An Interview with Suzi Yoonessi
Four years ago today, Daphne & Velma was released for the very first time on DVD and Blu-Ray. I'm so excited to share with you all that I got the amazing opportunity of interviewing the director of Daphne & Velma, Suzi Yoonessi. Suzi started her career working for Surface Magazine as a journalist while also playing for a Riot Grrrl band, but she quickly developed an interest in filmmaking and attended an Art Institute to study film and photography. Suzi has been nominated for an Emmy in Outstanding Directing for her film Relationship Status, and her film Unloveable won a Special Jury Prize at the SXSW Film Festival in 2018. I'm such a huge fan of Daphne & Velma, so it was so much fun getting to talk to Suzi and learn some new things about the film! Below is my interview with her:
ScoobySnax.com: How did you first become interested in directing?
Suzi: My love of storytelling started at a young age, when I'd eagerly stay up at night, relishing my Grandma Nimtaj's Persian Fairy Tales. In high school, I found myself most comfortable behind a 35mm or hi8 camera or creating music with my punk band, so my interest in filmmaking was clear by the time I entered the San Francisco Art Institute to study photography and film. What I love about film is that it incorporates multiple artistic mediums to tell a story, so I am able to continue to dabble in music, story and cinematography as it helps tell the film story.
ScoobySnax.com: How was the concept for Daphne & Velma first developed?
Suzi: I was approached with Daphne and Velma as a fleshed out treatment, conceived by Blue Ribbon Entertainment who developed the story with writers Kyle Mack and Caitlin Meares.
ScoobySnax.com: If you had any role in the casting, what drew you to cast Sarah Jeffery and Sarah Gilman in the roles of Daphne and Velma?
Suzi: Sarah Jeffery and Sarah Gilman embody the yin and yang that makes Daphne and Velma an everlasting friendship, and the Sarahs platonic spark on set was dynamic and powerful to watch. Sarah Jeffery is such a nuanced and powerful actor. She captures the brightness and whimsy of Daphne, while filling out her depth of character and thought. I love how she navigated Daphne's investigative smarts and determination, while keeping her light bright. Sarah Gilman is masterful with her comedic timing and she channeled the effortless cool and outsider vibes of Velma. She is an actor who elevates the material with her improv skills, and both are able to explore the darker side of each character with light.
ScoobySnax.com: The tone of this film is very lighthearted and quirky. How did you and the rest of the crew decide on this type of tone for the film?
Suzi: I love the tone that we achieved, and was lucky to be working with a script by Kyle Mack and Caitlin Meares, who have such sharp dialogue, and a creative and production team that really understood embracing the lens of Daphne and Velma as teenage girls. My intention was to translate the stony humor of Scooby Doo into live action form and bring some of the iconic animation blocking to life in live action form. Sarah Jeffery and Sarah Gilman both have such a smart sense of humor and magnetic energy that helped land the tone of the film.
ScoobySnax.com: Sarah Gilman mentioned in an interview that the filming was done in just a little over two weeks. How did the short filming window impact the final product (either positively or negatively)?
Suzi: The short shooting window was challenging, but I love embracing the limitations of a budget because it really pushes you as a filmmaker and filmmaking team. I was fortunate to have creative collaborators I had worked with in the past, and we'd put our heads together to think creatively about actualizing a school with cutting edge technology on a dime. Some of my favorite set pieces and props were a result of banding together with my production designer Rodrigo Cabral and prop master Cassie Miggins who are two super talents with the Riot Grrrl DIY spirit.
ScoobySnax.com:The film is largely centered around this idea of sisterhood and empowering women. How did the sisterhood theme help shape how you approached directing this film?
Suzi: I tried to infuse the film set with love and kindness, even when we were faced with unprecedented challenges. It was a visual and emotional delight staying focused on the characters using their ingenuity and celebrating their differences, to capture them truly being the writers of their destinies. I also loved working with music supervisor Dan Wilcox to build a soundtrack with a female-driven psychedelic, pop-punk vibe that captures Daphne and Velma's rebellious and enduring spirit.
ScoobySnax.com: How did this project compare and contrast to previous projects you’ve done?
