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    • #34149 Reply

      Muwado Forums
      Keymaster

      Dilman Dila is a Ugandan writer, film maker and a social activist. He is the author of a collection of short stories, A Killing in the Sun, and of three novellas, The Future God of Love, Cranes Crest at Sunset, and The Terminal Move. He was shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for “A Killing in the Sun”, longlisted for the Short Story Day Africa prize, 2013, and nominated for the 2008 Million Writers Awards for the short story “Homecoming”. He was longlisted for the BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition with his first radio play, Toilets are for Something Fishy. His film The Felistas Fable (2013) won four awards at the Uganda Film Festival 2014, for Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Feature Film, and Film of the Year (Best Director). It won two nominations at the Africa Movie Academy Awards for Best First Feature by a Director, and Best Make-up Artist. It was also nominated for the African Magic Viewers Choice Awards for Best Make-up artist, 2013. His first short film, What Happened in Room 13, is one of the most-watched African films on YouTube. In 2015, he was longlisted for the Inaugural Jalada Prize for Literature for his story “Onen and his Daughter”. He is currently working on Mama and Me, a thrilling family drama about a woman, her three daughters, and a dead body in their backyard.

      Join the conversation with him this Friday 19th March 2021 at 02.00 pm EAT (but feel free to leave a question before then which he can respond to when the session starts.) as we chat with him about their hustle and what it means to them and life in general. You can participate by using the form at the bottom of the page to ask a question. To respond to a thread, hit reply on the contribution you want to comment on so it’s easy to follow.

    • #34158 Reply

      Josh Mwesi
      Member

      Says we can leave questions before starting time so let me drop min. Hi Dilman. That’s an impressive CV you have there. How do you find the time o do all this? Are you creating full time or do you have a job? And if it’s full time, when did you become sustainable enough to dedicate all your hours to creating content.

      • #34170 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        Hello Josh,

        Ah! Impressive CV? I don’t think I’ve achieved everything I set out to achieve when I was 15 years, that day when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I thought by now I’d be world famous like Stephen King, so I don’t know if I should say my CV is impressive. :-))

        I’ve achieved a few things though, and yes, I do it full time. I used to have a day job, but I quit it sometime in 2008, a very foolish move if you should ask me about it again, and at that time people were saying I’m stupid to leave a job with a big NGO to go to the streets, but in my head the only thing I wanted to do was tell stories, and I needed a way to make a living off them.

        In 2011, I decided the best way to do this is set up a formal company, because it’s easier to make money if you go to a client as a company than it is as an individual, and once I did that, it wasn’t exactly easy. It was another two years before I got my first good gigs, and it wasn’t until about 2015 that I became sustainably a full-time artists. So those many years from 2008 to 2015 were full of pain and doubt, but it was worth it. Now I’m employing about 30 people full time….

        So I do get a lot of time to focus on creating my artwork, so much time that I’ve become a slave to my own work, and have little time for dating, or even for simple things that I used to enjoy very much like watching a movie every evening, reading a new book every week.

        I’ll leave here two blogs that talk in detail about these things.
        1. How I quit my job to become a full time artist, https://www.dilmandila.com/2019/01/how-i-quit-my-job-to-become-a-full-time-artist.html
        2. How to successfully become a full-time artist https://www.dilmandila.com/how-to-successfully-become-a-full-time-artist

      • #34181 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        I wrote a really long response to this, and somehow it disappeared in the internet! Does this thing have a CTRL+S?

        Anyway, I’m a full time artist, which is how I find the time to do all this. I don’t know if my CV is impressive, because when I set out to become a writer, at the age of 15, I thought that by the time I hit 30 I’d be a world famous writer like Stephen King, but here I am, barely known outside of my own home, and I’d laugh a bit if someone said I have an impressive CV. I’m yet to hit all the targets I set for myself, and after I do, I’ll say I have an impressive CV.

