Dani Girdwood + Charlotte Fassler
Meet the directing duo between Similar But Different
Interview by Jaclyn Bethany
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi! Where are you both originally from, and where are you based now?
Charlotte Fassler: Dani grew up outside of Boston and I grew up in Los Angeles, but we are both based in New York now.
JB: How did you two meet? When did you decide to team up?
CF: We met at the tail end of school at Barnard College helping out friends on a short film.
Dani Girdwood: Then we worked on a couple branded shoots while Charlotte was working at Man Repeller.
CF: Later, we were brought on board as a team by a UK-based fashion brand to be their in-house visual creators.
JB: You two have shot all over the world together. Any favorite experiences from your time working together thus far?
CF: I mean, how much time do you have?
DG: It has been a very funny, wild ride. Working for various fashion clients, we were always on the move: we gambled in Vegas, our model never showed in Joshua Tree, Char got trapped in UK customs, I was stranded in Singapore. We've been thrown into crazy situations and have often had to improvise (great training, btw—communication boot camp). But together, we have a pretty humorous outlook on everything. If we’re in the trenches, it’ll make for a great story later. We laugh a lot.
CF: Not to mention when Dani showed up on my doorstep in Marfa unannounced, having driven 1000 miles to help me move back and really jump into our next phase: Similar But Different.
JB: Yes! Tell me more about your new banner, Similar But Different. It sounds like it encompasses the excitement and fluidity of filmmaking. How does your collaboration work? What will your first project be?
DG: Hah, you really nailed it. That’s everything we hope for this union to be: a fluid and agile approach to creative commercial content. We’re collaborators through and through, so we don’t quite alternate, but rather co-direct. It’s seamless and supportive. We write treatments together, watch the monitor together—really, the whole damn thing is a united front.
CF: We find a lot of our confidence in each other. There's a lot of support and encouragement involved. We talk about it all the time; there is so much value in being a duo. We thrive on collaboration, and we challenge each other.
DG: Highly recommend.
JB: Dani, tell me a little bit about working with Reed Morano. What was it like to be a part of a project and story as revolutionary as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale? Can you tell me anything about her new feature?
DG: Reed is such a badass. I owe her my fierceness and tenacity—and much more. She’s a fighter and one of the smartest people I know by a long shot. I feel so lucky to have been by her side (from when I was about 17 or 18) through her directing rise. Watching her work is pretty crazy. Her attention to humanity and intimacy—it’s raw and guttural and so unique. And she’s also very funny.
We shot most of Reed’s Handmaid’s episodes pre-election; none of us expected the impending doom of November 8, 2016. When we did come back to shoot a few scenes post-election, it was scary but also motivating to tell that story and to be enraged; Offred’s POV felt like a great avenue to exercise some of the anger and necessary commentary. Reed’s new feature—a spy thriller starring Blake Lively—is currently shooting abroad. I’m getting lots of updates here in the homeland. Stay tuned!
JB: Charlotte, tell me about your background as an artist living in Marfa, Texas. What is the creative community like there? How has it inspired your work?
CF: I went to Marfa for a month to work on a script and wound up staying a year. It was challenging, isolating, introspective, and completely transformative—especially in regards to how I approach my work. Collaboration is such an integral part of small-town life, and being part of such a strong community of creatives I respect so much propelled me to launch right into formalizing my partnership with Dani upon return.
JB: What advice would give to young people and women eager to get involved in film?
DG: Don’t be intimidated. Be the hardest working person on set.
CF: Carve out opportunities for yourself. And be confident.
DG: Present yourself fiercely and humbly. But don’t apologize.
CF: It’s still something we work on—being a duo, we’re lucky because we can lift each other up. Find collaborators and female mentors around you—and help other women. ★
Together, Dani Girdwood (protégé of director Reed Morano and associate producer of Morano’s most recent film, I Think We’re Alone Now, starring Elle Fanning and Peter Dinklage) and Charlotte Fassler (former visual editor and producer at Man Repeller) have shot in London, Paris, Miami, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, and Singapore in partnership with their fashion clients. Now, uniting under the moniker Similar But Different, the NY-based directing duo is known for creating work where art meets branding. Their recent commercial for Tumi premiered at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and recent projects include music videos for Mainland (300 Entertainment) and Banners (Island Records). Learn more → https://www.similarbutdifferent.us/