Shooting a tree teepeeing scene for their new direct-to-digital Lionsgate comedy “Dirty 30” on location in Santa Clarita, Ca., could’ve been fun for stars Mamrie Hart, Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart. But as they hurled roll after roll of toilet paper into the air, the nighttime weather shifted from rain to freezing cold, adding shades of red and purple to their skin tones that had to be color corrected in post.
Amidst the misery, there was one bright spot for the trio (known to their fans as The Holy Trinity) — a nostalgia-inducing epiphany.
“All three grabbed me and they were like, ‘Isn’t this where?…’ and I was like, ‘Yes,’” recalled the film’s producer Michael Goldfine. “We were literally about half a mile from where we shot ‘Camp Takota,’ so it was emotional because it was so close to where it all began for us.”
It wasn’t just a beginning for Goldfine and stars Hart, Helbig and Hart, it was the genesis of a whole new genre/business model: the digital influencer feature.
Released in February 2014, “Camp Takota” quickly rose to the top of the iTunes independent film chart, just behind a pair of Oscar nominees for Best Picture, “12 Years a Slave” and “Dallas Buyers Club.” Its success spawned a series of digitally-released low-budget features toplined by YouTube stars, including “Bad Night,” starring Jenn McAllister, “The Chosen,” starring Kian Lawley, “Expelled,” starring Cameron Dallas, and “Smosh: The Movie,” many of which seemed more concerned with the number of YouTube stars in their casts than with the quality of their scripts.
“People jump in and think it’s easy. Well, it’s not easy,” said Goldfine. “Whether there’s one YouTuber in it or 50 YouTubers, if it’s not going to serve the story, it’s not going to matter. You have to work with talented people and good scripts. What I’m hoping is audiences are selective and patient and don’t punish everybody [for the bad influencer films].”
After “Camp Takota,” Goldfine signed on as chief content officer for the multi-platform production company Fullscreen and produced and directed a pair of features for its film division, the tour documentary “#O2LForever,” which premiered on Vimeo On Demand in June 2015, and the drama “The Outfield” (co-directed with Eli Gonda), starring Dallas and Nash Grier,” which premiered in November.
Leaving Fullscreen in September 2015, Goldfine launched Michael Goldfine Productions, in partnership with Lionsgate, and set out to make “Dirty 30,” which tells the story Kate (Mamrie Hart, who also co-wrote), a woman approaching her 30th birthday stuck in a deep personal rut, who agrees to let her friends (Helbig and Hannah Hart) throw her an off-the-rails party.
“When I had ‘Camp Takota’ and told them what I wanted to do, they looked at me cross-eyed, like, ‘What are you talking about?’” recalled Goldfine. “This was a lot easier because not only had the general landscape changed, but I could point to four or five things I had done.”
Most of “Dirty 30” takes place over the course of a single night, which helped keep the locations (and the budget) to a minimum. The bulk of it was shot at house in Eagle Rock, Ca.
“It was like a little mini-estate where we set up shop,” said Goldfine, who’s currently developing two feature scripts (a family movie and a rom-com). “Our friends came in and out of that little compound for a couple of weeks, and we had the time of our lives. I wanted to move in after we left, but I couldn’t afford it.”