Things always work out. That is what I tell myself. It’s probably why I’m not experiencing a complete nervous breakdown right now. A lot has happened in the past couple weeks with the effect of grinding my plans into dust and blowing them into oblivion with a strong gust of wind. Keeps it interesting, anyway.
Bumming Around Kampala
I felt that amazing sensation of plans actually coming together some weeks ago. I received a call from a guy named Jack who was the guy in charge of organizing everything for the movie shooting job I had been hired on to. I smiled and clapped in the homely front room of a family in rural Masaka where I had found refuge after giving up on film making altogether. “Great to hear from you,” he said over the phone. “We thought we had lost you.”
Apparently they had someone waiting at the airport for me when I arrived on the 19th of March, though I could swear I walked back and forth across the signs with scribbled names in the arrivals section of the airport more than once. Anyway, I bid farewell to my Masaka family, promising to return to help build a brick oven, and headed out to meet Jack, the mysterious figure behind this whole filming project.
I met jack in central Kampala outside of the big Shoprite grocery store. He is a mid-height, mid-20’s Texan, and was sporting black cowboy boots, aviator sunglasses, and a Lynard Skynard tee shirt. “You’ve gotta represent your homeland, ya know?”
He has been around Uganda a lot, which is the reasoning behind his being hired to organize things Africa-side. He was raised in a family of missionaries who frequently traveled to Uganda and other African countries. Now his pony tail buffets in the wind as he tackles entrepreneurial projects in Uganda.
With him was a Ugandan named Moses who was also involved in the organization of movie making affairs on the Ugandan side. Having been a child soldier himself, he was very interested in working for Robert Ryan World Studios on this project. He lifted his shirt and showed me a nasty scar on his back which was the result of some flying hot shrapnel incident during a civil war in what is now the DRC. He explained to me that he would use the wages he would earn from the project to have the piece of metal removed once and for all, since it was slowly tracing circles through his chest cavity and has come dangerously close to his heart.
Anyway, I was comfortable having finally made contact with the movie people, which would ensure my participation in this project. Several other folks, hired on as assistants like me, had arrived days ago and were staying in Jinja on stand by. Jack invited me to stay at his home in Kampala while we waited for the producer, Robert himself, to show up a few days later.
Robert Ryan World Studios Touches Down
Jack received a call from Robert at the expected time on the evening of April 3rd. Rather than arranging a meeting, however, he explained simply that the budget had changed, and hung up. And turned off his phone. And turned off the phones of Tim, another producer, and everyone else we could have contacted.
Meanwhile, people left hanging in Jinja were growing anxious. A photographer named Rebecca had already split and gone home, losing faith in the project. By now Jack, Moses, and myself were realizing that Robert planned to abandon us.
All this after paying my own way here. All this after Jack spend hundreds of his own dollars and hours running errands and making connections and setting up appointments throughout Uganda for months. All this after a handful of others had done the same and racked up a sizable bill at the resort in Jinja, which Robert was responsible for. This whole business has pissed a lot of people off already, with hardly a frame being shot. I was drowning in a puddle of uncertainty all over again, marooned in Uganda.
The Producer Gets Arrested
The man who runs the resort in Jinja is named Grace. He is a powerful man, having run for mayor of the city three years running. Jack called Grace at the onset of our crisis, finding him to be bothered by the immense bill that Robert had left unpaid and promised to bring him to the police.
Grace went to lunch the other day and recognized a white Land Rover filled with cameras and film equipment. coming closer to the men eating on the veranda of the downtown Jinja restaurant, he recognized Robert and proceeded to walk to the police station located, conveniently, directly across the street. The police,glad for business, took the man in. Robert posted a 8 million shilling bail before being released, though he will have to come right back soon enough for a trial.
We, the remnants of the original film crew, cannot help but laugh.
Meanwhile, I am kicking around Kampala. I’ve got my friends, some money, and even a temporary job at the moment. I am not really bothered by this whole movie making disaster, because frankly, I came here with the idea that it would not come to fruition.
Since giving up on Robert and his movie which is destined to fail if he continues taking advantage of Africans and Americans alike, I have had some fun traveling about Uganda, meeting new people, and digging up dozens of little opportunities to satisfy my desire to actually do something productive as I migrate about. More on that later. Now it is just a question of how long I actually want to stick around.
Call it having a backup plan. Call it adaptability. Call it aimless. Fact is, I’m in Uganda and I’m quite enjoying it, even as everything goes precisely as I hadn’t planned it.