On the night of the VMAs this past August, Mamrie Hart held forth on the red carpet, dressed in a north-of-the-knee white jumpsuit, a regal cape, and ridiculous heels. Her spotlight strut was cut short, though, by what turned out to be the highlight of her evening: Getting shoved out of the way so that Beyoncé could float by.
"It was like an angel’s laugh," she says of the sound she heard whilst being removed from the desired footpath. It was a moment that nicely encapsulates the greater moment Hart is having now: On the edge of glory, but still in danger of getting trampled if Queen Bey happens to be around.
Mamrie Hart is not Beyoncé, obviously, but she’s not nobody either. Leagues of lesser YouTube personalities have flirted with fame and floundered in the time since Hart began her unbroken trajectory upwards in 2011. By now, there’s no way of knowing just how people know her. If they aren’t die-hard fans of her occasional video series, You Deserve a Drink, or her bestselling memoir of the same name, maybe they know her from her numerous appearances on @Midnight with Chris Hardwick, where she’s "won the internet" multiple times. ("Weird Al ate my dust," she says of one memorable appearance.) Pretty soon, though, more people are going to know Hart from her movies.
In 2014, the performer teamed up with her friends and frequent collaborators, Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart, and starred in Camp Takota, which she also wrote. It was a partly autobiographical film about recovering from heartbreak by retreating into nostalgia, and it proved to be a digital hit. Now the trio have reunited in the just-released Dirty 30, which Hart again wrote—only now they have the studio Lionsgate backing them up. Sweetening the seal of legitimacy that a studio lends the film, Dirty 30 will be in some theaters, which fans can demand through a service called Tugg, testing the devotion of the leads’ audience. Helbig and the two Harts (they’re not related) already have an idea of which cities want them most, though, having toured consistently for the last several years.
The day after wrapping Dirty 30, which is set during an epic party for a pivotal birthday, the three flew to Australia, and staged a 7-city tour. This is the pace Mamrie Hart’s life is set to now. She has further projects in the works, but she’s sworn to secrecy, more or less until the Deadline article drops. In the meantime, though, what she can say is that in feature films she may have found her niche, and she hopes to write and execute one a year for as long as she can. As Dirty 30 debuts, Co.Create talked to Hart about how she started making films in the first place.
"I used to write TV pilots with Grace [Helbig] back in the day, way before we had any way to pitch them," Hart says. "We couldn't get into a room to save our lives at the time. But we wrote them just to have them. I'm a big proponent of 'Just be prepared.' You've got some extra time? Get something ready—an outline, a script, something—because then once somebody gives a shit, you can be like, 'Here's an arsenal of fun, what do you want to make?'"
"At first it was a little intimidating to move into long-form writing. I'd written a few pilots, but this was different." Hart says. "I feel like you just have fake it til you make it, though. I was definitely looking at Save The Cat and all the traditional screenwriting stuff as I was writing. I've Googled 'When you want to put the date, what's that called?' It was a real learn-as-you-go operation, which, no offense to all those wonderful screenwriting courses, but for me, was the best way to work. It was a real DIY guerrilla-style movie, so it felt on par with YouTube stuff and I didn't have to get a lot of notes. I definitely just went for it, trying stuff and seeing what happens. Like, the biggest rule of Save the Cat is 'know the ending' and it was like three weeks out from production and ours still felt clunky. It kind of felt like a bunch of kids getting together to put on a show for the neighborhood."
"I'm been involved in Dirty 30 as a producer, but I'd love to, in a year or so, shadow a director; to not do it like I wrote my first movie, but really feel confident about it," Hart says. "For now, I've just been paying close attention to how directors work. I've learned some of the management part of it through producing, though. I'm real protective of the writing, so if I wasn't on camera, I was with headphones watching it, making sure there's no cut corners. There has to be a clean version of the dialogue so I was protective over the dubbing. Like, you know when they say 'Go fuck yourself' but the version on TV is 'Oh fiddlesticks?' I was making sure we had authentic toned-down language. You can say 'fuck' once in a PG-13 movie, but I actually don't think we even used our 'fuck.' We used 'shit' a lot, though. I think we had the exact amount we could get away with. So we gave just enough shits, but gave zero fucks."
"Grace and I wrote a very detailed treatment of Dirty 30 while we were doing a travel show and I was still writing [You Deserve a Drink], so we brought a writer on board and she cranked out a first draft. A year went by before we made the movie, though, and the things that changed between the first draft and what the movie became are just nuts," Hart says. "Because our followers are coming to this movie, we made sure there's so much of our voices in the characters, and knowing those bitches like the back of my hand, we had to make sure the dialogue fit the tone. We didn't improvise but we definitely made sure all the words coming out of our mouths never sound awkward, but sound like how you really say things. I wish there was time to improvise on these sets, but it's always such a tight schedule so there's not much room to play. Some day!"
"I knew the next thing I wanted to make after Camp Takota would have less sentimentality to it, but as far as the process, it was pretty similar, just on a higher level," Hart says. "Lionsgate came into the mix after it was written and when we were about to go into production, so I still got the benefit of not having to take very many notes from a studio. It feels really good to move forward from here knowing what to cave in on and what not to, bringing that experience to the next project. For all three of us—Grace, Hannah, and me—the goal is always graduating. I want to graduate every time, and not just live and work in the same circles. So getting into theaters was a goal but it wasn't a priority. I'm pumped, though, to get to throw popcorn at my face. I'm so grateful that someone will actually make shit that I think of and that I get to do it with friends—and a lot of times, while drunk. This is as good as it gets."