In the six months that Ugandan artist and filmmaker Hilda Awori has been at the Multi Choice Talent Factory (MTF) Academy in Nairobi, her knowledge of filmmaking has broadened beyond what she had hoped for.
After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Film and Drama in her home country, Awori started out as a stage actress for a theatre company in Kampala, fueled by her passion to take up acting professionally.
“I was scouted by my director who thought that I make a better scriptwriter than an actress. At first I didn’t want to take up scriptwriting as a profession because I thought maybe it’s boring,” the 24-year-old laughs. “But then when I started to write, I started to take it up seriously. I think it’s the thing for me.”
When the opportunity to be a part of the Nairobi hub of the MTF Academy presented itself, the timing could not have been more perfect as Awori needed to learn more about the scriptwriting craft beyond the mentorship from her theatre director and her own initiative and from what she knew within Uganda’s creative film and TV industry. This is in light of the fact that scriptwriting in Uganda, according to Awori, is not as revered as the role of a director or producer.
“As a writer, I feel like writers are not valued at all. In production, the writer at times is the last person you consider, because people think that having a great idea is having a great film. At times it’s a great idea and then they just write a first draft and are like ‘here, let’s prepare for this shoot,’” Awori explains. “We have very passionate people who are interested in film but are really strong-headed: they and they are not [always] ready to learn. You find someone who is doing the same thing over and over, one movie after another but they’re not improving. [That] stagnates the industry.”
Despite its slow growth, the content from Uganda’s creative film and TV industry is greatly loved by local audiences, and future industry creatives such as Awori will soon play a key role in formalizing, mentoring and building the industry using the skills and experiences gained from the MTF Academy.
The academy curriculum saw Awori do an immersive six-week internship at the Coca Cola Company’s flagship music show Coke Studio Africa in Nairobi, as well as work on the set of hit Maisha Magic TV telenovela Selena.
The one-of-a-kind curriculum is structured in a way that allows students to have exposure to various productions, and work in environments that demand high standards that match those of the continent and the rest of the world. The MTF students also worked behind the scenes at Riverwood, which is home to Kenya’s low-budget local film production industry.
“[Interning] was a really good learning moment. It put a picture to all these things that they teach us in class. The internship visualizes things for us because some [things we learnt] were theory – you cannot work with theory only,” Awori explains.
Interning on the Selena set was particularly eye-opening for Awori, as this is the kind of direction that Hilda plans to follow. From lighting, color manipulation and set design, she got to experience the various layers of how to bring the telenovela to life.
In addition to the internship, the candidates were also a part of MTF Masterclasses, which are aimed at developing the technical skills of developing and established creatives in cinematography, audio and storytelling. Some of the Masterclass experts included Ghanaian former rector of Ghana’s National Film and Television Institute Professor Abraham Linus, Vikram Joglekar from Dolby India, and South African director of photography Jonathan Kovel.
The MTF Masterclasses are powered by various Multi Choice Africa industry partners, and form part of the MTF’s other two shared value initiative’s touchpoints, namely the MTF Academy and the recently-launched MTF industry networking portal.
“One of the best things that the academy has given me is being able to work with people from different backgrounds, different countries. There is so much I didn’t know about film before I came to the academy. [and it] has really broadened my perception,” says Awori.