Kimberley Datnow and Amy Datnow - Taking on Their Daddy Issues
Updated: Jun 26, 2020
Kimberley Datnow and Amy Datnow
Taking on Their Daddy Issues
By Jay S. Jacobs
The early passing of their father inspired sisters and British filmmakers Kimberley and Amy Datnow to get together to work on a film. However, they didn’t want to make it a sad, depressing story. That’s not who they were, nor was it really their father. Instead, they wanted to make a romantic comedy which would explore their relationships and life dealings in a world where he was no longer there.
Essentially, their Daddy Issues.
Kimberley Datnow was a stand-up comedian and actress who had been dividing her time between London and Los Angeles. Amy was writing for a newspaper in Israel. Their cram sessions led to the genesis of Daddy Issues, based loosely on their lives and those of friends. Amy wrote the story and Kimberley took the lead role.
About a week before their film was being released, we caught up with the Datnow sisters from their home in London, via Zoom.
Your film is dedicated to your father. What made you decide you wanted to make this film as a tribute to him?
Kimberley Datnow: Wow, I love that question. Basically, he had just passed away. It was quite a few years ago.
Amy Datnow: We would just call each other, and we would talk about our relationship issues. We thought that having a father die so young affects you. We wanted to make a story that was funny about it.
Kimberley Datnow: That was our springboard jumping off point. Then we interviewed all our friends and asked them about their dating stories. I was living in LA at the time, and Amy was living in Israel. We used to call each other up and be like, “Oh my God, she has this experience and he had that experience.” In LA it was almost like Peter Pan, like you guys haven’t wanted to commit or grow up....
Amy Datnow: … Always swiping and never committing to anyone. We just wanted to make a film about that. We love rom coms from the 90s and we wanted to make it more modern.
Kimberley Datnow: We referenced the Mean Girls “burn book” in the film, with Henrietta’s boy box. It was really important to have those kind of…
Amy Datnow: … references to the 90s…
Kimberley Datnow: … Yes, the 90s references, and try and modernize them with this film. That’s kind of…
Amy Datnow: … Yeah, our inspiration.
Kimberley Datnow: That’s our inspo….
Now to get into the heart of your daddy issues – what do you think that he would think about the movie?
Amy Datnow: My God…
Kimberley Datnow: Oh… (They both laugh.) This is part of the story as well, but he always wanted us to pursue a business career.
Amy Datnow: … But we’re both so creative. We found it difficult [to follow that], but I think that he’d be proud that we tried to do our business. Tried to do both and do what he wanted.
Kimberley Datnow: I think that in terms of our career pursuit, he had a massive influence on us for that. When you think about producing a film, there is a lot of business as well as creative. So, I think he’d be really proud of us. I mean, there are moments maybe he might not. (Looks at her sister.)
Amy Datnow: Yeah, I hope he’d be proud of us.
Kimberley Datnow: For the most part.
In what ways was it interesting, fun or hard to make a film with your sister?
Amy Datnow: We were talking about this earlier. Everyone asks us what it’s like to work with your sister. We never stop talking about the actual filmmaking. We love to work hard. We care more than anyone else would – because we’re blood related, I guess.
Kimberley Datnow: We realized the other day that we’re the only real sister production company in the UK. A lot of the time we do have disagreements, but creatively we don’t disagree about creative decisions.
Amy Datnow: (nods) Yeah. We always trust each other creatively. Say this, we’ll say, “Okay, I agree.” That’s one thing we don’t want to argue on.
Kimberley Datnow: We basically just chose people to work with on the film who also had a similar kind of outlook. That worked really well. (They both laugh.) We’re lucky that way.
In what ways is Henri like you, and what parts of her were difficult to get a hold on as an actor and a writer? Was she based on either or both or neither of you?