        I’ve talked a bit in another blog about how I quit my job to become a full time artist. This was in 2008, and I was a bit anxious at that time because my life was rushing by and I was not yet a full-blown writer as I had imagined in my childhood. Also, I’d started to make films and a few people had given me a few commissions and I thought I could make a decent living as an artist, so I got up and quit that salaried job. People thought I was an idiot, how could I leave a good paying job with an NGO to go to the streets, and for a while I thought I’d made the biggest mistake of my life, but I had to make it work, and so I put all my focus on this.

        The only way I could earn a living as an artist, which I talk about here in detail, was to set up my own company. I did this in 2011, and it was not until 2013 that I got my first meaningful job, and not until 2015 that I started to become self-sustaining as an artist. It’s a long period to have lived in uncertainty, but now I have no regrets. Now people come to me for employment (I think for the last seven months I gave about 35 people full time employment), and now I’m so busy working at my own company that it feels like I’m back to having a day job, only that this day job is the artworks I create.

        It does help that I don’t have family to distract, no wife, no kids, but yeah, it’s the only thing I do and so that why I can do all this ;-))

        • #34186 Reply

          Muwado Forums
          Keymaster

          Sorry about the disappearing content. Our spam filter arrested it because of the links but we have released it.

    • #34166 Reply

      Josh Mwesi
      Member

      Oh, related to my first question, what’s your work, family, friends balance like considering how busy it seems you are?

      • #34172 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        Ooops, that’s a hard one. Luckily I don’t have family, as in wife and children, so I get to spend a bit more time that a person usually would have on creating artworks, and the more I do, the more I find it harder to give attention to people I’m dating, and then they run away saying I don’t really care about them, but I don’t know how to stop.

    • #34167 Reply

      Muwado Forums
      Keymaster

      Dilman, welcome to the Kaboozi Session. Some questions have already landed so you can get busy immediately. We shall keep off ours with something about Mama and Me. How many roles are you playing in the production of this series and how did this project start?

      • #34177 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        Mama and Me started during covid. I was idle, like the rest of the world, when I saw a call for submissions and I thought I should do something to fill up the next few days of my life. I had already an idea for a web series, after reading a blog post of a friend of mine in which she was laughing about how her father asked her to go milk a cow. I thought it would make a hilarious series, about this classy girl milking a cow, so I begun to think of a story. But well, when MNet put out this call, I couldn’t think of it as a web-series anymore. I had to flesh out the plot, give the characters a more three dimensional thing, and so that’s how the story evolved, from a simple one about a girl being asked to milk a cow, to a complex story that is, at the same time, a thriller, a comedy, a soap opera, and I don’t know what else….

    • #34169 Reply

      Kakembo A
      Member

      Dilman, you inspire me. I see you upload all your videos to youtube…how do you make money from the movies if you are uloading them for free viewing.. Does youtube pay enough to recover costs?

      • #34174 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        I don’t really upload all my videos to youtube. Actually, those you see on youtube are sort of the ‘bad’ ones, or rather they are what I make when I’m learning something. I am always teaching myself, always experimenting with techniques and new technologies and always wondering how to do this visual effect or that, and the best way to learn is to actually create a film. I’ve built a small following and so I have some people who have pledged to support each short film I make with a small cash contribution on patreon.com/dilstories and this helps to offset some of the costs.

        How I really make my money off films? Well, mostly from TV sales, for this is the biggest buyer of films in Uganda and Africa. but also from grants, I write a proposal and someone thinks its worth funding and I get paid from it.

        • #34183 Reply

          Alex Sinayobye
          Participant

          Aha. I see some answers to my question here. Which are these TV stations that are buying films and how do you get their attention. Thanks for the tips on youtube, learning and patreon.

          • #34197 Reply

            Dilman Dila
            Participant

            MNet is the best buyer so far. They have Pearl Magic and Pearl Magic Prime, so they are actively looking for Ugandan content….

