Dr Billy Ashaba is a dental surgeon, but he uses his creativity to write movie like State Research Bureau, writes Edgar R. Batte
Tell us about your inspiration for script writing.
I got the inspiration to start writing for the audio-visual media around 2007. I discovered that I needed to make a contribution to the arts world, because by trade I am inclined to the world of science. At that time, we used to blog and I used to post my works on thecampuser.net. My style was humour.
When did you start writing film scripts?
It was on one night in September in 2007 when I got my pen and paper and began to write my first work, which was a series called The Campus.
What was the motivation for The Campus?
I was looking at writing something where different people are aiming to achieve a common goal, like movies are wont to be. The nearest example was something in my immediate surrounding since I was at campus at the time. Someone who has been at campus will tell you there are so many stories to tell.
I take it that studying dentistry was taxing enough. Where does the dentistry student get the time to begin penning movie scripts?
It was rigorous, I had to put in three to five hours of writing and I stretched to the odd hours of the nights.
What are some of the works you’ve written?
I have done The Campus, of which we did a pilot episode. I then wrote other scripts which didn’t get produced because of lack of funds. We did something about HIV awareness and we were supposed to work with Young Empowered and Healthy and we were supposed to impress it upon them to use it for campaigns in schools. It was called Beauty to Ashes, and I worked with Hosea Jemba on this one.
In September 2008 I began writing my first full length feature film Bullion. It has been produced and we are only waiting for a more grand way of releasing it to the public.
After Bullion, I started getting calls from different people. I have worked with Morris Mugisha, the former Big Brother Africa housemate, on a movie called Hysteria. I then wrote State Research Bureau for Matt Bish who connected me to an Indian movie maker called Sunish Kumar for whom I’m penning a movie.
Which of these scripts defines your career as writer?
Well, all these projects were inspirations around me and I thought anyone could write but SRB was a script that didn’t have immediate inspiration. There was nothing to look at and tell that this is how it would look like.
I searched my brain because I was writing about events I didn’t witness. I was born in 1986. The onus was on me to write a story that was believable to someone who was there, and I’m glad it came out the way it did.
How long did you take writing SRB?
I took a month. Matt Bish had his story on five pages, but as a writer I had to turn this into a screenplay of about 120 pages
How much do you charge for writing these movie scripts?
My projects are pro-bono and I don’t expect to make that much money from them. We discuss, but it is between Shs1m and 2.5m. because the movie industry hasn’t grown that much. The biggest payment a producer will give me is producing my work in a way that I envisioned it. Actually, when someone contacts, me I ask them if they have the commitment to produce a movie or they are just excited about getting people on the red carpet for a premiere and claim to have made a movie.
How many scripts have you written so far?
I have a big series and movie scripts bible that currently totals to about 15. All of them are captivating for any producer.
What’s your general assessment of the local film landscape?
There is a lot of progress being made but rather than produce quantity we need to look at producing quality works. That’s why I would like to identity with producers who will get a different script writer, director, take time to develop characters unlike producers who will write, direct, act and all.
What’s that one single event that changed your life and shaped your life?
I got exposed to TV in 1994, when my dad bought his first television set. It was just before the World Cup that was held in USA. I began watching Inspector Derrick and from then on, TV became a part of my life. I have to be watching something most of the time.