“I think we met on Skype once?”, the opening line of the trailer from, what I know will be, a fantastic independent film called Drama. True to script I organised a Sunday afternoon Skype date to chat with writer, director and star of the film (is there anything this girl can’t do?) Sophie Mathisen to find out about her Newy grass roots, pressure on location and appreciation for a wonderful fresh take on what romance and connection really means. Spoiler alert, I definitely walked away from the interview just thinking who run the world? Girls.
So who is Sophie Mathisen? In short; a passionately vibrant actor/writer/director/producer/extraordinaire, who, even through a dodgy Skype connection, lights and fills a room with infectious energy, constantly propelled forward by an unparalleled enthusiasm and zest for life. Our conversation begins with a warm and wonderful “hello mate, how are you?”, as if I were meeting Sophie in the beer garden at the Lass. I realised immediately, we would indeed get along just fine. Although born in the UK, Sophie proudly proclaims “Newy is really where I grew up” and it seems Newcastle can take a fair chunk of the credit for Sophie’s involvement in the art scene. “I was pretty heavily involved with Tantrum theatre, that was kind of really my start. I also did some Young People’s Theatre (YPT) when I was in primary school as well but I got into Tantrum pretty hardcore. Lachlan Philpott who was running it at the time I was about 16 or 17 was such an important influence for me and it was a really supportive environment when I was there.” The vibe of the Newcastle Arts scene as a whole, also left a dramatic impact upon the creative, with Sophie pledging her support for the overarching community. “I think that Newcastle has a really healthy engagement with the arts and I think there’s a really strong investment in youth culture particularly… it’s had a really big impact for me”.
From this wonderful local community stemmed literally a world of opportunity for Sophie, with her craft keeping her on her toes moving her through most of the east coast of Australia until finally returning to the UK to study her Masters at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. It was here where the notion of organic inspiration really surfaced as a priority for Sophie. “I didn’t go to you know a ‘traditional’ film school and I’m so about people who didn’t come from that background. There’s enough people that go through that kind of received inspiration and being in an environment where everyone is making films, it’s so much easier to make films that way, when you’re surrounded by so many other people engaging in the craft… But with me, I was doing my second Masters in screen performance. I was surrounded by a bunch of Actors, some of which were really vain”, says Sophie laughing. “I just wanted to go out and make my own film and they were just like well we’re just going to sit here and wait to be cast in Game of Thrones”.
Ever the ambitious creative, whilst in the final phase of her Masters, Sophie began forging her own path to success and the film maker really took a huge bite out of the ambitious apple. “We when got charged with doing our final thesis, you have to make a short alongside that. About three or four months in, I said to my course coordinator ‘is there any way you would let me do a feature?’”. Unsurprisingly, due to being smack band in the middle of an extremely intense period of study, her requests were, albeit initially, brushed off by course officials. Ever the optimist Sophie, as she puts it “locked myself in a house over Christmas and wrote a script in ten days… I just said, I’m just going to sit here and write”. And write she did.
But where did the idea come from? With a true autobiographical aspect, the initial creative burst came from a fairly traditional source. A really (really) bad breakup. “I got pretty brutally dumped… I think actors in particular have this trait where they will create mini dramas to kind of live out their own lives and dramatically escalate the situation, I was kind of like that as well… I mean, in my very early 20’s thinking ‘yeah I’ve got my life sewn up because hey I’m with a guy, look at me being all adult’… but then… it ended. And suddenly I was back in Newy, working at Grind thinking, how did this happen?”. Although laughing about her clear quarter life crisis now, I can completely relate to a certain feeling of almost hopeless abandon, lost in an abyss of scary possibility. But it wasn’t this relationship that really spurred the script behind Drama. “My longest relationship has been with my best friend Russ who is a gay man and we’ve been friends for close to 15 years… We kind of complement each other in a way that’s very intimate… (writing Drama) I knew that I wanted to do something about that relationship… I wanted to write something that was more of a love letter to Russ.” Elaborating, Sophie starts commenting about what we have all thought at one point or another. “We’ve been fed this diet of rom-coms and the notion that everything ends after everyone’s happy, that’s where I kind of thought my life was going until my realisation of oh, wait nah that’s right, I’m still in my early 20’s and it’s all heaps messy and I have no idea what I’m doing… How do I figure this out?”. And there you have it, the creative catalyst that became Drama was born.
Keen to get the idea from the page to screen Sophie discussed the final processes. “I sent through the script to François Vincentelli, the guy that plays Philippe in the film. He’s quite a well-known French actor I guess he’s kind of the Rodger Corser of France really.” It was gesture along with a combination of pure adrenalin, a Jack Torrance approach to writing, perfect timing and the sheer gusto and determination from Sophie that Drama began to spring from the page and into production. Continuing she reveals, “I just got on a train and met François in Paris and he goes, ‘I’ve got eight days, can you shoot it in eight days and I was like… oh yeah sure I can shoot all of your parts in eight days, I’ll see you in August!... Then he just kind of got on his scooter and rode away and I was just like… I don’t know what to do now!” Sophie reminisces through wild hand gestures, shock, awe and her jaw to the floor. “Then it hit me, oh my God, how do I do this in eight days?”
The team behind the film it seems, were truly magnificent, and a testament to the independent film industry. As well as including a whole bunch of really talented Novocastrians, Drama was also a family affair, with Sophie’s sister Dom, working as a producer on the film. This sense of connectedness was clearly imperative on set, especially with Sophie taking on a myriad of roles both in front and behind the camera. Sophie’s credits for Drama alone include actor, writer, director and producer, like I said, is there anything this girl cannot do?!
Watching the trailer and hearing more about the storyline and projection from Sophie, there’s a real distinction with Drama that really sets the film apart from any pre-misconceptions an audience may have about the genre. There’s a true tenderness and connected necessity surrounding the plutonic relationship and despite other intertwining romantic plotlines, the true focus remains on the importance of feeling supported, loved and I guess metaphorically, home. Set and shot on location in Paris, (a subtle commentary on the overwhelming foreign feeling after a significant relationship ends), the film itself is cinematically beautiful, and so far removed from the (fiercely) independent nature of the production.
So where can you see this wonderful film, a question that I know by now you’re all asking yourselves! That my friend is up to you. Drama is being released via a ‘day-and-date’ release model in combination with a company called Fan-force. Luckily for Novocastrians, there’s a super special screening happening at Event Cinemas in town but... With the Fan-force model ticket quotas have to be met in order for the screening to go ahead. So like Captain Planet says, the power is yours! All tickets need to be purchased prior to 10:00am on Friday the 7th of November (that’s only a mere five days away!). All the information is listed on the film’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/afilmcalleddrama/) but, if you’re like me and just cannot wait to even finish this article before securing your spot this link (https://fan-force.com/films/drama/) will take you directly to the box office to secure your spot for the exclusive screening on the 17th of November!!
As Novocastrians, we’ve rallied together before, the earthquake in 1989, the famous games putting our town on the map in 1997 and 2001, and now this… The chance to rally behind a truly wonderful creative is really what our town is all about. So what are you waiting for!? Buy your tickets! And help make our town a part of something truly wonderful.
Find out more here: http://www.afilmcalleddrama.com/
Buy tickets here: https://fan-force.com/films/drama/