    • #34171 Reply

      Muwado Forums
      Keymaster

      From your career trajectory, what would you say to artists trying to follow in your footsteps about the humps and bumps they will find along the way?

      • #34185 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        Hehehe. My footsteps? I’d tell them to go have a different kind of life! It’s not fun failing to sleep because you’ve trained your brain to be overactive at all time. That’s the one thing I don’t like about this…. but perhaps it’s the way my brain is and so I had to be an artist to satisfy it, but yeah, it’s something I wouldn’t want anyone else to experience. I have major sleep issues.

        But still, it’s a great thing to be an artist who earns entirely from his artwork, and if you want to get there, there’s only two words I can tell such a person; focus. determination. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 15 years, and since then, I’ve put my head to it, and I’ve never thought of another career. I had to get jobs here and there to pay my bills, but the moment I was ready, I jumped out and stuck to it, and there’s no other way to it. Just know what you really want and don’t let anything, not even falling in love, get in your way 😀

    • #34173 Reply

      Byagaba Roland
      Keymaster

      Dilman!! Glad you accepted to do this. How do you feel about the current state of literature and filmmaking on the continent and what do you think the next level is going to look like. Any upcoming/ongoing developments that excite you?

      • #34187 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        I like the developments! There’s a lot of homegrown stuff happening, and a lot of people getting recognition in the big awards without having to move to Europe. Just five years ago, this was unthinkable. Today, we have writers based in Africa who are being nominated for prizes like the Nebula Awards and the BSFA Awards, so I see a time coming in the near future when it won’t matter if you live in Africa or if you move to wherever, you’ll have the same shot as those people in the diaspora. That’s what’s exciting me, really.

    • #34176 Reply

      Kamugasha innocent
      Participant

      Hi Dilman. I have always wondered about all these shortlists and longlists if they give any money for them or authors just include them as a CV. I do have a more serious question though, the scifi you write and make movies of is very imaginative. How do you come up with some of these things. And the animations are interesting and strange. How do you make them?

      • #34188 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        No! They don’t pay you if you get short listed, or long listed. It just boosts your visibility, compared to other writers, and so you get more gigs…. Actually, before I got into the commonwealth shortlist in 2013, nobody paid me any attention. Then after that, things just went a whole lot smoother for me, because some people were now talking about me.

        You’ll be surprised that the scifi I write, and all the movies I make, are based on reality. I never look far for inspiration. The most recent book I wrote, The Future God of Love, is really a response to my never ending search for love and a permanent partner :-)) The first film I did, What Happened in Room 13, which you can see on YouTube, was inspired by the short stint I had when managing my father’s small guest house. Every story of mine comes from somewhere close buy. It’s easy if you really just thing about it, for life is the best inspirer.

        With the animations, I had to teach myself using free 3D software, Blender. It’s a technical thing, no way around that, just know how to work with vertices and bones and stuff like that and you can make good animation. Thanks for noticing, though I think my animations are still far from good. They are pretty basic, actually, and I have a long way to go before I make anything that will compete with Disney kind of films.

    • #34178 Reply

      Vihamba Esther
      Participant

      Dilman, like some of the other question askers, I am in awe of how much you have done. What’s your writing strategy. Do you also suffered from writers block and how do you overcome it?

      • #34191 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        Ah Esther, I’ve not really done much!

        But my writing strategy is simple. Start a story, finish it. I’m not good at sending them off to publishers, if you can believe that, so most of the time the stories just pile up in my folders doing nothing until I see a magazine’s call for submissions. But what really keeps me going is the need to earn a living from my writing. I know many artists and writers will tell you how they are doing it for passion, how they will never go commercial with their work, but I don’t want a day job. I don’t want to depend on another person for a salary, and so the same way a bodaboda guy will wake up in the morning and ride a cumulative total of 500km in a day just to feed his family, well, I’ll also wake up and not go to sleep until I’ve written something that will feed me.

