Solaire Munyana is a Ugandan television producer and production consultant of shows like ‘The Hostel.’ As a child, she was enthralled by stories; whether it was from her older siblings’ crazy imagination or at school where English Composition & Reading were her favorite subjects. She has since done various TV and film production work as a script writer, and director.
Solaire Munyana - TV Producer
Today, we learn more about the production field through her lens:
When deciding whether to join a project as a producer, what do you look for in a script?
Well, I do have a checklist I run through to help with coming to a decision but I’ll mention the most important items. The first is to see if there is a credible storyline. What that means to me, it is that must be believable — whether it is a fantasy alien world the writer is letting me into or a dramatic saga set in Uganda. I have to be fully sold on the story. And though it is not in the script but very essential in my experience, is a character bible by the scriptwriter. It helps me get into the mindset of the writer and the characters she/he created.
You’re working on a project with expensive special effects never attempted before. How do you stay under budget?
Honestly, I have no idea how to do that but whenever I have ventured into unknown territory, it comes down to research, drafting a plan, discussing it with my team and reworking the plan. With budgets, timelines are extremely important. Keeping a close eye on your project schedule and making sure everyone involved is kept in the loop, will go a long way in staying within budget. But you should always put an allowance for mishaps and unexpected situations that can affect the project timeline and the budget as well.
What are the most important skills any producer should possess?
A positive mindset: As a producer, you will encounter many situations that will test your patience and endurance. When things go south (which will happen a lot) it is tempting give into resentment or anger and that’s ok. However, as a producer, you are the team leader. Your team mates will look to you to set the tone. Keeping a positive mindset, attitude and a good sense of humor will go a long way to get you through those times and work together with your team to resolve any challenges you encounter.
Be decisive: Once you have done your cost vs. benefits analysis, consulted with whoever you need to — come to a decision and go with it. You may get it right or you may get it wrong but you won’t do yourself or team any favors by dilly dallying, crossing your fingers and hoping the right answer will fall onto your lap.
Spot talent, mentor & delegate: Look for people with potential to join your team or industry. It does take time and mentoring to get someone confident to stand on their own but it will be worth it. Delegate tasks and be patient as new talent navigates this terrain and be ready to provide guidance or just be a sound board.
Be a Forever student: Our industry is constantly evolving and sometimes faster than most. There’s a saying from my friend & mentor Sharleen; ‘ You are only as good as your next episode.’ In order for you to be able to be the best in this profession, you must be willing to learn and broaden your horizons.
What is something you do every day that is essential to your career?
Reading & watching. Reading almost anything — blog posts, books, magazines, instruction manuals, IG posts, old letters — provided it’s interesting and different I’ll read it. Even if I discover a few minutes in that I hate it at least I have an idea of what it was. Same applies to watching movies from different eras, different countries. Right now, I’m mildly obsessed with Korean dramas. Sometimes getting out of my own bubble helps spark of the creative within me. A book aside from the Bible that has had a tremendous impact on my career & life is ‘Success through a Positive Mental Attitude’ by Napoleon Hill & W. Clement Stone.
What is the weirdest, most unexpected skill you bring to your job, and how did you learn it?
It’s not unexpected but it is weird — my imagination. I’ve got such a wild, weird slightly looney imagination. When I was younger, there was nothing I loved more than listening to stories from my siblings. And it was a lot of, ‘Imagine this… or imagine that…’ and for a full moment I would be transported into this wonderful world of what ifs. In my job, it pays to have a weird imagination in a good way. Creating stories that help people for a moment forget about their worries and stress is a gift I enjoy giving.
Do you have a mentor? How did you find your mentor and forge a relationship with him or her?
I have been very fortunate to have had & have amazing individuals as my mentors. Jacque Ssenyondo, Sharleen Samat, Conrad Nkutu & Regis Nyamakanga are my top 4. I started working at a young age and didn’t know how to go about finding mentors. What I did was take my time to observe the people I worked with. How did they respond under pressure and tight deadlines? How were they when it came to giving praise or criticism to their subordinates? What was their work ethic like? How did they go about making the hard decisions and leading their teams? How approachable were they? If there was something that I admired about them, I would shadow them at work (with their knowledge of course) and make myself useful. People rarely know how to mentor when you go up and ask them. But if you make yourself indispensable, offer to do extra work and do your job well, they will notice and make the time to teach you what they know. Respecting my mentor’s time is another thing. I schedule ahead of time to speak with him/her in detail but I also remember to keep in regular contact — whether it is a call to say hello or a text to check in on them.