David Mamet’s work as an auteur has touched nearly all major modern forms of entertainment: He’s a multiple-award winning playwright, a filmmaker, a creator of television shows. I suppose, given all that, it was inevitable that he’d make a web video at some point. But for Funny or Die? That part’s a bit of a surprise.
Lost Masterpieces of Pornography, which launched today, was written and directed by Mamet and stars Kristin Bell (“the girl” from the 2004 Mamet film Spartan), Ed O’Neill (who was one of the men looking for “the girl” in Spartan) and Ricky Jay (a frequent Mamet collaborator who was sadly not in Spartan, an excellent film currently available via Netflix Instant). The short purports to be a lost segment of 1930s pornography set in the Supreme Court, and while it’s a bit slow in pace for web video, it does prove that Bell can even make any phrase, including “Dred Scott decision,” sound sexy.
So how exactly did this happen? According to FOD President of Production Mike Farah, Lost Masterpieces got made because Mamet asked. Six weeks ago, Mamet’s agent at ICM called Farah to say, “My client, David Mamet, would like to film a movie for your channel” — after figuring out exactly what that meant given Funny Or Die’s other projects, it was revealed that Mamet was a big FOD fan. “It was one of those amazing phone calls that you never expect to get,” Farah said.
The agent’s use of the phrase “film” may have been inaccurate at the time it was first said, but that changed when Academy Award-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit signed on. Elswit won his Oscar for There Will Be Blood and also shot Mamet’s Redbelt, and with him on board the team decided to shoot the six minute short on 16mm film — making it the first Funny or Die video to not actually be shot on video.
The decision to go with film did make the shoot “more expensive than typical,” in Farah’s words, though “for Funny or Die, the typical is so inexpensive. We knew David’s piece would be very good, and it’s good for the site to know that someone of his stature would want to collaborate with us.”
Farah says that this may not be the only Mamet-Funny Or Die collaboration: “We’d love to work with him again and he does have a few other ideas he wants to do for the site, depending on actor schedules. This is no b.s. — he was great to work with, very collaborative, and all signs have pointed to him having a great experience.”
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