Kimberley Datnow: Well, first of all, I’m a stand-up comedian. I also do stand-up, so in that way there were similarities. I think she is different to me in the way that she seems a lot more searching. Everyone is always searching for something, but maybe… Yeah, there’s similarities, and there’s differences. The similarities are that she feels deeply about things, but she always looks for the comedy in the situation, even though it’s not easy for her to find that. There’s a saying, “look for the crack, because…”
Amy Datnow: That’s where the light gets in.
Kimberley Datnow: “Because that’s where the light gets in.” (ed. note: The actual line, from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem,” is “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”) That’s a very uplifting part of the film. Also, just finding those comedy tropes.
Amy Datnow: We tried to make it as real to life as we could. We used all these props, like our dad’s actual jumpsuit when Kimberley did the stand-up, which I can imagine was really emotional for you to do.
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah, putting my dad’s jumper on and playing a really emotional scene, I didn’t really have to stretch that far as an actor. Then, having studied at Stella Adler [acting school] and learning imagination techniques, there were scenes where if you were feeling really happy or excited, you could jump into those techniques from training. It really helped. It really helped with the role, but we also tried to do a lot of improv on set.
Amy Datnow: We were keeping the script quite loose because we got a lot of really good comedy actors, and we let them ad lib a bit. We caught some things in that were really natural and were really like our style.
Kimberley Datnow: We were like fuck the different prints. We did four really good takes that we know were totally on script if we needed them. Then this one scene that we could do that if it wasn’t good, we could just cut it out. In the edit, we found that those were the scenes that really popped, because they were really true to the actor’s life. When Terrence [played by Max Crandall] has the lizard scene…
Amy Datnow: Yeah. “Don’t look at the lizards, Terrance…” (laughs)
Kimberley Datnow: … That was all improv. Or like where he was like “Did you buy one of my lizards?” That was all improv. That was the real character. He really found the nuances of someone that might live that life. They all trained at UCB [Theater] or Brownings.
Amy Datnow: You could really feel that when you watch.
If you don’t mind me saying so, Henri has maybe the worst taste in men ever. I mean, just the fact that she stayed with Hunter for more than a minute is rather shocking. Did that characteristic have any basis in fact for either of you?
Kimberley Datnow: (Both laugh.) Oh, definitely. The amount of times Amy has had to pull me out… (laughs) Yeah, I don’t know, probably. The thing is now, the film in a way was quite cathartic to make because I think I’m a reformed daddy issues girl.
Amy Datnow: I agree. We watch it back now and we’re like, “Do we really have this history?” But we really did.
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah. And I think there’s something that our generation does go through, like the more serious point about more people not being able to afford to move out of home after university.
Amy Datnow: Or just like swiping through guys with apps rather than looking for an actual relationship. That was definitely something that we [wanted to show].
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah, modern day thing. You can just use Tinder…
Amy Datnow: … But when you’re looking for the right things. You’re actually looking for something deeper.
Kimberley, at the place your character is at, she’s a standup comedian but due to personal problems she’s just not feeling all that funny right now. What was it like doing standup where you are essentially bombing, like the one gig where Henri is essentially baring her soul, but the crowd is just looking for some jokes?
Kimberley Datnow: It was quite jarring. I went and did a couple of stand-up gigs after that and I felt like, oh my God…
Amy Datnow: … That must be the worst nightmare. The bombing.
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah it is. They literally call it bombing, so it’s like I was just thinking, okay, I hope I get straight lines… With stand-up it’s like the less you have the more funny it is, so because as the actor I don’t know so much about how funny she is, that actually she becomes so much less funny.
Henri is a smart, worldly woman, but in a lot of ways she is so needy. She almost seems to crave acceptance from the people around her and when she doesn’t get it, she tends to spin out a bit. As an actress and as a writer, was that a difficult headspace to get into?
