Have you heard about the ‘Baby Mamas’ movie? You should plan to see it. The movie- a comedy, highlights the experiences of four women- all single moms trying to find love while balancing ‘mommyhood’ and their professional lives. The brilliant movie was produced by two South African media experts- Stephina Zwane and Salamina Mosese. On this week’s LLA Interview, we caught up with these brilliant women and among other things had them share with us the inspiration behind the movie, their passion for changing the African narrative through film making, their professional and personal goals and then lots more. Enjoy!
Congratulations on the international screening of your new movie “Baby Mamas”– how do you both feel about achieving that admirable feat? It has been very exciting for both of us to get the opportunity to showcase the film to audiences from different countries and backgrounds, and still have it be so well received.
What was the idea behind producing a movie like Baby Mamas?
The topic of Baby Mamas is one that still elicits strong reaction from different quarters, and usually spells drama. Yet the film wanted to tackle the subject of the single Mom, from a female perspective, and in a more positive light. We felt that it is an important story to tell, because we want to change the narrative on the topic and move it away from it just being viewed as controversial.
And how has the audience’s reception been to it?
Audiences have loved it. The feedback we have received is that the characters are relatable, that the drama is light hearted yet still gives great insight into this very common phenomenon.
Awesome! So let’s meet Stephina and Salamina – what do you both do?
We co-own Sorele Media and this is the production company that produced Baby Mamas. Stephina is the writer, Director and co-producer of the film, while Salamina is the producer and lead actress in the film.
You both founded Sorele Media; why? And what do you hope to achieve with the company?
We have both been in the media industry for over 19 years, and starting the company came at a time when we both felt that we needed a new challenge and adventure. We started out as on camera talent, and then Stephina went behind the scenes first, trying her hand at directing and producing TV content for various companies. When the urge to go into the business of film and get the opportunity to create the kind of stories we ourselves wanted to watch, we both took the leap into Sorele Media and launched a digital channel called AzaTV in 2015. This was our first foray into the market as a company.
How did the journey begin for both of you? Have you always been in the media?
We met as young teenagers hosting a variety kids programme called Craze on ETV. We became fast friends, and eventually also went to the same University, where Stephina studied Journalism and Salamina studied Corporate Communication. All this happened whilst, we both continued with acting and presenting various shows on SA Television. Even as young girls, we already knew that there would come a day when we would desire to hang up our acting boots, in search of other avenues within the industry.
How were you able to fund the production of Baby Mamas?
The film was funded under the Emerging Black filmmakers fund, a fund that sees the IDC (Industrial Development Corporation), the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), as well as the NFVF (National Film and Video Foundation) come together to fully fund film projects that are the brainchild of young, black film producers who are looking to come into the industry, and produce films for cinematic release.
You operate in what many see as a male-dominated industry – how do you function within that sector and what are the challenges?
It is an interesting time in the film and TV industry because never before have we seen such a passion for female driven narratives to be told. There are still many barriers to entry for young producers, and there is still much work to be done, to ensure that the challenges are not insurmountable. As female producers, it’s not always easy to crew up and find crew that is used to having women in the driving seat.
And the upsides? What have been some of your significant wins?
We have managed to put together a strong team of young professionals who are equally passionate about female stories, and it’s great that not all of them are female. It is going to take men in the industry to also start supporting female crew for us to start making the necessary changes.
What are your professional and personal goals?
We both really want to produce more projects for international release, and one day soon, even get the opportunity to produce original content for Netflix. Personally, Stephina hopes to continue to develop more strong narratives that portray women in a positive light and wants to add to the dialogue around the re-branding of the African story. Salamina hopes to go back to studying to obtain her MBA for creatives. We are both passionate about creating safe, creative spaces for other female entrepreneurs coming into their own, and would like to run film workshops for other young producers.
Now that Baby Mamas has been met with overwhelmingly positive reviews – what’s next on the horizon?
We are still hopeful that we will clinch either a Netflix deal or an international TV licensing deal. After that, we will be able to focus on our next film project, one that will hopefully be a co-production with a Nigerian Producer, so that we can start to create stories that can live well in both territories.
You captured the “Baby Mama” theme so positively, without the attendant negativity that usually follows such occurrences–why was this important for both of you to do?
We always say, you either know a Baby Mama, are a Baby Mama, or you were raised by a Baby Mama. This means that this is something that is always around us. We know amazing single parents, and wanted to show their lives and loves in a way that celebrates who they are, and how they go about trying to figure it all out.
And did the theme of the movie come from any personal experience?
It was inspired by people around us, regular women and men trying to make ends meet, find love, manage their relationships and figure out life, in all its many facets. As a writer, at times life imitates art, and at other times its art imitating life.
Would you say that film making has changed the way you see the world?
We believe that in so many ways, how we view the world, is coloured in by the media that we consume…good and bad.
Words of wisdom for upcoming female media entrepreneurs?
Be bold. Fight to tell your stories. Do your research. Be consistent with your output and never ever give up on yourself.
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women. It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might feature her.