School Friends
Jean Barker and Spencer Garrett shot by Trevor Roach; Meg Rickards directing Snake's Lamiyah Barnard shot by Natalie Sternberg

In a heartwarming story of friendship, movie-making dreams, determination and making South Africa proud, two school friends reunited iconically at a peak in their careers—a top Hollywood film festival!


Los Angeles, USA (26 June 2024) —  School friends Jean Barker and Meg Rickards have lived what many would consider the plot to a fabulous feel-good film yet to be made. Despite the different routes they took to their dreams (and to a top Hollywood festival), their story is as much about them as inspiring individuals as it is about the friendship that helped guide them to their moments in the sun.

Jean and Meg’s story began with a friendship between two outsiders at Westerford High decades ago. Jean had transferred to the Cape Town school as a new kid who knew no one, while Meg was part of a group of proud misfits who’d spend breaks gathered around the old apartheid flagpole to make an ironic statement. After Meg reached out to the new kid, it was only a matter of time before the two became a dynamic duo.

Bonded by anti-apartheid literature, activism, sandwiches, subculture and stories of their hopeless dating lives, the school friends would remain close for the coming decades long after their school days ended. More impressively, their bond remained strong despite the distance that would come to separate them.

Meg would go on to leave for a film post-grad scholarship at London Film School, while Jean relocated to KwaZulu-Natal for her own studies; taking on a career as a journalist.

At 36, Jean decided to pursue a new dream—filmmaking, and spent her life savings to do a Masters in screenwriting in Los Angeles (she graduated with honours in her field as well as in directing).

Meg on the other hand, has made multiple films and a string of successes in South Africa since 1994, including the bloody miracle, Tess, Kaalgat Karel and Atlantis. While Jean’s journey in film started later, she’d soon catch up to her pal with four feature films, while simultaneously earning a reputation in LA as ‘someone who can do anything’ from rewrites to set suggestions and music videos.

But during the pandemic years, in their different parts of the world, both Meg and Jean would face a new battle in their already fiercely tough industry. Jean, for one, was largely funding one of her movies herself, and when push came to shove, she had to become an Uber Eats driver while doing relief teaching in schools to make ends meet. Needless to say, their long-distance friendship played its hand in helping each other through the hard times throughout their careers.

Despite all the curveballs, the school friends will now shine together at LA’s iconic Mann Chinese Theatre, where both of their films have been selected to premiere as part of Dances with Films. Jean’s first movie (Nobody Leaves ’til Jesus Comes) and Meg’s latest (Snake) will both take centre stage, the stars aligning for the pair to walk the red carpet as lifelong friends and dream chasers.

“You know how Americans have a reputation for assuming everyone from Africa knows everyone else? Well I don’t get to laugh at them for it at Dances with Films,” says Jean. 

The screenings are set to take place at the end of this week.

Sources: Supplied 
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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