        I don’t believe in ‘writer’s block’. It’s a term some lazy writers coined to make people think it’s a thing, and yet it often has a very simple cause. Like exhaustion. Like frustration. Like hunger – try writing when you are hungry, you won’t focus and you’ll think it’s the mythical thing called writer’s block. Of course, what I’m describing might be called writers block, for it’s that moment when you can’t write, but if you give it a more practical name, like ‘I’m too tired to write’, then you’ll take a rest and you’ll come back and continue where you stopped. Thinking of it as something as abstract as ‘writer’s block’ makes it feel like it’s a disease with no cure. So yeah, that’s how I deal with it, identify the actual cause of the stagnation and overcome it.

    • #34180 Reply

      Olamide Feli
      Member

      Dilman, I greet you. I’m interested in knowing what other talents or passions you have beside writing and film making. How do you spend your free time? What books have you been reading? What series are you following? Are you single…lol? Play any sports? I see you travel alot, favourite destinations…dream destinations?

      • #34195 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        Oh you, I have a lot of things. I love photography, never gone really professional with it though some people insisted on paying me to do their events. Of recent, I’ve falling in love with birding, and photographing birds, mostly because I live near a swamp and so I get to see a great deal of birds. I at first only wanted to know what they are called, then whenever I’d leave home I’d see a familiar species and I’d say, ‘oh look, that’s a woodland kingfisher!’ (It has a horrible sound, btw, almost like a drill. I hate to hear it in the morning.) And then eventually, I started going places just to see what kind of birds they have there.

        I don’t read as much as I would love to, because life got to busy, and I last watched a TV series perhaps four months ago, but right now I have this book on my bedside table, An African in Greenland, the tale of an African guy who in the sixties travelled all over West Africa, then across Europe, to go to Greenland to live with the Eskimos. I’ve been looking for such travel books a lot of late, which are not written by white men, but by people like me. Other than travel books, you’ll find me on fantasy, or horror, or some good scifi book. I can’t manage to read the ‘literary fictions’ anymore. I find them a bit mundane, and I think I’d rather read a newspaper to know the kind of stories I’ll find there.

        I’m single. I get myself into an entanglement every now and then, but it never amounts to much because they always accuse me of being too busy for them, so I stopped expecting anything to come out of that. I just live. I meet someone, we have fun a bit, we move on. Perhaps someday someone will make my knees tremble and my heart to freeze just hearing her name, but that person has not yet stepped out of my dreams. I don’t know how to make her come alive.

        Favorite destination so far has been Senegal, almost fell for a girl there, but she spoke only French and Wolof, and I spoke only English, and so we ended up with smiling at each other only. I wished we had a reliable device to translate everything in realtime. It gave me an idea for a romance story, I’m yet to write it….

        I don’t have a dream destination, but my dream trip is to do a tour of East, Central, and Southern Africa, perhaps try to recreate the Bantu migrations. I start from Uganda, go to Rwanda, then Burundi, then Congo, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa… okay, I’m just listing down the countries hapharzardly, and I’ll probably have to sit and see how the roads connect from one to the other, but that’s kind of the dream trip I’m saving for. I hope I do it sometime soon.

    • #34182 Reply

      Alex Sinayobye
      Participant

      Dilman, eh, props on doing the work. As an aspiring film maker my challenge is getting money for equipment and to pay the actors and other production crew. How did you get started and how have you been funding these projects?

      • #34198 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        Think of film as a business. How are you going to get your money back? That way, you can know how much to put in.

        In the beginning, I never paid any actors or crew, but I didn’t do large scale projects. My very first film, there was just me, a friend called Jamil, and an actress (forget her name), and it was a simple story about a woman who discovers there’s a monster under her bed, and it eats her. It was only one minute long, and I shot it over a period of four hours, edited it myself. A bit horrible, people laughed at it, but it got me started.

