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Why Kenyan producers loved shooting Kampala Creme

Charlie Maina VII

Charlie Maina VII

Kampala Creme would not have registered similar success in Kenya as it did in Uganda, according to the Kenyan crew who produced the reality show for MultiChoice Uganda.

Of Kampala Creme’s seven-member production crew, three including director, director of photography (DOP) and sound engineer were from Kenya. The show that featured Baby Gloria (who quit following a misunderstanding with the producers), Mami Deb, Zahara Toto and Etania
 Mutoni is now in off-season preparation for season two.

It increasingly became the talk among Kampala’s elite, often battling for prime TV space on Sundays at 8pm with the addictive European football games. DOP Charlie Maina VII to this day, is still impressed by the reception and engagement that the show garnered in Uganda, saying in Kenya the ratings would have been different.

Although Baby Gloria would later quit the show over claims of ‘scripting’, Maina with over seven years of production experience (his short film this year won the NBA Africa project Best Picture), says the realism exhibited by the Ugandan cast is something many producers would have struggled to milk out of Kenyan talents – never mind that Kenya sprinted to reality shows ahead of all her East African counterparts.

If you don’t believe him, the ‘VII’ in his name symbolises the seven in the Bible he says, a number associated with being insightful, intuitive, truthful, introspective, wise and complete.

“The realism in talent, realism in cast. Ugandans are very real. If they like you, they like you. If they don’t like you, they tell it straight to your face and you will not do anything about it. If you smell, they will tell you that you’re stinking bro you need to do something about yourself. That is one thing I have actually noticed. They don’t fake it. They say it as it is. Yeah!” he told The Observer.

“The cast members, for instance, Mami Deb, can tell you ‘I don’t like that chic’ in private, then after she will tell it to her face and for me as a director I want to sieve that but for her she says it as it is. We don’t have that with Kenyans. Kenyans love to sieve and they love to play you until they tell you the truth. Kenyans would tell you, ‘this place is not smelling nice’, but in Uganda, they will tell you, ‘you’re not smelling nice’. Now that is the difference. They will say in general but here they will tell you that you’re the one stinking.”

In their directness though, Maina observes that Ugandans don’t take criticism well and hate learning new approaches. For example, during training of the Ugandan production crew on how to produce a reality show, he says many quit after a few days because they were not willing to learn new ways away from their classroom skills.


Apparently, they did not like being taught how to start with the basics of how to frame, how to light, which kind of lenses to use, how to do camera movements and panning, how to position the cast... because they believed they already knew it all.

This love for praises and likes, according to him, was majorly the reason why Baby Gloria quit the show after receiving a backlash from the viewers that she had only expected to love her.

Maina says he also noticed that in Uganda, it is easy to assume celebrity status, get endorsements and ‘fans’ who would kill to associate with the celebrity, while in Kenya you have got to work for it. Even then, it does not go beyond taking photos from a few with the celebrity as everyone treats you as any other person.

“Mami Deb. Suddenly everyone was calling her everywhere, to sample foods, to have a talk with management for possible endorsements. In Kenya to become that kind of celebrity, you have to have stood out from the rest that they acknowledge you. But here even if you’re very small, you tend to feel that acknowledgement that you’re a star. Here you support your own, even on radio, you play more Ugandan songs than foreign songs,” said Maina.

He also noticed a difference in engagement online, saying in Kenya people can watch the show and never express their feelings about it but in Uganda, you get the viewers’ true feelings about the cast and production.

“Kampalans love themselves, they love their personalities and Kampalans love supporting their own. Even if they hate someone on the show they still watch. In Nairobi, it is totally different. Most of the people would not tell you whether they hated or liked the show but they would have watched. There are no engagements. Here in Kampala, a celebrity is a celebrity but in Nairobi a celebrity is just a normal person. Even if it is criticising your talent, it is still actually good because it means you actually care.”


Maina says the initial episodes of Kampala Creme tested his patience and skills since most, if not all the cast were new to reality TV production. Many were used to the drama shoots where all preparations are done, with the cast waiting for the director’s shout of “action” to begin acting and “cut” to stop.

He says although all the cast were hungry for the fame, they expected to be warned when the cameras were rolling or when they were mic’d.

“Some of the talent were not used to putting lights on them, having cameras on them, having secret conversations without them knowing that you’re recording them and so it was a little bit of a challenge. Also for the team, it was not like drama where you just set up light and say action, because in reality most of the time you actually create a plan like they will be seated but the director or the cast comes up with the idea of, let’s say I want to meet the other persona in a restaurant. So for me, it’s just about going to location and scouting and how best to light it. For me after setting up, I start to think outside the box. For instance, in a case scenario that one of them walks out on set, how am I going to achieve the best quality lighting and how am I going to tell the story? So, it is all about having a Plan B,” he said.

But nothing challenged the production like the shooting of Zahara’s flying lessons at Uganda Aviation Academy in Kajjansi. While the shooting was planned to start at 10am and the production crew was at the scene as early as 8am, the shooting would only start some seven hours later after security blocked the flight since dignitaries were flying in for a conference.

“The big people at the aviation school had to call some big people in security, who called some other big people before they could allow us to fly and start the filming. Convincing the cast to stay for that long was a challenge. We also expected a bigger plane but we were given a 4-seater and so we could not fly with the production crew and how would we manage sound when the sound guy had stayed behind? I had to be on camera and also on sound on a plane that was so noisy because of the propellers, but thanks to new technology, it all came out perfectly,” he said.

Initially, that flight was supposed to host the cast quartet and Etania was particularly so upbeat about it in spite of her dislike for the host Zahara, but following an earlier violent fight where wine glasses and knives were thrown at each other during a make-good dinner, the idea of hosting all in the same space was dropped. Who knows if the fight would have extended into the air?


Perhaps no one was more stung by Baby Gloria’s claims of scripting than Maina. He says it hurt because not only did Gloria fabricate the claims, for that particular episode she is even the one who invited the production crew that she wanted to make a truce with Mami Deb because they had sorted out their differences and she wanted it on camera.

However, like any forced and fake love, their real hate for each other would soon manifest when the cameras were already rolling.

“Forget about that other story that is about just crying, for us it is all about the realism with which you want to do it. How real is it? For us it is all about capturing the right information, the right emotions. That is why we were there. Many times we record from start to end even if they’re not doing anything and they are just looking at their phones; we just record that because we don’t know what might happen next. So we don’t tell them what to do; they actually do as they wish,” he said.

He said if anything, the show could be accused of trying to be too protective of the cast’s brand and image, otherwise if everything was broadcast as is, many fans would start hating their celebrities.

“If the public knew some of the actual things, the public would not like them anymore. Baby Gloria, we covered her several times. That is why we let their managers on stage to help and guide them to not do some stuff which would be damaging to their brand. If we were bad, we wouldn’t have accepted their management teams to be around as we shot. We would have told them to go outside but all their management teams knew what was happening. Their managers never advised them not to say anything or do certain things during shooting. If it was scripted, they would not have wanted to come out of the show, they would want to be part of the show.”

Fans cannot wait for the next season of Kampala Crème, which is expected to be a blast, seeing as Mami Deb’s lavish kukyala and kwanjula ceremonies has been the talk of town for weeks.


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