Uganda: Actors Challenged to Do More Than the Bare Minimum

Ugandan actors have been urged to do more than the bare minimum if they are to rise to international level.

Speaking during a masterclass on acting organised by the Uganda Communications Commission(UCC) and Multichoice Uganda, Nigerian-born South African-based actor, Fabian Adeoye Lojede said there is need for actors to research the actors they are playing and referring to characters that have similar attributes.

“I mark my scene and ascertain whether my character is the hero or otherwise. Then I look out

for other nuances,” Lojede told Ugandan actors. Lojede is famous for his role in hit drama series, Jacob’s Cross. He also owns a production company in South Africa.

He said his process also involves visualizing the set and his movements and repeatedly playing this in his head. This is because, he says, perfecting the actions helps him perfect the lines.

In his opinion, techniques like method acting are not realistic in places like Africa, given the economic dynamics of African countries.

“No producer is going to pay you enough so you can shut the world out and immerse yourself in

a character. During the shooting of Blood Diamonds, the producers could afford to fly Leonardo DiCaprio to South Africa to spend six months there before shooting. But in the African film making industry, it is not practical”.

Philip Luswata who has been acting for almost three decades also spoke to actors.

The acclaimed director and playwright who co-facilitated the masterclass challenges actors to pay attention to the tiny yet consequential details that make good actors. For example, how someone makes an entrance (on set).

“An entrance is of paramount importance to a performer. It is a big responsibility. You must

understand what the objective of your entrance is. That space is a spiritual space, you must pay keen attention,” Luswata told participants.

He explained that an entrance serves to; reveal a character, introduce conflict, define power or redefine it and to excite different reactions.

Over the last decade, Uganda’s storytelling has evolved.

While there are films that affirm the way the Ugandan stories are told has improved, there are still those that point to the lack of authenticity when it comes to acting.

There are cases where actors make the most predictable choices at any moment, their actions are unbelievable and often times their lines come off so plastic. They end up putting up corny, over-the-top performances.

For Ugandans who still prefer Hollywood productions over Ugandan stories, the excuse has always been patterns of dramatic or quirky facial, bodily, and vocal mannerisms, unrealistic accents, and a lack of naturalism due to sticking to the script without leaving room for flexibility.

Partly, Luswata who featured in films Queen of Katwe, The Girl in the Yellow Jumper and Kafa Coh, blamed this on actors who focus on cramming the director’s script but are unconscious of their body language.

He said actors’ bodies carry subtle messages which are delivered through gestures and actions.

Citing a phenomenon known as conscious constructive control, he tipped performers to avoid doing (physical) things that are harmful to their delivery.

The technique requires, first of all, a practical demonstration, conveying the experience of what actions are wrong; and then clear instruction as to how they can be avoided.

Uganda’s quest to appeal to international audiences has been slow. It took nine years, since 2013, for Uganda to win another Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Award.

Only a few local titles (like Tembele and Veronica’s Wish) have registered meaningful commercial success at the local cinema.

While there are other factors – like the lack of marketing and distributing structures – to blame for this slow progress, some players in the industry have still faulted the talent in the local industry.

Award-winning actor Michael Wawuyo Jr., has previously expressed concern over the lazy attitude of Ugandan actors who do not challenge themselves beyond the bare minimum.

Wawuyo Jr., famed for his role as Brother John in Ugandan hit television series, The Hostel, said the vast majority of Ugandan actors want to be spoon-fed, and that this is the only thing standing between their potential and competing favorably on the global scene.