Thea Swartz helped to organise many of the local faces soon to be seen by a worldwide audience in the Netflix Original movie, Angeliena, but she also plays another big behind-the scenes role… as a teacher shaping young lives in Ocean View.
Ms Swartz, who teaches at Marine Primary School, says her first-time role as the extras co-ordinator, for her friend, Uga Carlini, in this Towerkop Creations production, was a baptism by fire that had her partially hysterical some nights (“Netflix movie stars local talent,” False Bay Echo, September 13).
But, she laughs, it also fostered in her a deep love and respect for the film industry and its hard-working crews.
Finding and managing 150 different people – and she stresses that they were 150 very different personalities – often at short notice, was a wild ride, she says.
Some nights, her list came through at 9pm, and extras were meant to be on set the next morning at 7am.
“I was a school teacher on holiday; I had no idea about the intensity, pressure or the late hours,” says the Fairy Knowe resident. She also worked on this project while she had Covid, yet she describes the experience as a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
The mother of two has been a Grade 4 teacher in Ocean View since 2014. She took up the post after her husband, Jannie, who is in the navy, was posted to Simon’s Town.
She met Carlini in 2014 by renting a flatlet from her, and the women remained friends when the Swartz family moved to their bigger home.
Ms Swartz turned to Marine Primary School’s parent list when she needed to find extras for Angeliena.
She says before she started teaching at Marine Primary School she had no idea about the reality of gangs, drugs, food poverty, or how hope-deprived children could be. The first two years were the most difficult, she says.
But Ms Swartz has steadfastly refused to leave, despite job offers elsewhere, and she has even collected truant kids from their homes to be sure they are safe and at school.
Her mother and sister are also teachers; so was her father – she says they recognised early on that this was to be the pivotal school in her career.
“I have a mission here,” she says. “My own children refer to the schoolchildren as my ‘other kids’. I want them to grow up well educated, to have the kind of choices they didn’t dare dream was possible. There are amazing, generous and kind people all over Ocean View, doing their level best to build their community. That’s what I am part of.”
And part of that mission was offering the community a chance to be in a Netflix Original movie, to have the experience of film-making, to get their own faces – and their community – on the map.
“Some did it for the R200 a day they were paid, some didn’t quite understand, or believe perhaps, that they would be seen on such a grand scale, but those who did were filled with pride and community spirit,” she says.
From the contact list on her phone, Ms Swartz also organised all the fancy cars featured in the film, including a Lamborghini, a Porsche and a Maserati.
“The car owners are so rich; I am not,” she laughs, “but they were equally as excited to be part of this major event. I think Uga’s vision was amazing because it has brought together all the aspects of our greater community, in one place.”
Carlini, a film-maker, director and founder of Towerkop Creations, which specialises in telling stories about women’s successes, says Ms Swartz played an invaluable role behind the scenes.
“I still don’t know how she did what she did, or where those amazing cars came from,” she laughs.
Angeliena stars Euodia Samson and is about a formerly homeless parking attendant’s courageous struggle to realise her lifelong dream of travelling the world after being diagnosed with a fatal disease. Written by Carlini, the film airs for the first time, worldwide, on Friday October 8.