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Working with your sister: A wild and wonderful trip

Dominique Mathisen

The relationship between sisters can be one of the most complex and rewarding of our lives.

She is often our best friend and most trusted confidant, yet can drive us completely bonkers – all in the one day. When Sophie Mathisen decided to make her debut feature film, Drama, in Paris, she knew she wanted her big sister Dominique on board.  Reluctant at first, Dominique eventually took the plunge and headed over for what would be one of the most incredible and intense times of her life. Drama hits the screens on Thursday 17 November, and Dominique reflects on the wild ride this project has been so far.

My younger sister Sophie had a pink party for her fifth birthday.

Pink everything- pink food, pink drink, pink games, pink costumes. She invited everyone in her kindergarten class as well as Luke Donovan- the cool boy in my class, who was six years older than Soph. Soph had been accompanying our mother to reading groups at my school and the two had formed a little friendship- almost the big brother she never had. The sweet, little pink princess would acquire admirers wherever she went. She was charismatic, charming and confident at five years old. So I had to deliver the pink, glittered invitation to Luke- the boy I was too scared to talk to. A boy I didn’t know, but my younger sister did. I protested, as did Sophie. Luke attended the small party, dressed in pink, and Soph was thrilled.

This unwavering and steadfast understanding of what she believes in has been the cornerstone that makes working with her now, almost 25 years later both frightening and exhilarating. She is uncompromising and it is this gift that she has imparted to me- a fearlessness and strength in our combined convictions that I will be forever grateful.

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Sophie (left) and Dominique

I reluctantly left for Paris in July 2013, not really wanting to be a part of another one of Sophie’s crazy adventures. I had said to her that I was going over to do the hair and makeup for the film, and then return for the job that I had been booked on. Six weeks in, numerous challenges later, Little Sure Shots had been born. We had quickly been reminded that in a foreign country, life is easier when someone has your back. Not to mention when herding a crew of 30 through 31 consecutive days of a tough shoot, its good to have someone who understands your vision.

We shared a bed to save money, never allowing the other to freak out and when the time came for us to drive the camera gear back to London, as we were screaming at each other driving around L’Arc De Triomph debating whether or not it was in fact the most mental roundabout in Europe, I kinda had the hunch that Drama was going to make or break us.

We are one another’s most fierce advocate and now, as we push our way into the industry, we are stronger together. No one knows more about me than Soph. We’ve been through heart-breaking lows and incredible highs together and it is this shared experience and shared investment that cements us a force to be reckoned with. When we fight, it is for the name Mathisen. And everyone knows two pairs of hands are always better than one. When one of us goes in to bat for the other, the other is made stronger, and the cycle continues.

Soph is a great actress, her poker face is strong. But I can see straight through it and since my own acting game is so pathetic, Soph sees straight through mine too. It’s important to have someone on your side to call bullshit occasionally, to keep you grounded as a duo, to move forward and to make it hard for the inevitable knocks to penetrate. However, the fights are fierce, intense and gut-punching; we know one another’s Achilles heel, and while it is rare that either of us goes for the low blow, there have been screaming matches- oh have there been screaming matches. But when the gloves come off, there is never any winner. There are no grudges nor secrets, a critical detail when establishing a Director/Producer combo.

While I like to think I have a keen sense of ESP, it is the shared experience of film and television that allows us to know what each other is thinking. We reference the same shows from our childhood- we watched and re-watched the same films on VHS until the tape dissolved, and it is this backlog of understanding of what works and what doesn’t, that helps us discuss things with a special type of shorthand. While there is a clear demarcation of duties (Sentenz Soph and Dollarz Dom were established this year) our ever-increasing workload means that there is now crossover. There is never any second-guessing of each other’s talents when we both know our own and one another’s faults.

This final hurdle of self-distributing Drama, has been one of the most challenging, busy and hectic periods of our entire careers. Balancing full-time jobs, this past year has seen both of us on the brink of meltdown many times. We now liken this last chapter to the struggle of Frodo and Sam walking into Mordor. There is no-one more committed to Drama than us now, and therefore we must stand together, weather the storm and get back to the Shire, to have another party. Maybe not a pink one this time.

Drama is screening at Palace Electric Cinema on Thursday 17 November at 7.15pm. Buy your tickets here.  Or watch in the comfort of your own lounge room by buying the download for $5 from iTunes or Google Play from November 17 onwards.  

Dominique Mathisen

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