Suzi: One thing I will always treasure on Daphne and Velma is the ability to pull from the Scooby Doo series and visual tropes. I also loved digging into building out two iconic female characters who were part of my DNA growing up - Daphne and Velma truly taught me that you can step out of the shadows and be part of the action, regardless of gender.
ScoobySnax.com: What was your favorite memory, and what was the biggest challenge of creating this film?
Suzi: I loved filming the scene with the conflict couch, which is such a great turn in Daphne and Velma's relationship arc in the story. The set was low fi, with analog light up cubes, but rich in physical comedy and performance. The whole production and creative team banded together to bring the scene to life - someone was flipping the light from blue to red off-screen, while SFX held invisible wires to make it move the cubes, and Sarah G and Sarah J really leaned into the physical comedy. It really captured the feeling of the girls navigating a couch in beta testing mode, with the camera beautifully drifting between them.
ScoobySnax.com: Were there ever any plans for a sequel to Daphne & Velma?
Suzi: The door will always be open to sequels with the Scooby Doo franchise and Daphne and Velma's friendship.
ScoobySnax.com: In 2020, a trilogy of Daphne & Velma books was released. While they aren’t directly connected to the film, they still center around the idea of a sisterhood-like bond and use animated versions of Gilman and Jeffery’s portrayals on the covers. Do you know if the film inspired the book series, and if so, how?
Suzi: I have no idea, but I'd love to connect with the writer of the series!!!!
ScoobySnax.com: What memorable responses or feedback have you received about the film?
Suzi: Vanessa Marano perfectly delivers the line, "and I wouldn't have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling kids." This line wasn't originally in the script, and it was something I picked up with Vanessa doing improv, since I am a fan of the series and felt it was a must to have in the edit room. One of the execs was on the fence about including the line. After it played at Comic Con, the audience went wild after Vanessa delivered the line, and the exec turned to me and said, "I really thought we shouldn't include it." While acknowledging it was the right choice, seeing how the fans reacted. It made me feel like I was the right director on the project and that my fandom paid off in the end.
ScoobySnax.com: What unique contribution do you feel this film brings to the Scooby franchise?
Suzi: I think Daphne and Velma is an unapologetically female perspective and shines a light on the women of the series who truly deserved their own film after several decades of solving mysteries while seeing the stories through the male gaze.
ScoobySnax.com: What do you most hope audiences will take away from this film after watching it?
Suzi: The film is truly inclusive storytelling, and I hope audiences are empowered by Daphne and Velma's kindness and heart, and how they complement and respect each other's strengths and differences to find solutions.
Thank you so much to Suzi for taking time out of her busy schedule to this interview! Daphne & Velma remains one of my favorite entire films in the franchise, so it was amazing getting to talk to her. I hope you enjoyed reading this interview!
You can find Suzi on Twitter and Instagram @SuziYoonessi, as well as her personal website, www.suziyoonessi.com.
5/22/2022 12:22:51 am
Nice! Interesting read, also Ms. Yoonessi, if you happen to read this, I have to say, I loved your film and how you captured a light hearted yet fun tone, and it is still one of my favorite scooby films.
5/22/2022 08:05:31 am
Honestly, this one’s my favorite of the live-action Scooby movies, I think the concept was executed as well as possible.
5/22/2022 08:09:33 am
It's my favorite live-action as well! Honestly, it's in my top 10 Scooby films of all time. It was fun so much getting to do this interview with Suzi and hear some of the behind-the-scenes stuff on this film! :)
5/22/2022 12:25:27 pm
It's probably my second... but I have such nostalgic attachment to scooby doo 2, that I doubt I could let it be topped.
5/23/2022 12:18:41 pm
I like how she avoids confirming a sequel. Obviously a sequel was the intention.
5/23/2022 02:47:01 pm
I still hope a sequel comes. And I hope both Sarahs reprise their roles.
5/23/2022 10:29:32 pm
I hope we get a sequel someday too! I thought both of the Sarahs did an amazing job in the role, and this remains one of my favorite Scooby films to date. I wish more people would give it a chance.
Ms. Leeza Spiegl
7/25/2022 07:34:41 am
It would be really wonderful if a sequel would come out. Plus, a few new characters could be added in. In addition, the two Sarahs would be wonderful, as well.
7/25/2022 08:29:31 am
I would love to see a sequel too! Hopefully they make one someday.
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