This month we talk with director Noemi Varga about her music video for the band Exotic Girlfriend.

Daddy Issues is a music video filmed during the lockdown period, about the often complicated father and daughter relationship. The promo is delivered in a way to make the audience laugh and to help them forget for a few minutes about everything else that was going on in the world at the time.

Can you tell us a little about your background and your route into directing? 

I grew up in Budapest and from quite a young age I had a strong interest in film sparked initially by seeing Jurassic Park and further cemented by catching a scene from Donnie Darko in my teens on late-night TV.  I knew from then on that I wanted to go to art school and do weird and wonderful things with my time here on Earth. 

I didn’t really know or see many people who pursued this career path though as I am the first person to study at a university in my family. Initially for this reason I wasn’t really sure how things will pan out, but after my graduation short at the Royal College of Art was picked up by various festivals and awarded a Vimeo Staff Pick I gradually gained more confidence in my vision. On the same note having that initial bit of success meant I could continue making films, for which I feel so grateful to have had the opportunities I had.

Would you say you have a directing style? How did you arrive at it?

I love arthouse films as much as B movies, so I think my directing style is a fine balance between long takes and seriousness of Eastern European cinema and just utter silly campness. But I am not sure if it is a process that really has an end as I think my taste is constantly changing and evolving.

Exotic Girlfriend – Daddy Issues

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Did you study filmmaking? How did you learn your craft?

As I went to art school as opposed to film school I didn't really have a formal education in it. I think I learnt most of what I know by watching and dissecting the work of other directors that I admire. YouTube is a wonderful resource for example full of recorded talks of really inspiring and talented folks. I have also spent a lot of time on sets as a runner and PA and I think that was a great way to learn on the job. 

What was the inspiration for Daddy Issues?

As it is a song about the often complicated father and daughter relationship initially we wanted the dads of the band members to lipsync to the track as it is a rather personal song for them. However, we soon realised that we want to expand the scope of the film to feature different playful takes on archetypes of father figures in pop culture. At the end of the day, we just wanted our audience to have a laugh and to make them forget for a few minutes about everything else that was going on in the world at the time.

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What other directors' work do you admire?

There are so many amazing filmmakers out there at the moment it is hard to just name a few. But there are a few projects that have definitely stayed with me long after seeing them. Kathryn Ferguson’s debut feature documentary about Sinéad O'Connor is one such film, but I have to admit I have been a long term fan of her work. Likewise, Jenn Nkiru’s Rebirth is Necessary had a profound impact on me and so did Kim Gehrig’s This Girl Can both for blurring the boundaries between different genres and forms. 

Where do you find the inspiration for your projects?

My imagination is most active when I am doing something mundane, such as being in the shower or sitting on the top deck of a bus in London and just looking at the scenery. I love long train rides for the same reason. On the other hand, I do think that filmmaking is a team sport, so often the best ideas come out of random conversations with friends or strangers. 

What were the biggest challenges you faced in pulling this project together?  

Casting was crucial for this music video, so while it wasn't necessarily a challenge it was something we spent a lot of time on. I did work for a few years with casting director Ben Grimes here in London, so this is one of my favourite parts of the job, but it is also tricky as you have to spend a lot of time finding the right talent for each role.

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How long was the shoot and what was the most challenging aspect of the project?

It was a one-day shoot, but it was a very busy day as we were jetting around different locations, so I want to shout out to the production team as I think they have done a brilliant job. Not only that but we were shooting in late 2020 so during the pandemic before vaccines were widely available. So the biggest challenge was to make sure that everyone was safe on set, especially because most of the talent was definitely in a vulnerable age group.

What have you learned during the process of making the film? 

It was just a great opportunity to make something with my friends in my hometown and have a lot of fun. This was also during a period of lockdowns so it was just nice to reflect on how lucky we are to be able to do what we do and that I think in some ways I might have taken for granted before Covid. 

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

I would just be happy to be creating and working with friends on projects that are close to my heart and champion more diversity both in front of and behind the camera. But if I would have to make a wish I would absolutely love to direct music videos for some of my favourite bands at the moment, like Porridge Radio, The Last Dinner Party or Lala Lala. 

Take a look at Noemi Varga's shots Unsigned page here.

You can check out some of the amazing work put out by unsigned directors in our monthly shots Unsigned Showcase, here.