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Buzzy Directing Duo ‘Daniels’ Share Filmmaking Wisdom

Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan sit on stage talking into mic
Daniel Scheinert ’09, left, and Daniel Kwan ’10, directors of the new sci-fi comedy Everything Everywhere All at Once, speak in the Student Performance Center on March 29. Photo/Vincente Ramos ’23

From Vimeo to AMC theaters and beyond, alumni director duo Daniel Kwan ’10 and Daniel Scheinert ’09 (known as Daniels) have been making movies since college. The Daniels joined Anna Feder, head of film exhibition and festival programs in the Visual and Media Arts department and curator of the Bright Lights Film Series, for a conversation about their new movie, Everything Everywhere All at Once. The film centers around a Chinese American woman (Michelle Yeoh) and her adventures through the multiverse.

The discussion included a Q&A where Kwan and Scheinert answered questions from students about the filmmaking process, finding creative inspiration, and the importance of finding and maintaining your voice in your projects.

Read: Alumni ‘Daniels’ on Emerson, Swiss Army Man, and What’s Ahead

Feder opened up the conversation by asking about the director’s origin stories, both in regard to their personal journeys with filmmaking and collaborating on projects together. They said that while neither thought they would pursue film initially, they realized they had a passion for storytelling, and noticed that they both had a similar style in an animation class they took together as undergrads.

Reflecting on how they met, Kwan said he sees how they work as co-directors as an amalgamation of their different perspectives when it comes to creative projects.

“We have very similar tastes, but completely different skill sets,” he said.

Scheinert emphasized this idea, as he briefly discussed the collaborative nature of filmmaking, and how instrumental it is to the process of idea-making and producing.

Anna Feder, Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan sit and speak in front of large blank screen with crowd of students in front of them.
Anna Feder, left, moderates a discussion with Daniel Scheinert ’09, center, and Daniel Kwan ’10 in the Student Performance Center. Photo/Susan Chinsen

The interview was followed by a quick Q&A, where Kwan and Scheinert answered questions from current Emerson students.

How do you communicate how you want to work with the rest of your production?

Kwan: You have to relearn how to make every movie because every movie is different. We set the tone like it’s a summer camp, asking how much fun can we make it, because when people are having fun, they are so much [more] willing to give 100 percent. You’re in school, so you should experiment and try new things. You’re allowed to be ambitious and creative, but also kind.

Scheinert: Listen to how you feel about relationships because everyone does it differently.

What are some tips for pitching your project to a studio or private investors?

Kwan: Make sure that your past work speaks for itself, and if you don’t have past work, make something that you think you will be proud of. Every once in a while, we will do small projects in our backyards as a reset from the industry.

Scheinert: I have a producer’s brain, and so I think there isn’t any one way to pitch movies. That being said, just being a good cheerleader for your friend’s projects is so valuable and can help you build relationships.

How do you collaborate as writers?

Kwan: I like rapid-fire pitch ideas for feedback. It’s OK if it’s not the same script when it comes back, I like the editing process.

Scheinert: We never thought of ourselves as writers at first. With music videos, we would throw ideas back and forth and make connections; it was really organic and visceral and moments and how they made us feel.

(For Kwan) What are some of the things only you can bring to the story as an Asian person?

Kwan: The movie gave me the opportunity to fill the world with so much of my life because this is what I know. With the multiverse immigrant story, it can go in so many directions: What if I had a different kid? What if I hadn’t moved?

How do you get real experience in the entertainment industry?

Kwan: Know you’re in a safe space [at Emerson], so you don’t have to put it out there yet if you don’t want to. Also, doing entry-level jobs will show you how to treat people with respect because you’ve done those jobs.

Scheinert: I needed to make 100 bad movies before I made four good ones. So experimenting and seeing what works and what you like is really important.

The conversation was followed by a screening of Everything Everywhere All at Once in the Bright Family Screening Room.

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