I Suffer to Entertain You

Recently, I got a job directing the NTV Series, “The Hostel.” So far, it is the most demanding job I’ve ever met, so unlike anything I’ve ever done. Honestly, for a moment or two, I keep wondering just what it is I’ve gotten myself into. It is the first project where I will not be totally in control of the whole process—someone else decides what the story is, who the actors are, and who makes up the crew—and yet I’m the kind who prefers total freedom to do as I please while crafting a story. Moreover, this is a production that uses two cameras. I always use one. And yet, with the craze “The Hostel” stirred in Kampala a few months ago, I’m under pressure to do better, though I’m in a strange land. 

Making of “The Hostel”
I took the job because TV is the most lucrative for a filmmaker in Uganda, and I need to put a foot in. The only problem is that the sponsors have crazy demands. They want it done within a certain time-frame, which leaves us with no option but to shoot one episode per day. Very crazy. Now I’m stuck in a job that runs ten hours a day, six days a week! Wow, those are the kind of working hours you would associate with casual laborers ferrying bricks to a building site. But here it is, a heavy burden on both the crew and the actors trying to get season 2 of “The Hostel” to your TV screen. ‘
Isaac Kuddu, one of the stars in “The Hostel”
When one of my neighbors heard that I was working in filmmaking, he said it’s easy money. And I almost cut his throat. He is a lecturer, but he never wakes up before 8 AM. I on the other hand have to be up by 5:00 so as to get to the shooting location by 7:00, and work until 6 PM, with only an hour for food and tea breaks. 
The first day I went to work was a Monday. It’s been a long time since I last woke up at 6 AM, for the last two years I was in Nepal (ever heard of that country?) making a documentary called Untouchable Love, about forbidden love and contentious marriages in Hindu cultures. (Watch the trailer here http://www.imdb.com/video/wab/vi2642123801/) There, the working day starts at 10 AM, so I developed this laziness over time. Well, I returned to Uganda barely two months ago, and I sort of wasn’t ready to start waking up at 5 AM to go to work.
But “The Hostel” urgently needed a director, to support Kwezi, who is the main director of the show, and I signed up without second thought. Then, the night before I was to start work, I realized I would have to wake up at an unholy hour in order to get to the location before the shooting starts. I set my alarm clock and got up the moment it went off.
Unluckily for me, it was raining cats and dogs outside. I got an umbrella and hurried away from home, for being a professional, I did not want to give an excuse of rain to get late to work. However, just as I was picking my way through the slick dirt roads, walking on the ankle-deep mud as though I was walking on eggs, the wind blew hard and broke my umbrella. I was left stranded with the handle of the umbrella in the middle of a muddy road, with the rain falling hard. I was drenched within a few seconds.
It’s got worse for me. My girlfriend did not like the long working hours. All of a sudden, I was too tired in the evenings to give her tender loving care. She could not understand why I had to work all those hours, why I had to leave her in the cold bed at 5 AM when she needed my warmth the most! One night, I was really exhausted and yet she was horny. She tried to excite me, but my machine just could not respond. My body had no strength to make it work.
“But it used to work before!”she screamed at me. “It used to work just fine! Why not now?” I had no answer to that. I wanted to explain about the extremely long working hours killing my urge — and that I had to conserve energy to deal with actors and the crew the next day — but I just could not say anything. “Are you cheating on me? Are you banging one of those actresses who dress in baby skirts and shake their asses in your face all day?”
You can not blame her for thinking like this, because “The Hostel” is a TV series about university students, featuring skimpily dressed girls who forget about decency in their eagerness to be “cool.” So our wives and girlfriends might think our job is simply to look at these half-dressed girls and pick the best shots of their long legs. I wish it were that great a job. I wish it had no arguments, no hours of talking your tongue dry so that the actors and crew can get a picture of what you are trying to make them do.
And what I try to make them do sometimes makes them so mad that they do not talk to me for weeks after the show. Like this actress, Ann Kansiime, who starred in my short film, What Happened In Room 13. (Watch it here) Well, there were scenes where she had to make love to a man, and then another scene where she had to get a lot of blood into her hair, and another scene when she had to get into the ground to be buried. That was the worst part. We were all learning, and we did not know how things work, so it was mostly a trial-and-error process. As such, I took many takes, so many takes, and she had to get into the grave every time so we could simulate the burial. And then one time she said, “I’m not getting out of this grave again! Do all your takes now!” Of course she was not the only one fed up with my endless takes, all the crew were, and they supported her. She is a fine actress and I hope to work with her again someday.
No fun to be buried alive! Anne Kansiime during the making of What Happened in Room 13
The last short fiction film I tried to do ended up a disaster, mostly for the same reasons. It featured a psycho who hears a girl’s voice telling him, “I love you,” but when he approaches the real girl, she has no idea what he is talking about.  Since she had to get naked in front of the crew and have blood all over her body, this actress freaked out. Unfortunately, she was not as experienced as Ann, and could not take the heat of the job. She walked out in the middle of the shoot and we had to abandon the project.
In my next film, my first feature length narrative, which I hope to make early next year, I will avoid the sex scenes—just to go easy on our Ugandan actresses—but I think the heroine of this film will still get mad at me, for I will use special effects make up to turn her into a very ugly woman. It will be hard enough convincing an actress to play the part of a very ugly woman, but this is a beauty-and-the-beast kind of tale, where the ugly woman kidnaps a man in an attempt to become beautiful and find a lover. If you would like to stay updated about this film, follow us on facebook
Well, this is just a glimpse of the pains we go through to entertain you. It’s not a fun job, as you might think, but one that demands a lot of sacrifice. I actually do not like it when people say, “You are pursuing your passion and dreams,” for this is more like a curse! Certainly, Andy Serkis did not find it a “passion” or a “dream” while he voiced and performed the character Gollum in Peter Jackson‘s live-action version of The Lord of the Rings. He, at times, had to dive into freezing water to look for fish!  With the bitter sweat that drips out while looking for money to make films, and the terrible pain you endure to make the films, filmmaking can only be described as a curse!
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