By Our Reporter
The making of the Prestige TV series all begins when Nathan Magoola, the show producer finally quits his advertising job at Fenon Records to follow his passion—making films—at the start of 2020.
Nathan Magoola says he had been trying to quit his job for the last five years, and when he finally gathers the courage to do so, it appears lady luck was by his side as the first project he settled to work on attracted interest from MultiChoice Uganda and has gone to become one of the biggest Ugandan TV shows on television today.
“At the beginning of last year, after I had gotten investors for my company, I decided this was it; I am done! So, on January 6th, 2020, I quit Fenon Records and started developing what would become the Prestige show.” Nathan Magoola recounts. “Luckily, during the lockdown, Multichoice put out a call for TV shows—that was around April—and I submitted Prestige.”
However, it was not a smooth journey. When he submitted the project proposal, even when it seemed to tick all the boxes, it was met with skepticism as Nathan Magoola had no demonstrated experience working on TV dramas. Thus, he was asked to make a pilot for the show.
This was the first bump in the road to bringing the show to life. Because of limited financial resources, Magoola was reluctant to shoot the pilot without any solid commitments from the Pay TV Company. And rightly so, as the prevailing economic conditions and uncertainty at the time brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic dictated that any prudent person be frugal with their expenditure.
Magoola says that he would have, in fact, passed on the opportunity if it was not for Matthew Nabwiso, his friend and fellow movie producer, who offered encouragement as well equipment to help in shooting the pilot.
“During lockdown, I used to spend a lot of time with Matthew Nabwiso. So, one day while he was over at my place, I tell him about this project, and he is like, ‘…just go ahead and do the pilot because even if they don’t take it, you will have something to show another person. My offer; here is the camera for shooting the pilot’.” He narrated.
This turned out to be nudge he needed to take the leap of faith, and get the ball finally rolling.
It is at this point that he reaches out to Nana Kagga, a renowned Ugandan actress and filmmaker whom he felt was the perfect fit for the lead role on the show. Nana Kagga expressed optimism about the project, and responded in the affirmative.
“So we started preparing to do the show.” Nathan noted.
With Nana now on board, they had one month to shoot the pilot and submit it for consideration by the team from MultiChoice.
Finding the cast and crew:
“Joining hands with Nana Kagga helped me a lot because she took care of the cast. So, then, for me, I was just in charge of finding the technical crew.” Nathan admitted.
With the cast taken care of, he was left to find the technical crew.
“So, I call up Donald Mugisha (I had worked with him in the past), and he brings along a colleague, Bob Nyanzi (whom I also knew because we had attended a lot of film trainings together).” Magoola said. “They had just finished working on another TV show, and they had a crew at hand. This makes my job easier.”
“I had someone to take care of the cast and then I have someone else to take care of the technical crew. Then, I am left to just deal with the writers.” He added.
There was no open call for auditions. Instead, they reached out directly to individuals whom they felt would fit the different roles on the show.
One of them was Omara Daniel.
“I was dealing with lockdown, then I get a call from Nana Kagga. She tells me, there is this project – it is called Prestige and we are shooting a pilot.” Omara Daniel narrated. “Based on our previous work relationship, I knew I could trust her. Then I also knew Nathan, from his days at Fenon. The names on the project seemed reliable; you know that’s the gauge these days. So I agree to jump on.”
“When I looked through the script, I liked it. I was happy for once that I was being cast for something other than comedy relief.” Omara further added.
With the cast and crew ready, it was time to get to work. They had a deadline of one month to shoot the pilot and submit it.
“So, eventually towards the end of the month, once we had the rough cut together, I sent it in. Then the next morning, they (Multichoice) called me, ‘we see what you’ve done. We like it and finally understand why you needed a little bit of time because the time shows it was worth it.’” Magoola revealed.
The show was approved, and they were asked to shoot 100 episodes for the first season of the show.
According to Nathan Magoola, the biggest challenge they faced was a lack of local talent.
“When we started the show, we were still under lockdown. My show took a chance on the most unknowns. Some of the people we got had never acted before.” Magoola said. “We really don’t have a large pool of talent in Uganda, both behind the camera and in front of it.”
“Even in this show, some of these roles we had to change them. There is for example the role of the muzungu and his wife. These were supposed to be older people in their 50’s, but we failed to get people of that age.
“So we changed from a black person to a muzungu. Even then we still failed to find an older wife for him. So we were like lets twist this whole thing and we do the dynamic we see allover of young black girls dating older muzungus for their money.
“It was a casting challenge that led us to that but I think in the end it worked out fine.”
Prestige is a Ugandan television drama series about two sisters and ad executives fighting to rise above each other. It premiered on February 8th 2021 on Pearl Magic Prime channel, and is now in season 2.
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