Photo by Marla AufmuthDaniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert of Daniels hanging out before the latest Flux Screening Series.
- Names: Daniel Kwan (Daniel 1), Daniel Scheinert (Daniel 2)
- Created on: June 2009
- Location: Los Angeles, CA
- Homepage: Daniels
- Domain: Filmmaking, Hot Dance Moves
When you visit Daniels’ homepage, you’re greeted with clean design and cheerful, yet sarcastic nudges in statements like, “Your internet is broken. Go outside and play.” Or “We are also freelance babysitters and back-up dancers so you have no excuse to not hire us.” So it comes as no surprise that this clever filmmaking duo, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, while new on the scene, are already turning heads with their latest video for The Hundred in the Hands’ “Pigeons”. The video – which documents a girl’s drunken night out, in which vomiting fireworks and vertigo-inducing moves are accepted realities – is a glimpse into what we have to look forward to with their irreverent storytelling and agile style.
Kwan (Daniel 1) and Scheinert (Daniel 2), who are currently located on Los Angeles’ East side, met in Boston while at film school, where Daniel 1 flashed some great animation skills, attracting Daniel 2, who had been in an improv troupe and made comedy videos. But the two prefer to leave those days of working individually behind and focus on building their new empire together. They value the relative anonymity of filmmaking under the Daniels moniker and consider themselves interchangeable, which fits in with their mixture of live action and animation, and the sense of humor apparent in both their films and personae. Daniels, who are represented by Warp and PRETTYBIRD, are already busy at work on their new video endeavors, so we’re optimistic there won’t be much babysitting in their future. And your internet is actually working just fine, so you have no excuse to not watch them!
Tell us about your backgrounds. What inspired you to become filmmakers?
Daniel 2: I come from a theatre background, and when I graduated high school, my theatre director, whom I respected immensely, told me I would have to be a director because I would roll my eyes and clench my teeth whenever he was directing. Basically, he told me I was a bad actor. And then I caught the film bug through the awesome Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham, AL.
Daniel 1: My dad is a consumer of all sorts of mass media and will watch everything from foreign art films to Glee. On the other hand, my mom is probably one of the most critical people I know when it comes to art and media. Not necessarily in an academic way, but still very critical. So I basically grew up in a household where there was always something playing in the background while my mother would tell us why it was “so stupid!” Except for Dancing with the Stars. My mom loves that.
The Hundred in the Hands “Pigeons,” directed by Daniels.
How did you guys meet and become filmmaking partners?
Daniel 1: We actually met in a computer animation class and instantly left bad impressions on each other.
Daniel 2: Daniel Kwan was a real, overeager dork with a beaded necklace. But I noticed he worked 24/7 and was a decent animator. Ripe for exploitation.
Daniel 1: And Daniel Scheinert was in an improv troupe where everyone made fun of him for being gay and Southern. So what organically came out of us working together was a mix between the frantic process of improv and the careful forethought of animation.
Daniel 2: To my father: I’m not actually gay.
Describe your creative dynamic. Do you both have very different roles and styles that you bring to the table?
Daniel 1: Generally, we sit in a room with an idea, and when we get excited, we run around and yell things at each other until it makes sense. It’s hard to tell who really comes up with what.
Daniel 2: It’s the most collaborative work I’ve ever done. I would never make the same kind of movies by myself.
What was the inspiration behind your “Pigeons” video for The Hundred in the Hands?
Daniel 1: We always try to let the track inspire us. So this video came out of listening to the song and talking with the band. The main concept was having a hilarious, terrifying night of being way too drunk. And we wanted to find a way to capture that so viewers would feel like they were drunk too.
Daniels can dance!
There are so many fascinating elements in that video, from the sparks to the impossible-looking physical motions. Can you describe the creative process?
Daniel 2: We aren’t precise effects artists with detailed storyboards. We love to experiment and work with actors. So “Pigeons” was a very freeform shoot in which we could work with our wonderful actress, Lola, and discover fun moments. We had a trampoline, a stunt mattress, a climbing harness and smoke machines, plus a good actress and a laundry list of ideas.
Daniel 1: Maybe too many ideas! Lola was completely worn out afterward.
Daniel 2: She would leap through the air onto a crash pad or hang from a climbing harness and we would remove the props and manipulate the motion and camera in post.
Daniel 1: The funny thing is, she was scheduled for ankle surgery the next week. She’s a star.
Daniel 2: We haven’t talked to her since. She might be dead.
How did you create the fireworks? Were they animated or were they actual sparks?
Daniel 1: There’s a rumor that fireworks are illegal in New York so we decided to play it safe and shoot all the fireworks practically after the principal photography while back in Los Angeles, where they are also illegal. We composited various real fireworks onto the footage to create the effect.
Daniels’ Tides of the Heart is a quirky short mixing flashy animation and live action to funny and violent effect. About making this film, Daniels say, “We were both teaching assistants at a film summer camp in Boston. We were hanging out with students for fun, on our day off, and wanted to film something. Our camera op had never touched a DSLR.”
Manipulating time and people’s bodies and motions are a theme in your work, often to grotesque and/or hilarious effect. What about that is attractive to you guys?
Daniel 1: I love that we can explore what seems like a ridiculous idea and take it so seriously that, while it becomes grotesque and hilarious, it becomes beautiful at the same time. Our last two videos have a bunch of people dancing ugly in their underwear (for “Underwear” by FM Belfast) and a drunken hipster chick puking fireworks. It sounds so silly!
Daniel 2: We’re very self-aware filmmakers. We love beautiful imagery and storytelling, but we have a hard time taking ourselves seriously. (Can you tell?) So the most honest thing to do is to dissect the stories we’re telling, show the ugly side, make a joke, and highlight the contradictory moments. But we’re also teetering on being PIGEONholed (get it??) into a specific aesthetic and we’re eager to do something totally new.
Daniel 1: Oh, and I just texted Lola. She’s not dead.
Photo by Marla AufmuthDaniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Well, that’s a relief! There are two handsome guys who show up a few times in your videos. They keep coming back for more abuse…
Daniel 2: I’ll stop you right there. We both have twins, and we love to cast them in our movies.
Daniel 1: For the record: We never act in our own movies.
Daniel 2: So pretentious.
Tell me about the inspiration for the Swingers short.
Daniel 2: Dan had a new camera and I was learning After Effects.
Daniel 1: Daniel had a new swingset and I was learning to have fun.
Daniel 2: It’s an homage to our favorite kinds of super-cinematic, super-stupid comedy. The Lonely Island, Tim and Eric, Michael Bay.
Daniel 1: Oh and the 1996 film Swingers starring Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. Big inspiration.
So, what are your plans? Do you think you might do a feature film someday?
Daniel 1: We both want to do so many different kinds of things, and ideally, not too much of any one thing. We like to discover things that are challenging that we haven’t done yet and do those things the best way we possibly can.
Daniel 2: We try to stay as ambitious and busy as possible. We want to create an action/comedy TV show about tiny tigers living inside a dead boy’s body, and we’re hopefully shooting a short film later this fall. And we are working on a feature film concept right now! It’s a drawing room comedy (which are all the rage with teenagers) currently called Behavior Unbecoming of a Girl Becoming a Woman Becomes You. So cross your fingers and look out for that one in 2030!
Daniel 1: We never really planned to become music video directors. So we’re excited to be surprised again.
Daniel 2: Hopefully it’s a good surprise.
- Social Web