        There after, I did many such small projects, between 1 – 3 minutes, where I was mostly the only crew, and they were horrible, but I was learning something with each short film I did. Back then we didn’t have youtube university to get tutorials from, so if I were you, I’d do a short film just to learn, for example, cinematography. Use your smart phone! You don’t need equipment! This short film I did, the only equipment I had was a Smart Phone, a Samsung S7, and a tripod to keep the shots stable, and of course I had to buy the actresses meals and transport them around, but that was all. It’s a big fallacy that you need equipment to get learn. Just focus on what you are learning, the same principals you use to photograph using a phone (lighting, composition, angles, etc) will be applied on professional equipment, so it’s better to learn the art than the equipment. Check the credits on most of the films I put on YouTube, when it comes to crew it’s only me. All those films I made them to learn something, mostly visual effects, so I don’t spend much… but sharing all this so you don’t have to spend too much money in the beginning.

        Once you’ve made a few ‘student’ films, say 10 of them, then you can write one that will be your calling card. By this time, if you’ve been doing most of the things yourself, you’ll know a great deal about every process in production, and you may not need a huge crew. Small crews and small cast keep the budget very low, and manageable. If you don’t have any money at all, try going for a stylized use of a smart phone in your film, and talk to actors to give you their time for free. Check out this short film, Les Ongles, which launched the career of this director. See how he justified the use of a smart phone?

        You make a film like that, then it’s easy to convince TVs to give you money.

    • #34190 Reply

      Muwado Forums
      Keymaster

      Good questions and responses. Thanks for everyone participating. Dilman, another one from us…what stories can’t you wait to tell but are still sitting on them because of time and capacity limitations?

      • #34199 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        Kabalega’s story. I want to tell it, how he fought the British, how the Langi helped him (especially how the Langi helped him, because they never teach us in school how we were collaborating with each other back in the day!)

    • #34192 Reply

      Muwado Forums
      Keymaster

      You have a whole category on your website dedicated to Nepal. How influential has your time there been on your personal life and career?

      • #34201 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        Ha! When you grow up in Uganda, you don’t know what racism is until you get to a country where you are the only back person, or where many people in the town you are living in are seeing a black person for the first time in real life. It was a horrible experience. It shaped a lot of how I am today, made me think twice about what it means to be a human being. It would have been different if I went to a European country and white people treated me like that, because we’ve been made to believe racism is only when a white person is mean to you, but yeah, living there for two years made me see things so differently…..!

    • #34193 Reply

      Muwado Forums
      Keymaster

      What would you say amongst your different works has been your favourite to make? Why?

      • #34202 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        No, I haven’t yet gotten a favorite. I quickly move on once I finish a work, but the one I really had fun making was Kifaro, because by then a lot of things had fallen into place. I was more comfortable with visual effects and I could experiment with stuff that I’d been afraid to even think about before.

    • #34194 Reply

      Nyambura
      Member

      Thanks Muwado for always bringing interesting people for kaboozi. Dilman, happy to discover you and your work. I see you are on patreon and credit it for getting some of your ideas funded. I’ve been thinking of joining but I have doubts I will manage to attract pateons. Can you share about your experience there. Are there patreons from Africa? What was your strategy? Does it bring in enough for one to keep on dedicating time to it?

      • #34204 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        Ha! Nyambura! I used to have a friend with that name, I’m sure it’s not you, but it reminds me of her 😀

        With Patreon, like with anything else in art, it’s really a matter of patience. It took me nearly a year after joining before anyone started giving me anything, and it’s been nearly three years before I made my first twenty patrons. There’s no easy way about it. The only trick is that once you start, you keep putting out your artwork. People will support you if you are consistent, and if you are showing growth in your work, and if they see you are going somewhere.

