Independent Filmmaker's Guide
August 21, 2020
Daddy Issues: Making a Romcom For This Generation
When one thinks of a rom-com we usually think of films from the 80/90s. But more and more, those films seem to reflect a time more in line with our history than our present. Our guests today are sisters, taking aim at the Romantic Comedy genre in an effort to make it resonate more with the actual experiences of Millennials and Gen Z with their production company Clean Slate Productions.
Amy Datnow: The movie is quite a personal story to us because our dad died when we were not much younger, but a couple of years before we made the film .and we were living in other sides of the world. I was living in Israel and Kimberley was in LA, and we’d call each other and talk about our modern dating mishaps, whatever that means, and just laugh at these stories. And we wanted to make a film about different types of issues that we came across, different types of dad issues basically.
Kimberley Datnow: We wanted to make a film about things that your parents do that really mess you up.
Steven Pierce: So which one of you tore up a bunch of pink flamingos in an ex’s yard?
Amy Datnow: That would be Kimberley.
Kimberley Datnow: I mean, that was enough. The flamingos were the massive thought for the female empowerment that you feel when you just broken up with someone and you’re like, Oh my God-
Amy Datnow: When you get drunk and you get a group of girls together and it just escalates.
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah. But I think we have real fun with scene because we were just like what can we do that would be the most destructive thing? And at the time there were these flamingos in the dollar store and we just thought that would be hilarious to rip these heads off of this cartoon item. Why else would they sell these flamingos if not to do something to it?
Amy Datnow: Do you remember when flamingos were everywhere? They were just on everyone’s Instagram. And so we were just like, we have to use flamingos.
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah.
Steven Pierce: Down the block from me in a story of New York, there’s a big eight foot inflatable flamingo on top of a restaurant during that Instagram fad. You couldn’t walk by for people with a phone standing on the sidewalk trying to get a photo of themselves with a stupid Flamingo. So it was a small piece of joy as I hate those damn things.
Amy Datnow: Yeah. We came to hate them as well. It was quite cathartic. We pitched the idea to each other back and forth. And then we sat down and thought what are the hilarious stories that we’ve heard from our friends. It was a real labor of love. A lot of stories are real stories that our friends were going through.
Steven Pierce: And how long did you spend writing it and developing the idea?
Amy Datnow: We just had about six months.
Steven Pierce: About six months to write. When did you actually… And how did it go from the script… How did you get to the next step of actually turning it into a thing?
Amy Datnow: Can you jump in as well?
Kimberley Datnow: W heard these stories over and over again. We were like, wow, this isn’t just our problem. This is actually a problem with the generation.
Steven Pierce: Totally. Once you have the script done, did you partner with a production company? Did you know the director? Did you guys do it independently?
Kimberley Datnow: So Amy and I are actually real sisters and we realized that there’s actually no other real sister production companies in the UK. So we thought, wow, we’ll be the first sister production company. So we set up our own production company, Clean Slate Productions. And we realized that making stories that were funny for the millennial generation would be a really good company brand. And we started the Instagram and we immediately got a lot of followers from just promotional things that we put out there. And then when we took this film to festivals we got a massive audience following. And won some audience awards as well as best actor, best film awards.
Kimberley Datnow: I think that filming the production company and doing it ourselves was actually the best way to get funding for this project and to get this project off the ground, because like you said, it is really difficult to fund indies. It was really also how we got Peter Jason involved, she’s done adaptation with Meryl Streep and a few better known actors. They were part of our journey as well and saw the film do really well.
Steven Pierce: So you went to festivals and it went well. You were doing well in these festival runs. How did you go about finding the sales agent and connecting them and getting through that? Did you do it through an agent or how did you get the connection?
Amy Datnow: At first we were pitching to a lot of different people and then the one that we went with actually just approached us through to a festival that they found us through. So that was really great.
Steven Pierce: Yeah. I think that’s the dream. You just played a festival, they see it, and they’re like, hey, I’m enthusiastic about what you’re doing. So Amy, what is it like finishing your script and then watching it come to life in these scenes? Did a lot of improv, right? So how do you handle that as a writer?
Amy Datnow: Yeah, well, I came from a journalistic background and I was sent to this press screening of Noah Baumbauch’s film. And that’s when I got really inspired by the mumblecore. Do you know the mumblecore movement?
Steven Pierce: I’ve heard the name. I’m not sure I could say what it was off the top of my head.
