At the end of last year, I started to learn CGI to improve on the visual effects of my sci-fi and fantasy films. I set out to produce at least four short films this year to master CGI, and this film, Move-in, is the first. It has a simple story, about a couple who move into a new house and discover that it was used to shoot a horror, and that the set was not dismantled. As horror film tropes go, the woman decides to enter the closet, though any sane person would not, and what she finds there, well, is pure evil.
I know I still have a long way to go before achieving photo-realistic effects, and I won’t rest until I can produce special effects that are as close to Hollywood as possible. It gets difficult every day to be an independent filmmaker, especially one based in a country like Uganda where there is hardly an industry. No market, no human resources, no equipment, nothing. And it gets harder because Hollywood and other big players now days offer free films to watch online. So for us who want to make sci-fi, we play in a very uneven field, with all the odds against us. Viewers will always prefer the superior special effects of Hollywood. In the past, we had a special audience since our stories featured stuff that Hollywood could not touch, but now they are making films like Queen of Katwe and Black Panther, and it only spells doom for us.
Thankfully, there are free software, like Blender and Unity, which give us hope. I’ve been learning Blender for the last few months, and I think I’ve got the hang of it. The effects in this short film were made entirely on it.
This week, the first #UgBlogWeek of the year is running with the theme Wakanda Africa Do You Envision? It’s obviously inspired by Black Panther, and it’s an indication of what I’m talking about. They are coming to take over even the little that we are left with. My ideal Africa is one in which the people on the continent go crazy over films produced entirely on the continent, without money or co-production from outside, the way they went crazy over films like Black Panther. On a broader scale, I want to see Africa consuming hi-tech stuff that it produces. If you look at the global scheme of things, you see the effect of colonialism has conditioned us to consume products from the West, and now from China, however horrible the products are. Like second hand clothes. Recently the US threatened to bomb East African countries if they banned second-hand clothing to support local textile industries. Well, not exactly to bomb, but you get the idea. They bullied, and bullied, and only Rwanda is bold enough to stand up against the big bully.
At least with music, we beat them. We’ve always, largely, preferred our music. With books, things have been changing over the last few years because it is much cheaper to produce a good quality book than it is to produce a film. I’m not sure film will change anytime soon. I know, you are going to mention Nollywood and other such films, and yes, that is a big industry, but when was the last time you heard of a blockbuster from Nollywood? You get my point? And if they continue producing the likes of Queen of Katwe and Black Panther, you think Nollywood will still have relevance if it refuses to evolve?
It’s almost an unspoken rule that for you to make a film that sells well, even within the continent, you need funding or a co-producer from outside the continent, mostly European, and that means they control the stories we tell. It was much worse ten or so years ago, before technology democratized film making, and before the Internet offered a lot more distribution options. As data costs continue to fall, and as we get new players like MTN Shortz, I see great change coming.
But we still have to improve on the quality of our films, and of other kind of stories. We have to stop feeding our fans garbage and expect them to swallow it just because it is local content. Which is why I’m throwing myself into learning CGI. I can’t make it without your help. I can’t make it if I don’t have cheerleaders and moral boosters and patrons and fans. I can’t make it without you.
Which is why I started this fund raising thing, where you can donate anything you have, as low as $1 or UGX 5,000. Or maybe you can just be a fan and make noise on my behalf and blow my vuvuzela until the world knows that there is someone here who deserves attention. Here is the link for Mobile Money www.dilmandila.com/donate or, if you want to use a card, patreon.com/dilstories. Show me the love!
I’ve started on my next short film already, I hope to have it ready in before June. Be sure to leave me your email or Whatsapp number for updates. See contact