A few of our final conversations stand out: one in particular, when Jenna learned her cancer was terminal, where she cried at the idea of not being there to see her little sister grow up and get married. It impacted me a lot, as I too have a younger sister 8 years my junior (the same as Jenna). Since her passing, I have often thought about the bond between two sisters and pondered how dramatically different they would be without each other.
And then the final scenario of the film germinated: What if you could meet your older sibling at the same age you are now? What would you say to each other? How would it alter your perspective of them?
When I began writing the script, my sister Katherine was entering college, and had grown to bare an uncanny resemblance to myself. In fact, despite the significant age gap between us, people suddenly could not tell us apart. Being that we were both performers, comparisons between us seemed inevitable. It felt like the perfect moment to explore this sibling dynamic by acting opposite each other in a film.
Once I received the funding to make the movie, I set to work rehearsing with her to try and prepare her for the role, her first on-camera appearance. Due to scheduling restrictions and the fact that Katherine was still in school, it made sense to cast her as “Kayla”, (the older sister in the movie). We spent months rehearsing together in her bedroom, filming each other’s performances, in an attempt to capture this new dynamic.
As the film sprang to life, I made the decision to veer away from my normal tendency to create images that look sleek and polished. Instead, I tried to create something more gritty and raw, by shooting almost exclusively handheld in the dead of winter. I wanted Rose’s world to feel bleak and devoid of personality, and so my team was instructed to scale back lighting, dialogue, music and even color, in order to capture its authenticity.
The result is a film feels very real to me; An introspective exploration of my relationship with my real-life sister. Regardless of the film’s outcome, I’m grateful for that experience, and to have given my little sister her first opportunity to shine onscreen.