The beginning was not easy because he started as a freelance, moving with his laptop and doing quick graphic design jobs.
Christopher Agira, 28, is out to change animation in Uganda. With a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Fine Arts from Makerere University, he was not one to be deterred by the constant cry of job scarcity.
Labelled talkative and a noise maker, all Agira did during his high school days was narrate movies to his classmates.
“I love animation and telling stories through motion. I narrated them with elaborate body movements coupled with sound effects,” he says.
One thing he delights in is giving life to an imagination, an idea or concept. He got inspired by content produced by Disney, DC Comics, Marvel, Dream Works and Illumination because they produce good animation.
That was when an idea struck him; “Ugandans also have stories to tell, why not create and distribute them?”
So he and his team came up with titles such as ‘Kasoode’ and ‘Fat Chris’. They took them through test runs on YouTube and Facebook where they got good reviews which showed that the audience appreciated local content and was hungry for more.
The beginning was not easy because he started as a freelance, moving with his laptop and doing quick graphic design jobs. That was followed with the hustle of demanding for payment.
“Some clients would go to the extent of asking for sample projects which would take me close to two weeks in production. But thereafter, they had the audacity to tell me they could not afford it or the bosses had travelled, so the project has been terminated,” he says.
To reduce the strain, Agira decided to build a team under Agix Creative Studio, an animation studio, which comprises him as the team leader and CEO and four other people in the team.
“Working as a team makes work easier and the quality has greatly improved because everyone is working in their area of speciality,” he says, adding that they also work with interns which spreads out the work further.
“My first animation client was Maali Cement. That was the first TV commercial I made,” he says. Agira has gone on to work with organisations such as Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and Uganda Revenue Authority.
Agira says in the animation industry the demand is higher than the supply, however, the return on investment is very low because most of the animations are not paid for.
“They are all created for the sake of entertainment except TV advertisements,” he says.
So as a starter, it is difficult for him to sustain constant production under such terms because at the end of the day bills have to be paid.
“If it were not for passion and love for animation, I would have quit two years back.”
With a time frame of five years, Agira sees himself working on projects that tell African stories with original tradition.
He also envisions himself attending and presenting short films and comic books at international short film festivals such as the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, Ottawa International Animation Film Festival, among others.
Agira’s journey in animation that started in 2014 has been a collective effort of many mentors.
“I watch them online and these include Chris Do who was introduced to me by a very long time supportive friend, Rachel Kagumba, another remote mentor,” he says, adding that he respects Dr Miles Monroe (RIP) for spiritual and psychological mentorship.
He is also guided by his late father’s wise words and his mother who helps him keep emotionally grounded.
“I have very many triumphs; glory to God, I got a home for my company at Design Hub Kampala and my team has grown from two to five, meaning we can handle many projects at the same time and still put out high quality in a short period of time. The company has also grown from an animation studio to a brand and marketing consultancy which means more clientele.”