INTERVIEW: Mamrie Hart, Grace Helbig & Hannah Hart, stars/producers of Camp Takota
For many over the age of twenty-five, the names Mamrie Hart, Grace Helbig, and Hannah Hart might mean nothing. Twelve months ago I would have also said, “Who?” That’s around the time my girlfriend started playing YouTube videos of these bona fide stars on her computer while I walked in and out of the living room. From that point forward intentionally bad puns, drunken recipes, and the catchy repetition of “Seeex-eee Fri-daaay” became a weekly staple I began sitting down to watch alongside her.
It only took this trio five years to gain a combined 3.5 million followers on the internet video site as their tight-knit friendship led to multiple collaborations on their respective stations, a successful tour entitled #NoFilterShow, and now a feature-length film earning each an Executive Producer credit. Co-written by Mamrie and starring all three, Camp Takota shot for 18 days during the summer of 2013 and debuts this Valentine’s Day (2/14/14) exclusively via its website CampTakota.com.
Courtesy of the site: “With her personal and professional life in shambles, Elise (Grace Helbig) ends up having to take a job as a counselor at her old summer camp. There, she reunites with two estranged friends (Hannah Hart, Mamrie Hart) who attended camp and never left. When the future of the camp is put in jeopardy, the three friends must band together to save it, changing the course of their lives forever.”
We had the pleasure of talking to “Holy Trinity of YouTube” recently about their BFF-status, going to camp, and the loyal fans they always put first. They’re primed to takeover twentieth-century entertainment if they haven’t already. And everyone—no matter their age—should know their names very soon.
The Film Stage: I watched the behind the scenes footage that Grace posted and I felt compelled to ask whether Camp Takota could have been made without Katy Perry’s “Roar” pumping you up every morning?
All: [Laughter] No.
Grace: No—it really probably couldn’t have. I still listen to it on repeat all the time and it just makes me a little nostalgic for a time that really just happened.
Hannah: Exactly, we were nostalgic about it before we ended shooting.
Mamrie: I know, it’s stupid.
No, it definitely showed the enthusiasm. It was a nice touch to see you all get excited every day.
Grace: Thanks. Yeah, if only we had a bigger budget we could get the rights to that song for our end credits, but unfortunately not.
Hannah: Not at all.
Mamrie: Oh my God, you never know. Katy Perry might just decide to donate without royalty the song for our movie.
Grace: Yeah, we’re all going to tweet her after this interview and get her to come to our premiere.
Hannah: Oh my God. Wouldn’t that be amazing!
The three of you are very prolific YouTubers. You have the 3.5 million combined followers in only about five years. How crucial is that collaboration for your careers? And when did your involvement with each other begin?
Grace: Well, um, I will start. I think that I got—I was on Daily Grace and it happened pretty early on in its history. I think I only had that channel for a year before I met these fine, fine people.
I would say that collaboration is obviously huge in the YouTube space. It’s a co-work space—you know—so these people are your competitors and your colleagues. And jumping around the internet and making funny content with individuals who are also independent creators—it’s a pleasure really. It’s cool.
Mamrie: Yeah, um. So Grace and I—Grace, you should know is the other half of You Deserve a Drink. The entire way she’s been there with me. So she’s kind of like an added bonus in your vid.
Mamrie: You fit the hole in our hearts—the teeny-tiny hole in our hearts.
But, yeah, because traditional media is kind of based on competition and YouTube is founded on the philosophy of collaboration—I think that’s the really interesting concept that drew Michael Goldfine and Rockstream Studios to us as creators to create a project that was kind of based in the digital space. We came into it with a built-in audience and it’s a brand new way to create what is referred to as traditional content.
Hannah: While also bringing in elements like Grace vlogging every day and us doing our own behind the scenes videos and kind of bringing that digital aspect to the lead up for the actual movie.
Grace: Yeah, that’s the thing—YouTube is a very personal medium. It’s very intimate; there’s a two-way conversation that happens with our audiences when we make videos. And so we’re really kind of delivering our film in a more experiential way. They’re seeing the film from conception to the final product so we really wanted our audiences to feel like we’ve created an entire environment around the film that they’ve been a part of from start to finish.
Hannah: I think that that would be something that people could really start up—you know, the next time you’re making a movie with somebody else you know how to do it. Like you’re kind of planning out the experience of how you’re going to invite the audience into the process of making it.
Right, it’s kind of the evolution of Kickstarter. It’s that but it’s so much more.
Could you talk about the origins of the movie? I know Mamrie co-wrote, but am I correct that Hannah was the first person Michael approached?
Hannah: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah. And then I pointed Michael in the direction of Grace and Mame and, uh, Mamrie and Michael met and they were like two or three schoolgirls talking about camp and teddy bears and stuff like that—right? Is that how it happened?
Mamrie: Yes, that is one hundred percent correct. We both got on our hamster wheel and just ran and ran and regaled with our stories of camp. And seriously, Michael and I talked. We knew that, like, our love for camp was so deep and that there are so many people who feel the same way, that creating a movie on camp and these friends at camp would resonate so much for people who had that shared experience.
So did all three of you go through that camp experience?
Grace: Yeah, Hannah and I have never been to camp, however, shooting this film was like going to camp. We were on an area of land up in Santa Clarita that had no cellphone reception, so all day long—you know, 12-15 hours a day—we were having real human conversations with our fellow castmates and crew. We really felt like it was a special experience. We made eye contact with each other … it was weird.
