Who’s Your D.A.D.D.Y?
Irish directorial duo D.A.D.D.Y describe the greatest joy of their job as ‘travelling and meeting interesting international weirdos’. And they’ve definitely done a bit of that. On a shoot in New York they once met a Voodoo psychic called Phil who told them to be very careful while skydiving and/or in Greece, and that they’re lactose intolerant. The song composed for an ad they once made turned out to be is a massive hit in the Ukraine and they are ‘famous all over Eastern Europe now’ (we haven’t been able to verify this claim). They spent a summer working in a school uniform factory in San Francisco in the late ‘90s, and based a scene in one of their commercials on that. They got to try on an animatronic penis during the making of another project (you can DM them for pics, they say). The pair are represented by Red Rage Films in Ireland and 1stAveMachine in London and the USA, so you can reach them through those channels if you want to delve deeper into these stories.
Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman met in Art College in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin. Enda was studying Animation and Mike Graphic Design. “We both had big noses in common,” they say. As their career of almost 20 years together suggests, there might have been a few other things too.
They were in bands together and made music videos for them and their friends’ bands – and so their adventures in filmland began. “[It was] mostly animated stuff at first as we had no budgets but could have control over how it all looked,” they say. “People liked those things and asked us to make more and it just grew out of that.”
At art school Mike and Enda could book VHS cameras to take home overnight and they made the most of this resource - every Wednesday night for a year. Together with two other friends they made a different film each week, building up a phenomenal body of experience.
“Mike lived in a very shit student house called Mariners Lane, so we named this house Mariners Lane Studios,” says Enda. “Each week we’d write, act and direct a different genre: a horror (Nightmare at Mariners Lane); a sci-fi (Strange Disturbance at Mariners Lane). They were really, really stupid, like, really bad… but funny to us.”
This was before they had computers at their disposal, so these were all edited in camera with the pause button. All music, sound effects and visual effects (“lots of string”, they say) were done in camera. They’d even print out the titles and film them. “We showed them in college to our friends and they laughed so we kept making them. It was like analog YouTube, before the Internet. When things are going well now on set, it’s the same ‘I can’t believe we are allowed to do this’ playful feeling, but hopefully with mostly higher production values.”
They came up with their clever name soon after this period. D.A.D.D.Y. stands for Design, Animation, Design, Design, Yay! Ltd. “We were making mostly Design and Animation work when we started, so we thought that was a hilarious name to put in full on a cheque book. Now we pretty much only direct live action and mostly cringe when asked why we are called D.A.D.D.Y. - The joke is on us!”
Apart from the interesting tidbits and shoot stories, D.A.D.D.Y’s website also contains an infomercial they made to advertise their services, which is definitely working for them. People quite often quote it back to them, they say. It’s the sort of communication they’re most comfortable with, it seems. “We work a lot in the USA and when we are not going to be at the pitch, we often make weird pitch videos that agencies either get and love or… really don't,” they say. “We made the infomercial to send along with a treatment when pitching on a fake infomercial comedy spot - which now that we think about it, we didn’t get.”
Mike is also a published author. Together with David O’Doherty and Claudia O’Doherty, he’s put out two books by Random House & Penguin in the US - ‘100 Facts About Pandas’ and the follow-up ‘100 Facts about Sharks’. “We sold quite a lot of them,” he says. “While the facts are all completely stupid and pretty obviously made up, many people believed them and we got a LOT of letters and emails asking for more info or if they were real, even from teachers around the world.”
To give you an idea, sample ‘facts’ include: “a group of hammerhead sharks is called 'a toolbelt”; “the reef shark can send intimidating telephone text messages with its mind”; “the word 'shark' actually looks quite like a shark”.
“The Amazon comments are worth a look,” Mike recommends. “Lots of people warning people not to buy the book because it’s FAKE! Even though it was in the comedy section of Amazon.”
Funny scripts need funny directors to squeeze out the laughs and it often comes down to a sense of timing, something Mike and Enda have down to a tee. “Mike gets his timing from Enda and Enda gets his from Mike,” they explain, enlightening us all.
The combination of surreal silliness and sharp, colourful aesthetics has proven a hit with agencies in North America – their reel pops with work with the likes of Droga5, J. Walter Thompson New York, Saatchi & Saatchi New York and The Martin Agency. However their work has had a huge impact in their home market of Ireland. There’s an iconic 2012 festive ad for Spar Ireland that turns the store’s familiar fir tree logo into Christmas trees that pop up in unexpected places all over the country. There’s a long running series of funny, fast-cut spots for the Irish National Lottery. And with 2016’s Failte Ireland film, which they shot with agency Rothco, the duo got to delve into Ireland’s mythic past and storytelling heritage.
Although the duo work in the US a lot, there's something distinctly Irish about their style. Can they identify it, we wondered? Their theory is that they’re “drawn to a certain darkness or irreverence that maybe comes from an Irish sensibility.” But ultimately, they’re a sum of their influences growing up, which they say “come from everywhere, including Ireland.”
2018 is looking busy for D.A.D.D.Y already. They’ve just shot a series of commercials for Oreo that should be out soon, but reveal excitedly that they’re just about to shoot their first feature film. “[It’s] called ‘Extra Ordinary’ (yes, two words). We wrote it and are mid casting at the moment. It’s shooting in March. It’s about a driving instructor with supernatural powers. It’s a comedy. We hope.”