Directors Matt Campanella and Stephanie Chloé Hepner On Daddy Issues

Co-directors Matt Campanella and Stephanie Chloé Hepner’s Daddy Issues follows a young man who, when trying to impress his new boss, gets more than he bargained for. The live action short film has been selected for it’s LA premiere at Dancing With Films this year.

What was the inspiration for the film? 

Matt: I’ve always been interested in telling stories that involve familial dynamics. I was born and raised in a big, loud, and loving Italian family in Long Island, New York. As you can imagine, my childhood was filled with brutal honesty, strong opinions about everything, and endless homemade pasta. My first film, Kaleidoscope, which hit festivals in 2021, also explores familial dynamics. With Daddy Issues, I was really interested in covering the taboo topic of BDSM that the story centers around, following a confident queer lead, and exploring power dynamics between the two characters, both physically and emotionally.

What does it mean to you both to have an LGBTQ+ film at Tribeca during Pride Month? 

Matt: Getting the chance to premiere our film at Tribeca this past month was very special. Pride Month serves as a reminder to embrace our authentic selves, community, and love. Getting to spend the first two weeks on Pride Month in New York was so much fun- the energy in the city is incredibly vibrant- and everyone at Tribeca has been super welcoming.

Stephanie: Pride Month is always special, exciting and a source of joy for me. Getting to celebrate love and freedom is something I look forward to every single year. Matt and I celebrated Pride in NYC together when we were first becoming friends, so the combination with Tribeca makes it even more special because we get to honor love and give light to our true selves while included in the ecosystem of the entertainment industry! 

Has anyone from the LGBTQ+ community reached out to you? 

Matt: Yes, several people of varying ages have reached out to express their liking to the film. It feels very heartwarming to know that the piece is resonating with people, and that they not only laugh but also relate to the characters and their relationship dynamic.

Was there anything particularly difficult to film?

Matt: Because we shot this entire film in one day, there were challenges left and right. For instance, we had to cut a series of shots in the main dungeon scene and we only got one shot for the hallway scene due to the fact that we didn’t have enough time. Despite the time constraints and challenges that were presented on the day of, I’m very happy with the end product.

Stephanie: The hallway scene was particularly difficult as we completed it almost at the end of the day, and we couldn’t get the angles we wanted at first. Our incredible team, from DP, production design and sound made magic and pulled some tricks to make it work! 

How has the audience received the film? 

Matt: It’s been amazing seeing the audience’s reaction to the film: laughing, screaming, gasping, etc. There’s nothing like watching the film in a theater and sharing the experience with an audience. Many people have expressed their yearning for an expansion of the story and these characters.

Stephanie: Audiences have been so pleasantly surprised, laughing out loud and also learning from the story. Because we try to never give anything away and just let them experience it, I’m so happy it’s been well received from people of all ages and walks of life.

Why is it important for you to tell this story?

Matt: I really wanted to share a story that made people laugh, cringe, feel uncomfortable, but also relate to a grounded, more dramatic relationship. I’m always curious to make films that scare me as a creator and bend genres. For me, Daddy Issues was a way to really “go there,” collaborate on a story I’d truly never seen done before, and freely create without expectations. 

Stephanie: I knew there was something special when Matt brought the script to me. Dark comedy and awkward situations turn me on artistically, and I’d never seen this relationship in this context before. The story itself is one of acceptance and growth in a relationship, and the cherry on top is that we can make audiences laugh with it. There’s a fundamental sense of heart and weight to it that works and resonates because of the brilliant jokes and performances.

What is next for you both? 

Matt: I’m super excited to share that Daddy Issues is in development for the feature length. I can’t wait to delve deeper into the characters, relationships, and all the comedic moments in between. I also recently wrote/ directed/ produced an anxiety inducing drama film, titled Your Call is Important to Us, which will be going through the 2024 festival circuit.  

Stephanie: I’m thrilled about the Daddy Issues feature! And am also working on my LGBTQ+ comedy Pilot, Maybe This Time, which centers around two women trying to conceive and all the wackiness that ensues. 

This eye-opening film will have it’s LA premier at Dancing With Filmshttps://danceswithfilms.com/daddy-issues/

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