“Home Wrecker” Is A Radical Departure For Sorele Media
When besties Stephina Zwane and Salamina Mosese became business partners eight years ago, they knew they wanted to “make African stories for Africa and the world”.
Zwane is the writer/director and Mosese is the producer of Sorele Media’s films. Their first film “Love and Kwaito” released in 2016 was followed by “Baby Mamas” in 2018, and “Home Wrecker” currently showing on Netflix, released in July. Fans of Sorele movies have another treat in store with the imminent release of “Candles “on Netflix on 18 August.
The characters in all Sorele Media films are predominantly aged 30-something, around the same age as the founders of the company, and they speak powerfully to themes that preoccupy the lives of viewers in that age group.
“I think I am very much influenced by events that happen in my own life or around me from friends, family, and when I try to make sense of it, I go into a script,” Zwane says.
“Home Wrecker” was a radical departure from the Romantic Comedy (RomCom) genre that audiences expected from Zwane and Mosese.
“Home Wrecker” was an amalgamation of my own experience and the experience of friends and family,” says Zwane. It’s a story of treachery and sabotage, of a power-hungry, unscrupulous woman, played by Letoya Makhene-Pulumo, with a sinister agenda, who literally wants to take over every aspect of another woman’s life.
“I started seeing this thread a couple of years ago and I wondered what it would look like in film; then I started writing the story. It was hard because it is not a genre I have written before and I wasn’t sure whether it would translate because our soft spot is comedy/drama similar to “Baby Mamas”,” says Zwane.
Zwane and Mosese stuck to their guns despite a chorus of opposition from stakeholders and even potential funders who wanted a RomCom!
“Once Sal and I decided we were going to tell this story, we stuck to our guns. We said, ‘this is the story we are telling next, are you on board? Yes or no? If not, that is okay, we will come back to you when the RomCom is ready’.
“We only tell the stories that we want to tell at the time and stand by what we have decided. If you say it is time for a RomCom and we think it is time for an action movie, you are not going to get a RomCom. And it could be that the funding is available for the RomCom and not for the movie we want to make, but we have learnt to stand firm, and it is not easy; we are two girls. Sometimes we get treated as if we are crazy and we don’t know what we are doing but we have learnt to rely a lot on our instincts”.
Zwane’s writing process changes, depending on what she is writing. “With “Baby Mamas”, I would wake up at night with the story. With “Home Wrecker”, I had the idea for a long time but never trusted myself to write it,” she explains.
Although she is open to some improvisation by the cast on set, Zwane likes to stick to the original script as much as possible. “By Day 1 of the shoot, we will all already have had a script reading with the actors and the HODs and the rest of the crew, and whatever feedback they give, I will go back and apply but when we get to set, there is no time to change the script”.
Zwane is unlikely to decide to rewrite a whole scene during a shoot. “People are obviously free to change a word here or a sentence there as long as it still conveys the story that we are telling, but I am not the type to wake up in the morning and say: ‘Let’s change the script today’…. No, no, no, that’s not me,” she says.
In the rough and tumble of the film industry, Zwane and Mosese, who have been friends since they were teenagers, prop one another up. “It hasn’t been easy but fortunately, we never want to quit at the same time. When I am feeling down and say: ‘I am done with this industry,’ Sal will say something like: ‘I have a feeling that if we call this person, they may be able to help us.’ And I do the same for her. Walking this journey with somebody who completely gets you, shares the same goals and values as you and wants to tell the stories you want to tell, is a blessing,” Zwane enthuses.
Zwane began writing the script for “Home Wrecker” when she and Mosese were on a long flight to a film festival in LA in 2018. It took another two years to get the funds together to make the film. The film was funded by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and the Presidential Employment Stimulus Program (PEST).
Filming was due to begin in early 2020 but had to be postponed because of Covid. Then the night before the shoot in 2021, the South African president announced to the nation that Level 4 lockdown would be imposed. Many productions closed down but Zwane resolved that the shoot must go on.
The DOP, Werner Botha, contracted Covid two weeks before the shoot was due to begin and only tested negative the day before. He and Zwane met on set for the first time. “We couldn’t do any in-person meetings at all. And then I think the day before Day 1, he had to go and test to see that he was okay. When he walked onto set for the first time, this was the first time I met him, and I was like: ‘Are you sure you are okay because I am pregnant, and I can’t afford to get sick and nobody else can afford to get sick.’ And he said: ‘No, no, no. The doctor has given me the go-ahead.’”
The first day on set was chaotic. “We had to figure out how to shoot in this new climate of masks and sanitizers and having a medic on set. We had never worked in that kind of environment before. It was a slow start but once we got into it, we were running. Everybody brought their best every day,” says Zwane.
Zwane, who was four months pregnant at the time says it’s a miracle that they managed to finish the film without anyone getting sick.
The team had to get permission to shoot at night because of the curfew at the time. “A lot of the film is set at night and we had a curfew. We were lucky to get permission to finish shooting at midnight or in the early hours of the morning,” Zwane explains.
Looking back, Zwane says: “The lesson I learned from making this film is that you have to bet on yourself and that I am very stubborn…. When I decide that we are shooting, we are shooting and it doesn’t matter what obstacle comes”.
“Home Wrecker” has hit home for audiences around the continent. “We never thought this film would open on number one a day later on Netflix South Africa, and then at some point we were number two in Nigeria, and even in the Caribbean, it was in the top five,” says Zwane.
On the contentious subject matter of the film, Zwane says: “As writers we dig deep into our psychology, into parts of ourselves that we don’t share with every-day people and even with some of our closest people. They don’t know how crazy we can get until they watch the film”.
When Zwane and her husband were driving home after an early screening of the film, he asked: “Who wrote that?” Taken aback, Zwane asked what he meant. He knew very well that she had written it. “Did you write every single thing they said?” he persisted. “Yes, every word,” Zwane replied. “Sjoe, baby, I think I need to be worried about you,” he said.