        For me at the moment, it doesn’t bring in enough to make me self-sufficient. I have only about $180 in pledges for each short film I make, which just about covers my costs. I’m thinking of it long term, hopefully after another five years of struggle I’ll be at $1000 per short film, and then it will be looking way better than it is now.

        My advise is, if you go in, don’t think short term. Think long term! Don’t expect to get patrons until a year or so…

        and if you have a huge social media following, that’s the best place to get patrons. I don’t have social media followers, and I suck at social media, so most of my patrons are people who’ve heard of my work and know that I have a patreon page (I put it as a signature on my emails, so each email I send out has ‘support me on patreon’ after my name) this way, it doesn’t feel like I’m begging, but most likely, the people who’ve emailed me are people who are curious about my work, or who have something to do with my work, and so they are the most likely to give in their support. Also, as you can see in some of my films, I embed the call for support right inside the work. You are watching a film, and in the background there’s a billboard telling you to support the artist. I know I got about five patrons from this film alone. Do it in your artwork. If someone likes it, they’ll want to support you.

        There are some patrons from Africa, but for me it’s only one person from Uganda. Many people I talk to say they want to support but are afraid of using credit cards online, and offered me mobile money instead. However, there’s no easy platform that uses mobile money in crowdfunding. It would require you to write down each person’s name and number, and how much they are pledging, and when the time comes, you’d have to go to them reminding them about the pledges. This is the easiest way to get patrons from Uganda or Kenya. I did it for a while, but gave it up because people can stress you with having to remind them….

    • #34196 Reply

      Muwado Forums
      Keymaster

      Dilman, we are aware you hold a number of workshops to transfer your skills to other passionate artists. Tell us some more about this and some of your standout alumni who have gone on to use the skills you have passed on in interesting ways…

      • #34206 Reply

        Dilman Dila
        Participant

        Well, I got fed up of looking for people to work with, for each time I’d want to work with someone, I’d realize they never bothered to really learn the craft. So I started teaching. Of course someone had to fund the training program, and I’m glad DOEN does this for me. We hold filmmaking trainings in Kabale and in Gulu, because Kampala already has a lot of training opportunities, but we’ve had some people come from Kampala and fluke the trainings. I let them, depending on how I see their ambitions.

        Many of these have gone on to win awards. There’s a young woman called Lisa Awori She came to our training in Gulu, for she was interested in photography. Shortly after, she saw a call for a photography competition on Instagram, and she took some shots of a female bodaboda rider in Gulu, and she won it! They gave her a camera.

        Another lady called Sharon came to our training in Kabale, and she was short listed for the 5 for 5 Filmmaker’s Awards. Though she didn’t win it, she has started her career in film, and now works for us as a writer and AD in this TV Series, Mama and Me.

        Others are Diana Jotia, who wanted to be a Youtuber, and is now doing make-up for film, and Ben Wokorach, who won a best student award at Gulu Film Festival and was shortlisted for the same at UFF.

        I could go on and on, they all make me proud of having taught them in some way, of having played a part in their career.

        I’m aware of how hard it is for a beginner to start out, so other than this training program, I have started an internship program in my company. Whenever there’s a job, I give some people to intern (and of course I pay them something! It’s not totally free internships!) in the hope that some of them will become good at what they do and in future I won’t have to hustle to find cast and crew for my projects. One of them, called Morris (who was also a student at our Kabale program) came on as a sound assistant, but within a few months he was very good at it and now he is a second sound recordist on the set. I’ve also given a chance to emerging directors, writers, and such people, especially on this TV series where they get an opportunity to cut their teeth, and some make it, some struggle… but well, I’ll keep the doors open for emerging artists!

    • #34207 Reply

      Dilman Dila
      Participant

      Thanks everyone for the questions! It’s been nice going back in time!
      I have to go for lunch, and hope you found my answers useful!

      • #34210 Reply

        Muwado Forums
        Keymaster

        Thank you so much Dilman for making the time to do this. We appreciate all the useful insights you have shared from your journey.

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