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If we don’t tell our own stories, no one else will

Mugume Davidson

It started in 2007 when I finished my A-level exams and I did not know what to do with my life, the fear of going to university and kill precious time studying a course that I did not love gave me nightmares, by then even the thought of making films was a dream in a dream. Then one day there I was watching a movie with my brothers and truth be told the movie was bad, throughout the movie random criticism kept on coming and that’s when I had an epiphany, a eureka moment. I decided I was going to make movies and watch them with my brothers, I told them and they laughed at me, I told my sister who was already working on my university application and she chock, I told my mother and she almost passed out thinking I was going to open a kibanda (local cinema).

Now I had a dream, well after explaining what film is to my mother a hundred times, but never the less I had a dream and as you know dream without actions are plain imagination, so I took on the action to look for film schools in Uganda… there was none almost all the places I went to taught Mass Media and one of the lecturers I talked to believed he was teaching film in a journalism class. With a sweaty crown, tired and not knowing what to do with my life I retreated to what I do best watch TV, and that’s when it happened and it found me at home chilling. I saw a montage of a show on NTV called PROFILES and it had Mira Nira talking about film, so I called NTV they gave me Maisha’s phone number, from the phone call I was directed to the National theater that’s where their office used to be. I met Musarait who welcomed me and gave me the good news and the bad news, the good news was yes they worked in film and had trained very many film makers, the bad news was it wasn’t a collage where film was taught so that meant I had to go home and tell my mother that there was no place I could learn film and the university registration had expired so that meant a dead year of doing nothing but following a dream with no academic backing. Musarait didn’t leave me hanging though, as it so happened it was in august 2008 and the film lab was due.

My first time ever to be on set was in the film lab of 2008 August. I was a runner for one of the four short films that were shot that year. The production adrenaline kicked in and I had never felt like that before in my life, it felt good. It was serious, required a lot of brainpower and physical strength but it was worth it and I felt alive. That’s when I knew I was born to do this. It wasn’t all good at first I remember my fist time to hold a boom while we were shooting an exterior scene I almost past out and I had to be taken on the side to rest, Musarait always laugh whenever she remembers that day.  The lab went on well and by the end I had got a lot of experience in film and contacts. I got to know about FILM CLUB and became a member and worked on a few short films like Stolen, Wrath, Estranged to mention a few.

The heat from my Mother to go to school eased but what killed it was when I got involved in a feature film called IMANI, this was my first break through and as usual I started as a runner on set but because of my hard work and favor from God by the time the filming was done I was the Prop Master, Wardrobe Manager and Set Dresser. At the end of that project I was offered an internship with IVAD Productions and in that company I worked on more productions like FRUITS OF LOVE a short film and some commercials. By the time I left IVAD I had gained more experience in film and it had helped a lot on my self-esteem.

I worked with Ugandan film makers like Carol Kamya, Kwezi Kaganda in SPEAK OUT (2009) Mariam Ndagire and Matt Bish in his two yet again successful films A GOOD CATHOLIC GIRL (2010) a romantic drama and S.R.B. (2010) an action movie of Uganda set in the late 70’s showing Uganda’s troubled past. In all these productions I was working as a Set Designer, storyboard artist, prop master, location scout to mention a few.

My second breakthrough came in 2010 when some of the writers who were to take part in that years lab (Maisha Film Lab) couldn’t make it and I was invited by the Maisha management to send in my script, I couldn’t believe it when it was approved and I became part of the 11 participants who were competing for the top four script which were going to be filmed at the end of the lab. My screenplay titled BLACK HILL (a story about a boy in a war torn village whose goal is to become a man and be respected by his mother) evolved overtime and in the end it was among the four stories picked. That was one of the most exciting moments of my life. We filmed the story and it got to premiere at the National Theater to a full house. The applause at the end of it and the electric environment, there I was standing in front of close to 1000 people who had just watched my film and on looking back it had taken me three year but my first idea of a dream was achieved and the best part, one of my brothers came at the premiere, up to now I don’t know what his views where on my film. The film had its level of success when it showed in a number of festivals and competed in others like for example the Zanzibar international film festival (ZIFF) where it was competing it the short film category.

After three years of hard work I was finally going to earn a living off my work, big productions came e.g.    THE ITALIAN JOB (VATICAN COMMERCIAL) 2010 this was a commercial I Lacor, Gulu with a production house from Kenya called BLUE SKY, REAGGE JOHN (D.W.) 2010 this was a workshop organized by DW on how to reintegrate culture in the media and in the end I filmed a documentary, NILE SPECIAL COMMERCIAL 2010 I happened to be the prop master of one of Nile Specials most successful commercial, WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE 2011 This happened to be one of the best prime time show in its short life it halted due to high production costs, MASAI VIDEO ALBUM 13 SONGS and MASAI OPERA (TRAILER) 2011 this took place in the Masai Step in Tanzania and the experience during and after the shot was bountiful I also did some editing on this project, MTN COMMERCIAL (WE BELIEVE) 2013 this was the recent Uganda Cranes commercial.

The third and final breakthrough in my life was when I got the job as director on the most popular TV show to date and this is THE HOSTEL. For a young director who was 23 years old by the time I got the job things were not going to be easy. For these two years I have worked on that set directing close to 150 episodes and the experience I have got excides film. I have learned how to be a good leader, listener, hard worker and best of all I final achieved it, I seat with my brothers and Mother in the living room and watch the show, we laugh, get pissed and yes they shut me up when I begin to talk about production problems.

We wrapped up season three of THE HOSTEL on the 31st, July. 2013 making it 5 years of me in film and as dust begins to set on yet again another production in my CV, I look into the future with the anticipation and curiosity of what is coming next. The road through life has had so many ups and downs but what I have learnt in the short time I have been on this rock is we choose what to see and what not to see, when to succeed and when to fail, when to love and when to hate. We are the center of our universe and the makers of our own destiny.