In more developed film industries like the US, filmmakers produce films primarily for consumption at the cinema. However, the reality is very different for the Uganda film industry. While many Ugandan filmmakers would also want to open their movies at the box office like their contemporaries in the developed world, it does not make business sense because local films apparently fail to pull significant crowds to the cinema. The few local productions that have premiered at the cinema are usually backed by corporate sponsors.

“Filmmakers need to understand that an exhibitor is incurring a cost to showcase their films, so if people don’t come to watch the film that makes it bad for business,” Satish Guna, the Century Cinemax Manager, relayed while speaking at a Film Workshop held at the Uganda Communications Commission offices in Bugolobi on Thursday.

Themed “Film Business Essentials for Getting your Film into the Global Market”, the workshop was graced by different players in the film industry and was aimed at shining a light on the numerous avenues filmmakers can utilize to reach out to more potential consumers.

“Even without a big budget there are other creative ways to market your film such as product placement which can contribute to the marketing budget. Filmmakers should also utilize things like teasers and trailers because they are also ways of marketing the film,” Guna added.

According to Timothy Okwaro, the M-Net East Africa Director, filmmakers today have more platforms to showcase their work than there has been in the past, thanks to digital migration. He says the switch from analog to digital has led to the birth of many TV channels all which need the content from filmmakers.

“If DStv does not screen your film, there are now many other channels that will show it. You should utilize them,” he noted.

With such technological advancements, so do more opportunities arise. Filmmakers no longer have to rely on only traditional ways to distribute their productions as Nana Kagga, an acclaimed filmmaker demonstrated. She revealed that she has in the past released some of her productions online and will even release her next mini-series entitled Mela online.

Ugandan filmmakers tipped on how to market their films

“The online forum is sort of a safety net. I would not want to do content and then it remains sitting somewhere on a shelf,” she said, adding that, “You may not make money in the short run, but you will definitely make an impact. We live in a virtual world, and if people like your content it will be shared widely.”

While you can also put a feature film online, short films, documentaries and mini-series are the ideal choice for the forum, she advised.

“Right now, there are kids making millions on YouTube. This is a potential market we surely can also tap into,” South African-based Ugandan filmmaker and one of the panelists, Job Bakama, also noted.

Ugandan filmmakers may not become an overnight success online, but at least their films can no longer gather dust on the shelf.