Kimberley Datnow: I think that all creatives are searching for something or understand something deeper about the human conditions. I think that neediness is something that is actually a positive thing, in a way. It means that you care about what people think. But I do think that with Henrietta is also obviously overemphasized because it’s a character. But yeah, I think sometimes…
Amy Datnow: We’re definitely trying to hype up that kind of selfishness of the millennial and be quite self-aware with it to get our point across.
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah. Also, because we realized that Henrietta can think a lot about her own needs. We were very aware writing this film that it might come across like “woe is me” kind of thing, but we’re actually trying to mock that about the film and actually say this is how somebody of our generation is. The Instagram generation and things. We need to look past that and try to understand more about the kind of people that they really are. Make them three dimensional.
As an audience that has been raised on romantic comedies, as soon as we see Nolan (played by Tanner Rittenhouse), we’re like, “Oh, yeah, they’re going to hook up.” Why was it important for you to keep obstacles in the way of the relationship?
Kimberley Datnow: We were very inspired by the rom-com movement with progressive girls like Frances Ha. Those stories are more slice of life comedies.
Amy Datnow: We even debated whether they should hook up at all, because we don’t think the film was about them hooking up. It wasn’t what it’s all about, the romance. We wanted it to be an anti-rom com in a way, but it’s fantastic seeing them hook up, so we couldn’t resist.
Honestly, do you think that Nolan will ever finish that deck?
Amy Datnow: (Both laugh.) Oh my God, hilarious.
Kimberley Datnow: Oh my God.
Amy Datnow: He’s never going to finish it!
On Alice’s (played by Alice Carroll Johnson) subplot, I must admit I wasn’t all that familiar with the whole “sugar baby” lifestyle. Why did you find that an interesting thing to explore?
Amy Datnow: Gosh.
Kimberley Datnow: It came a lot from our research. Asking people and researching modern dating. There are so many different apps for so many different [things]. Religions, types of dating you want to do. Just a whole range of apps. Culture and the start-up generation. One of them is this app that is a similar thing. We wanted to explore that as a part of daddy issues, because all three characters have daddy issues. With Nolan, dating a mom and he can’t come to terms with the fact that he’s a dad. That was something that we wanted to tell, that story as a woman.
Amy Datnow: We live in London…. We have a lot of friends that work in fashion and that’s their passion, but they can’t afford to pay their rent. We actually have friends who have done it. We couldn’t believe that… That’s how we came across it.
London and Los Angeles are two such different worlds. Henri seems more comfortable in England. How about you? You’re back in London now. Is that home to you?
Kimberley Datnow: We love moving around, but there is something about London when you fly back, and you are in a cab and you see those cobbled streets. It definitely feels like home. You can’t get away from where home is sometimes, you know what I mean?
Amy Datnow: Definitely, yeah. Yeah. I mean I do love everything about LA. We’ve come to feel very connected to LA as well. It’s become another home for us, hasn’t it?
Kimberley Datnow: I think we’re both… we didn’t really grow up together. We went to boarding schools. So, we’re very used to living in different parts of the world.
Amy Datnow: (nods) Moving around.
Kimberley Datnow: … Moving around. When we were younger, we lived in Prague, Luxembourg, loads of different countries.
Amy Datnow: Our dad was a bit of a crazy eccentric. He only would wear a suit. Then he would get another suit. He’d travel with nothing. He’d just basically spend his time travelling. It was crazy. So, yeah, we like to travel.
Kimberley Datnow: We feel at home in a lot of places, but I think home is where the heart is. But I think London’s got something. Also, it’s where your friends are. Having a lot of childhood friends in London, it’s nice to go back and see them. When I lived in LA, I used to go back to London. My friends now have children. I see them grow up.
Amy Datnow: Plus, it’s crazy how you go back and see change. You can actually see what’s changed. Or maybe nothing has changed and it’s exactly the same.
Kimberley Datnow: All of my friends that were living at home now have moved out of home, and that was a big deal for them. Just things that, in this modern generation, all happen to us. Which is funny, because 50 years ago, leaving home at 25 would be really strange, or having a child at 30, but now it’s a lot more accepted.
