By Carol Nanyonjo
The outbreak of Covid-19 19 pandemic has caused far reaching effects on many sectors but the entertainment industry has been more affected.
The curtains in theatres are down and the cinemas are closed and with the prevailing guidelines that stop the people from gathering, sets are called off which has affected the film industry in Uganda as well.
Elsewhere in the world, streaming services like Netflix have been the way to go that people are paying to enjoy films online. This is not the case for the Ugandan filmmakers who are yet to see their works on such platform.
Apparently, there are a couple of concerns that the Ugandan film makers are grappling with besides the ambiguous upcoming regulations that will see creatives pay hefty monies to make films.
Filmmakers have on several occasions pointed out basic issues like access to internet which makes it hard for the local audiences to stream.
According to Internet world stats, lots of Ugandans stopped using internet services due to social media tax effect. Pundits believe that with the taxes put in place, the burgeoning film industry is one of the sectors that are greatly affected with many staying away from internet use.
Reports show that atleast 47.4% of people in Uganda were using the Internet and three months after the tax was put in place that number had fallen to 35%.
In December 2018, Uganda had 19 million internet users that are 45.6 percent of the population (41 million). Currently social media tax effect cut off Ugandan internet users by five million and among these are film makers.
Geoffrey Kasozi, a director and founder of Geoffx films explains that filmmakers do have ready works but creative have no monitory avenues to exhibit their works.
“We have no local streaming services that do pay filmmakers. You instead have to use YouTube for views but it doesn’t make any financial sense” he explains
He notes that online is also another culture that Ugandans are yet to adopt in the film world since even before Covid, cinema halls and theatres was the way to go.
“Most film makers don’t know how to promote movies online. The other fear is how to make money in movies that if one puts it online, how will s/he be paid yet a few people in Uganda can’t buy movies online, ” he adds.
Stakeholders speak out
Douglas Benda Kasule a film marketer, industry influencer and the director and founder of Benda bookings says that, Ugandan films are mainly watched by Ugandans and internet costs are high for someone to watch a full Ugandan movie even on free channels like YouTube.
“It’s a tricky trade given internet charges, speed and access it’s not like music, where a song is 3 mins, a film is 1hr plus and that’s a lot of data” he explains
Actor Prince Joe Nakibinge Jjuuko who is also a film director says that very few Ugandans are not exposed to this kind of technology and most of them can’t afford smartphones.
He notes that film makers are aware that most Ugandans can’t afford to buy Data to watch movies online and those in diaspora want movies in English language and 80% of local movies are in local languages.
He says that even lack of enough content by film makers is a challenge yet there are also many hackers and those that run online channels on behalf of content owners are not genuine.
Director Aaron Zziwa the proprietor of Zarron Motion pictures in his view says that it depends on the goals of film makers however data problems is also a challenge due to the charges that were imposed on internet.
“Marketing dynamics of the content need to be understood that film makers need to build a strategy and have an audience to target” he adds
Some are earn from YouTube but….
Benda Kasule says that YouTube can be an avenue for filmmakers to make money though it depends on subscribers and viewers.
He however says that YouTube pays but it’s usage is still low in Uganda industry since people are not yet to its standards like copyright, maintaining quality because footage happens to be little yet it’s hard for someone to sustain a channel since it’s challenging to get 1000 viewers if the channel is not yet known therefore a few people earn from it.
Statistics of internet users
According to internet live stats, Uganda internet users in 2016 were 7,645,197 (3.31%). In June 2018 a month before the introduction of the tax, the Internet penetration rate in uganda stood at 47 4% (18.5 million internet users) but 3 months later it had fallen to 35% (13.5)
On 31st December 2019, the population was 18,502,166.
In 2020, the population is 45,741,007 (40.4%) meaning it has increased.
The revenue Global data show that the movie industry generates over USD 50b annually and in Uganda, the film industry is estimated to generate about USD 50m per year as reported by a local newspaper recently though most of that revenue is lost through piracy and sheer disorganization within the sector.
Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org