We can all agree - if there’s one thing keeping us somewhat sane during lockdown, it’s binge-watching all the entertainment the internet can provide. You have probably already stumbled upon movies, and TV shows that would have otherwise slipped past your radar - and there is no better time than now to support all the local offerings you’ve ‘always been meaning to see’ with your precious viewing hours.
And our local industry really needs your eyeballs right now, says Girl of St Agnes breakout star Jane de Wet.
Like everyone else, the 24-year-old upcoming star is holed up at her mother’s place in Somerset West. “I needed a time out anyway, so it’s nice to gather myself a little,” Jane tells Channel24 over an afternoon phone call.
She started acting from a young age in theatre productions, but opted instead to study a BCom to support her process, as well as help her make her own productions one day. For now, however, she’s committed to her full-time job as an actor.
A familiar face from the popular Showmax show as well as M-Net’s Still Breathing series, Jane is also starring in two new releases on the local streaming platform - Rage and Parable. Both are horrors - a genre that South African cinema has seen very little of. One might assume that she’s working towards a ‘scream queen’ title, but Jane says it’s pure coincidence that both came out at the same time.
“I’m not a horror fan at all - I don’t watch horror, and the genre is so unexplored and unfamiliar to me, so I found myself in uncharted territory altogether. But even so, I think it’s proved a challenge to me, which I like.”
Rage is set during Matric Rage, where a group of friends are stalked by sinister forces at their strange holiday house. Parable, on the other hand, follows a young girl inadvertently possessed by a demon invoked by an anti-gay preacher and ends up trapped in your typical South African security complex.
(RAGE: Jane as Roxy. Photo: Showmax)
But are South African audiences ready for these local takes on the terrifying genre?
“If there ever was a time for change, it’s now,” says Jane.
“There is so much uncertainty happening in the world already, and we’re definitely moving into a new era that stretches beyond the film field of course. I think everyone is ready for something new. Rage and Parable are both more horrifying than the current situation, so I think it provides a great escape from the current reality.”
FILMED IN TEN DAYS
But these films are not for the faint of heart - like your classic 80s horrors, blood and gore dominate the screen - artistic violence created through an amazing use of practical effects. For an actor, it brings a different dimension to their work.
“The most challenging part for an actor dealing with those kinds of special effects is that it becomes very technical. There’s a lot of cutting in the middle of scenes, dressing in blood, replacing a body with a dummy - that provides a challenge to stay in character and to stay in the story when everything on set is extremely chaotic.
“Also, from a behind-the-scenes point of view, makeup, props and art have a huge responsibility to make sure that there is continuity, that they have standbys in case things go wrong. As you pointed out, horror is a new genre for South Africa, so there’s not a lot to go on, there’s not a lot of past experiences to inform the crew as well. It does create its own set of challenges, but it also makes it very interesting and weirdly wonderful.”
Another factor the filmmakers had to account for in the making of Rage was time - the entire movie was shot in only ten days, using locations like the West Coast, Sir Lowry’s Pass and Betty’s Bay.
“When I heard that was the timeframe I was terrified - but I think once you start you just kind of bulldoze through it and before you know it it’s over.”
“Ironically, the hardest scene for me was where we were just running into the water on the beach, because it was incredibly cold, the waves were very big, and the weather didn’t really allow for a pleasant experience. That wasn’t my favourite day at all, but we had new challenges every day.
“There was a lot of time pressure, and when we had struggles with the weather, we had to improvise on the spot and move locations, which required agility on everyone’s part. But everyone had amazing chemistry on set which made up for all the challenges behind-the-scenes.”
For Jane, however, the best is when there are a few people in a scene as possible.
“My favourite scenes are typically the ones where it’s one-on-one - where it’s just you and one other person, and you can really just forget about the rest of the world.
“I am not one that enjoys too many people on set at a time - group scenes aren’t my favourite. For example, the scene I had with Carel Nel [in Rage], where we were on the road, and he blew the powder into my face - I love scenes like that. Outside, it’s just us, and it’s intimate.”
But she doesn’t want to be type-cast as a ‘horror girl’ - her favourite genre remains drama, like Still Breathing, but Jane feels privileged to have had the opportunities to explore such extreme characters and narratives.
(PARABLE: Jane as Esther. Photo: Showmax)
“I don’t think I’d venture into comedy soon, but I am open for anything. I believe everything that comes over my path is for a reason, and there’s something to be learnt from it, so we’ll see what the future holds.”
In contrast to working on such a tight schedule for Rage, Jane was in awe of the production of critically-acclaimed Moffie, in which she had a small role.
“The time, the money behind such a production just places it in a whole other league. It was a different experience because one scene is shot for 13 hours, and they do 50 different angles. For me, that was very interesting because I’m used to working at a much quicker pace.
“I have so much respect for Oliver [director of Moffie], and I’m very excited about what he’s going to do for the country and our film industry as a whole.”
But with the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown, South Africa’s local and film industry has been hard-hit, like so many other sectors. For Jane, now’s the time to give support to local offerings.
“In the whole world there’s this feeling of coming together, of unity, of collectivism and supporting one another - and I think that’s going to be very prevalent in the film industry as well. Now more than ever there’s so much emphasis on buying and supporting local and I hope that will have a spillover effect on film and television for South Africa as well.
“There is such an awareness that our freelancers are really struggling at the moment and I am hoping people will make a mind-shift - not out of pity necessarily - but an increased awareness of the industry as a whole and South Africa’s talent, that is often very much on par with America and Europe. Greater awareness will certainly open up opportunities for us.”
Something to think about the next time you fight off lockdown cabin fever with movies and TV.