Amy Datnow: It’s really realistic where you let the actors improvise. And we had a lot of UCB people and people who were good at improv. So I wasn’t too precious about the scripts. It was really cool to see it come to life. It was different. I think it’s always different from what you imagine is going to be, but that’s what the filmmaking process is about, isn’t it?
Steven Pierce: No, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Do you remember any scenes that you wrote and you imagined one way whenever you both were writing this, and then when you got to set they just totally took a different turn and you just let the actors go and follow their lead?
Amy Datnow: Yeah, definitely. The scene in the office where Kimberley does her stand up scene. That went really well. I really enjoyed how that turned out. Wasn’t exactly to script. And I remember all also we had an issue with a wardrobe item that became a major piece. We lost the jacket or something. I was running around everywhere trying to find something that looked the same, but it was impossible. So that was just a ridiculous thing that happened.
Steven Pierce: We filmed the scene one time and it was two days in one location and an earring disappeared after day one. And it was a very, very prominent earring. And it was quite an eventful morning. I didn’t find out about it until we were ready to roll thankfully because I would have freaked out a lot more, but luckily they found it in a soap dish or something, somewhere insane, but I can sympathize with the disappearing piece of wardrobe.
Amy Datnow: It’s crazy how meaningful… How much you need these pieces. I mean…
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah. That one piece of wardrobe was almost part of the character’s identity. So it was like, if you lose the earring in The Girl With the Pearl Earring kind of thing. How many back up earrings did they have?
Steven Pierce: Your mission with your company, Clean Slate, the production company you started is to feature more female protagonists and target the millennial generation. Would you talk more about that? Why is that important to you? And what do you think the voices in that generation and group, what do you want to see out of that coming forward? What do you want to say?
Amy Datnow: We both loved like ’90s romcoms when we were growing up 2000 romcoms, and we just felt like they were a bit unrealistic sometimes to the things that we actually went through. And so we wanted to make things that were actually realistic to what we were going through.
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah. I think it was just basically that we didn’t want to see romantic comedies about whether the girl just gets the guy. It’s more about a deeper relationship and the fact that the real magic is finding something much more satisfying and actually more deeper issues being resolved. I think that we realize happiness is an inside job. I know that it’s the cliche term, but it’s also the psychology behind that is that romantic comedies don’t necessarily have to be the typical traditional trajectory that they were in the ’90s, for example. So I think that was where Clean Slate started and that was how we were born. And now we’ve got a couple of films coming up. We’re finding more and more funding for the types of stories that we’re making.
Steven Pierce: Yeah, absolutely. So Amy, if there was something you could go back and change or doing this over again having made the first one now, what would you do differently?
Amy Datnow: I would probably spend more time developing the script because we went in and it was really cool to keep it quite loose, but we were still changing things when we were filming, which came with its own quirks. But I was once in a Q&A session with Woody Allen and he said that he would rewrite pages on set on the morning of the film because he just felt like he needed them to be changed. I think it’s cool to keep things fluid, but definitely spending a bit more time in development would be key.
Steven Pierce: Kimberley, is that the same for you?
Kimberley Datnow: Ultimately that means that you will be able to finish the film because the places where you tend to run out of budget and aren’t able to do it is in those reshoots that you need to do because the story didn’t fit in with how you thought it would. So yeah, I definitely agree with Amy.
Steven Pierce: So where can people find Daddy Issues now? If they want to follow you on social media or buy the movie even better?
Amy Datnow: It’s Clean Slate Productions on Instagram, and then you can find it on iTunes, Amazon, and where else, Kim?
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah. Our website, cleanslate-productions.com shows everywhere that you can buy the film. But the main platform is iTunes and Amazon. And we are the film with the blue poster, because Daddy Issues as you can imagine as a popular title. So yeah, that’s us.
Steven Pierce: Amy, where can people find you if they want to follow you as you develop your new script?
Amy Datnow: I’m on disnowdatnow on Instagram.
Steven Pierce: And how about you, Kimberley?
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah, I’m kimberleydatnow on Instagram. There’s only one. Also the same on Facebook. We love filmmakers. We love what we do so hit us up.
Steven Pierce: Hopefully people reach out and check out the film, Daddy Issues. Thank you guys very much for coming on today.
Amy Datnow: Thank you so much.
Kimberley Datnow: Thank you so much. Thanks for having us.
IFG is created by Framework Productions. This episode was directed by James Allerdyce, produced by Matt Mundy, edited by Audrey Rae McHale, and hosted by Steven Pierce. The music is by Glass Boy. Find his music on freemusicarchive.org.