Amy, as an actress you certainly have a smaller role, but was it fun to get in there in front of the camera a bit?
Amy Datnow: I’m not really one to be in front of the camera, but Kimberley kind of pushed me to do it. It was nice to have the cameo. My mom was like, “It’s ridiculous. You’re not in the movie at all.” I was like, “You don’t understand filmmaking, mom. There’s stuff to do behind the camera.” (Kimberley laughs.) It’s so funny.
Kimberley Datnow: We also had an actress playing our mom in the film. Our mom watched it and she was like, “Is that what I’m really like?”
Amy Datnow: Yeah, we call her fake mom.
Kimberley Datnow: She’s great.
Amy Datnow: So much based on our mom, but…
Kimberley Datnow: … Yeah, she’s so good. But Amy, it was really nice to see Amy in front of the camera. (To Amy) I think you should do more. (laughs)
Amy Datnow: I’m surprised you even noticed.
I understand why Hunter deserves punishment, but what did those pink flamingos ever do to you? And how could Henri date a man who had pink flamingos?
Kimberley Datnow: (Both laugh) You know what? It’s funny, because we brought those flamingos home and we’ve used them at promo events and things.
Amy Datnow: Except they’ve got detached heads. Decapitated flamingos. God, we were showing just the craziness of women getting together and hating. That was kind of mocking that.
Kimberley, I’ve seen you interviewing people online, and Amy I read that you were writing for a newspaper in Jerusalem when you came up with the idea for Daddy Issues. Now that the movie is out, what is it like to be on the other side of the microphone now that you are doing interviews about the movie?
Kimberley Datnow: Oh, it’s been really nice.
Amy Datnow: This film has been a four-year journey for us. We love it so much. It’s nice to talk about it and share it with people.
With the world going so crazy right now, how do you feel that nice, slightly lighter entertainment like Daddy Issues is needed by people at this moment?
Amy Datnow: I think that in this uncertain time with Covid-19, the film really highlights the FOMO cause of generational angst and neuroses, where everyone else’s life seems to be better than yours. Even in isolation. Now, more than ever, it is time to remember the importance of close family. In effect, this film gives a fresh look at the stop-start-stop generation.
Kimberley Datnow: The whole daddy issues concept is still very relatable. People who don’t have daddy issues, I’d say congratulations. If you’re insecure and feel inadequate, then I think that this film, in this generation, at this time, [society] needs comedy.
Amy Datnow: We hope that it’s an uplifting romp. And true to life and people can relate to it.
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah, because in this time I do think the world does need comedy and light entertainment. I think we’ll find that even people will make content about Covid-19, but more than that, people want to see entertaining content that makes them laugh. Things that take them out of what we’re living.
How have you been dealing with the whole shelter in place world?
Kimberley Datnow: Well, we got a dog. Dogs are for life, not just for Covid.
Amy Datnow: It’s been a really good way to reflect on how you live your life and daily activities. How much noise you hear just being out in the world, rather than the quiet, peaceful time that you can really create and make things. It’s been quite nice, for me, anyway.
Kimberley Datnow: I one hundred percent agree. I couldn’t have said it better. It’s been really nice to just live to get down just what your everyday tasks are. Everything becomes a lot simpler. Going out for a walk becomes a big activity. The weather has been so nice. Covid has just made me think about the environment and all of climate change, that I’m really passionate about. I hope that this enlightens people. How people can stay indoors. This whole new work environment that we’re accustomed to. How that can work. I think we’re going to see a lot of changes in the world.
Amy Datnow: People are going to look to filmmakers to make light of what we’ve gone through. It will be quite interesting what comes out of it, in terms of what people are making.
Kimberley Datnow: Yeah. That’s the other thing. We’ve found our next story in this time, so we’re developing the next one. So, to be continued…
For more info, check out Kimberley and Amy's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cleanslateproductions/
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