A playwright making Millions in drama

To say that God himself handed Tony Mushoborozi drama writing as a vocation should certainly sound like a hyperbole. Until you learn that in 2009, Mushoborozi embarked on a 40-day fast praying for a job as a fiction writer, and three days to the end of the fast he had his behest in hand! A full-time job as script writer on Rock Point 256, a behavioural change radio serial drama created by the Uganda Aids Commission and run by the NGO, Communication for Development Foundation Uganda (CDFU) since 2003.

Yet if it was God who gave Mushoborozi drama writing as a vocation, what the writer has done with the vocation ever since should qualify the statement that he received the gift with both hands and is making of it a return that should really please the talent giver.

After four and a half years writing for Rock Point 256, in February this year Mushoborozi left to set up Scrypta, his own company dealing exclusively in the business of writing drama. And within less than six months, Scrypta has already grown into a leading competitor in the local drama writing industry.

The company has already written a multi-million serial drama for one of the biggest multinationals in the country a drama which starting this September is set to run for a couple of years on local radio stations across the country –in more than eight languages. Scrypta has also already signed a contract with Canadian NGO Grand Challenges, to write (starting next month) a serial drama to fight mental health in Tanzania and Malawi. The company also has penned a contract to write a radio drama for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and the process of story creation also starts in September. Additionally, several other script-writing deals are under negotiation or in plan.

Asked to divulge the tale of how he has been able to get to where he is today, the man with a piercing gaze and a knack for wit-punched conversation sighs heavily before saying, “It has been all about chasing my writing dream without ever considering either retreat or surrender. It’s been an interminable, life-long chase, and I’m still at it. Only I can now see the Northern star.”

Mushoborozi says it all goes back to his boyhood days, when as a Primary Five pupil he became so entranced with the Bible (the only book in their homestead) because of its literature. So much so that after reading David’s Psalms, he began thinking that one day he’d write his own Psalms and they too would be added to the Bible.

“As I grew older the dream to write Psalms faded,” Mushoborozi reminisces, “But in my Senior Two I read Ngugi’s River Between and some other African novels and the desire to do creative writing was born. I also discovered the free-style creative writing pieces in the newspaper columns and began thinking I’d write for the newspapers after school.”

For the newspapers Mushoborozi indeed got to write after completing his studies, when after university in 2008 he began writing for Sunday Vision, thinking he would get full time employment and stay for a few years. But soon he found that he was not a journalist in the classic sense of the word, to say nothing of how frustrating he found both the professional and financial sides of the newspaper writing world.

Mushoborozi had discovered his love for and ability at writing drama while in his final year at university in 2005. Where as a Literature student majoring in African Cinema, he had written his first-ever drama as part of his course assessment (African Cinema majors of the Literature class were required to write screenplays in place of dissertations) and excelled with one of the highest marks in his class -82 per cent.

So having realised that he could never fit in with the newspapers, a frustrated Mushoborozi left and turned his eyes on the drama world which had taken his heart prisoner back at university. He entered the aforementioned 40-day fast praying for a job as a fiction writer and by the end of the fast he was writing for Rock Point 256.

“When I joined CDFU,” says Mushoborozi, “It was one of those times when things in your life are all in alignment and you feel like you are going somewhere. I was driven and enjoying the work, doing for a profession what I could very easily have done for free.”

“I knew that with this job I would learn how to write fiction and ultimately be able to use those same skills to write novels. So I worked hard, with a positive outlook towards everything work-related my workmates, my bosses, the stories themselves. I improved very fast and within a year of joining I had become head writer.”

Then in 2012 the idea of Scrypta popped up in his head. “I looked around me and realised there were just a handful of professional drama writers in the country, most of them mediocre. I thought that if I honed the craft and later created a scripting company, I would help grow a culture of writing good drama and provide a service that was so much needed.”

Mushoborozi says that from then on began approaching his job at CDFU not as a money making venture or even a long-term placement, but merely as a training opportunity. A place where he could master all about drama –the art, business, production and all sides of it. And in February this year, one and a half years later, the writer was leaving CDFU to start Scrypta.

Remembers Mushoborozi: “When I left CDFU in January, I was chasing a deal that would literally turn my company into my former employers’ competitor overnight. It did not come until six months later, but the project finally came through and it’s what I woke up to work on today morning.”

Then when you are beginning to think of what a goldmine he has set up for himself, the dramatist tells you his primary motivation is not the money but the desire to create good drama!

“I have always aimed to produce work which has got that X-factor that makes you cry when you watch a good drama work that makes you sigh and think outside the box. You see, our TV is lacking mostly because the people involved in all these dramas and all sorts of productions are bad storytellers. The scripts follow no clear structure and they meander about like rainwater on the streets of Bwaise.”

Mushoborozi points out the defunct TV drama series The Hostel as an example, saying it was a good concept that could have gone so far, but which didn’t make the cut because it was ‘some sort of weird reality show and nothing more.’

The dramatist then says his strategy for producing good drama is dedicating as much time as he can to the craft writing it, learning from the best, researching, name it. For example, he says that since 2004 he has watched an episode or two of the TV series, Friends, nearly every night before going to sleep. He also says that he daily wakes up at about 3.am to write, working till about mid-day, and that other than rushing he tries to take his time working so as to produce refined work.

And turning to what he is building for the long run he says: “I’m looking at Scrypta becoming one of the best drama factories on the African continent and in the whole world. Five years from now I want to have at least two premium TV sitcoms on African TV stations. And 10 years from now I want to have my two novels in bookstores.”

FACTFILE
Born: April 15, 1980 in Kyamakanda village, Rukungiri District.
Marital Status: Single.

Favourite writers: William Shakespeare and Frank Daryl Zanuk (the Hollywood legend who left Warner Bros to start 20th Century Fox).
If not Writing: Riding motorcycles, especially through strange, far-off places.

Other Interests
Mushoborozi rides big motorcycles and visits new places.
Last year he rode the nearly 500km to Pakwach for the Eclipse. A few months ago he was part of a legion of more than 5,000 bikers in Germany from all over the world for the annual Harley Davidson Euro Festival.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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