On Wednesday, Mr Odrek Rwabogo, the chairperson of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID), weighed in on how Uganda can crack the code when it comes to film exports.

“Most of the time, when we are talking about bi-lateral agreements, we talk about coffee and trade, and rarely do we talk about the arts,” he said, adding, “In fact, these meetings never have ministers of the arts in them. But I’m taking this, and we are going to start talking about content in such agreements.”

Nigerian actor and producer, Fabian Logede, a member of this year’s UFF jury, said it takes more than selling actual films as a product.

“Some countries have tax incentives and policies that attract Hollywood. When you see producers such as Mel Gibson take films such as Passion of The Christ to Italy, it is not because he loves Italy; but Italy has better incentives,” Mr Logede disclosed.

He said some countries bargain with producers to use at least 40 percent of the crew as locals. These could include actors, assistant directors, and other people in costume and catering.

In the same vein, Chike C Nwoffiah, a Nigerian filmmaker, said African leaders need to be strategic and position themselves like other markets have.

“At the moment, South Korea is overtaking Indian films as the most consumed media in Africa, and it’s not a mistake; it’s by design. They know how to position themselves for the market,” Mr Nwoffiah revealed.

Mr Nwoffiah reckoned that Uganda needs to position itself right to build a great reputation.

“When Hollywood comes to your country and they have a bad experience, that door will be shut for good, they will never come back,” he said.

The Nigerian filmmaker said Uganda could start with the low hanging fruit by enticing producers making low budget films to create a relationship with them. Exporting films, he added, is not about actual films, but about manpower and locations. This, according to Mr Nwoffiah is something a country like Uganda can tap into.

Local content creators have over the years decried the level of piracy in Uganda, with some licensed TV stations willingly participating in the vice.

“At the moment, we are not very knowledgeable about the industry, but I think we need to work with the industry to create better policies and serve them better,” Mr Rwabogo conceded.

On copyright violations, Mr Nwoffiah said thus: “If you are going to be playing at the international level, copyright is very important. You need to clear the music right, and above all, be careful with your art and costume departments.”

He added: “Sometimes your film will have a character wearing an Arsenal FC kit, that one with a big wording Fly Emirates, and distributors will not touch it because of that.”

He said many platforms want to avoid ending up in situations where brands sue them over their labels appearing in places they did not approve, and in most cases, since no one knows the filmmaker, they sue the platform, in this case, Netflix, Showmax, or MultiChoice.

“I’ve seen a film being called out because of something on a coffee table,” Mr Nwoffiah said.