Hannah: Yeah, we got up early, we all sat down for meals together. It really is—yeah.
Mamrie: A movie set is a camp. We know this now.
Now was there a hierarchy? Was Mamrie as a co-writer—did she get to boss you two around about line readings?
Mamrie: Oh, I’m such a bitch. I don’t know if that came through or not yet.
No, um, I will say that it was easy—we’re friends. So, not only do we have similar senses of humor, but we also can always be honest with each other. And both Hannah and Grace are so funny on their feet that—there weren’t a lot of lines changed but they would think of things on the fly which were way better than the script.
Mamrie: … but marginally better. Marginally.
Hannah: I mean that’s the joy of working with your close friends—that you have each other’s back. You’re supportive of each other. There were some days where I was really tired—you know, felt like emotionally out of it—and they really had my back. It felt like a safe environment.
The film is very much a testament to that friendship and that community. YouTubers like The Brothers Riedell [Chris and Nick] came on to direct; you have Chester See and Sawyer Hartman in the supporting cast. Was it a conscious decision to utilize that world or a natural evolution?
Grace: It was definitely a conscious decision. When we talked to Michael originally about creating a film—I know that we definitely wanted our community to be represented in the film. I think it wouldn’t feel as digitally organic if it didn’t include people from our community that, One: are great actors, and Two: do have a social presence along with us.
Mamrie: Yeah, we just wanted to incorporate these people like Grace said, but we didn’t just keep it in that realm because, well, we needed people who were older than 25 for some roles—
Mamrie: And also because it is a way to expand the audience—it’s not a YouTube movie. It’s a feature film and there’s going to be people watching it ideally who have no idea who we are or who the other YouTubers are within the film. We didn’t want it to just be this gimmick of, “This is a YouTube movie with your favorite YouTubers”.
How mutually beneficial was the project as far as Michael educating you three on what goes on to make a feature film while you exposed him to the digital side’s potential? He had produced Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, but how experienced was he with the intangibles you brought to the table?
Hannah: The thing is—I think Michael was definitely—he’s really good at teaching himself and educating himself in this world. It was such a good thing because most of Rockstream’s work is more on the doc[umentary] front. So, just being a narrative—that was new territory for him. And this was definitely new territory for us, making a movie. But it’s cool too—I mean he’s a very knowledgeable producer so we can all kind of each learn new things every day.
And how has this experience lent to what you three do on your own through YouTube? I know Mamrie and Hannah have books coming out [You Deserve a Drink and My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide To Eating, Drinking, And Going With Your Gut respectively], but has this given you the bug to do another film?
Hannah: I think it definitely has really kind of informed my knowledge of the process in general—yeah, I’d love to do more. We all have a better idea of [how] undertaking something this scale—like making a movie or writing the book—kind of really comes down to execution. And we’re really grateful for it because a lot of people in the entertainment biz learn that by being PAs [Production Assistants] or going to college and studying film and all that stuff. A good and a bad thing about being a YouTuber is that it puts me in a very public light.
What does the digital distribution platform say about your faith in and your love for your fans?
Mamrie: Hannah has a—I don’t know what the word was but Hannah said it once before. Something along the lines of “ViewTube”? Is that right, Hannah?
Mamrie: Yeah, I love that term and I think it kind of applies to the way we’re distributing it. Although we want to definitely branch out and reach a wider audience for people who are just in for a really great movie about camp or friendship. We know how fans and viewers like to get our content. You know, sometimes that’s on a laptop in your bedroom while also doing a time chat with other friends on Tumblr. We know how they like to watch what we do. We wanted them to have that same experience.
Is there anything in the pipeline to do a feature film version of something like the #NoFilterShow or some other kind of concert movie?
Mamrie: Thanks for the idea …
Mamrie: We definitely had that idea before this call …
Grace: Mamrie, I’m gonna let you answer it.
Mamrie: Well actually we haven’t—that would be—I guess you’re asking more in a doc sense like following us on tour? That would be super fun.
Hannah: Oh my God it really would.
Mamrie: We love—obviously—having cameras in our face in all aspects, but in addition to that we’re always looking to see what the next project could be. Could we make another movie and what would that look like? You know, it’s a big experiment what we’re doing with Camp Takota so we’re excited to see how that all plays out and then we’ll see about what’s next in the movie world.
Hannah: Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.
Is there anything the three of you could say about Camp Takota? An encapsulation for our readers that may not be on the website to get a feel of what to expect?
Hannah: At some point someone implied that the tater tot has gone to the [Hannah’s final word to this joke was indecipherable on the recording and she doesn’t remember what was said. She does, however, ask all of you to finish it with your favorite Hannah-ism in its place].
Mamrie: Yeah, but only There Will Be Blood because we were on set together for a month and change, though.
Hannah: Oh, wow.
Mamrie: No, it’s a really—it’s a fun time. It’s a great story about friendship set in the environment of camp, which everyone loves to watch—that little bubble. And at the end of the day, it is kind of based in reality and we wanted to make a movie [where] friends talk to each other like they do in real life. It’s not going to be an hour-and-a-half internet video. We think people will enjoy it and also relate to it.
And tater tots on the side.
courtesy of camptakota.com