The Daniels effect

As one half of director duo Daniels, Daniel Kwan has created everything from cult music videos to the Oscar-winning Everything Everywhere All at Once. He discusses the highs and lows of his creative journey

If there’s one thing you can count on the Daniels for, it’s a willingness to get their hands dirty. The director duo – comprising Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan – have directed, edited, created special effects and, where necessary, acted, danced, and even stunt-doubled in their productions. It’s an all-encompassing approach that feeds into their unique brand of surrealism, typically combining evocative storytelling with ­lo-fi production values and a healthy dose of philosophical rumination.

The duo first captured the internet’s attention in the 2010s with a spate of viral music videos, including Tenacious D’s Rize of the Fenix and DJ Snake Lil Jon’s Turn Down for What, which earned them an MTV VMA for Best Direction. They also directed unconventional commercials for the likes of Weetabix and Nike, before venturing into feature films with Swiss Army Man in 2016, followed by Omniboat: A Fast Boat Fantasia in 2020, and, of course, Everything Everywhere All at Once, which earlier this year went on to win seven Oscars, including Best Director and Best Picture.

Scheinert and Kwan met while studying filmmaking at Emerson College in Boston, although they didn’t start working together properly until later. After collaborating on a couple of short films came the accidental masterstroke of their first music video commission. “We had no idea we were going to become music video directors,” Kwan tells CR. “It was really hard at first because we were getting rejected non-stop – all of our video ideas, all of our treatments. We almost quit, and then one thing clicked for one band with one commissioner – they let us do a video, and the rest is history.”