INTERVIEW by ALEX BAUMGARDNER | PHOTOS courtesy of HILLY & HANNAH HINDI
In 2008, Hilly and Hannah Hindi, two Las Vegas sisters with an already two-year-old self-produced internet show, decided it was time to move on. Their audience was no longer growing, and they began to wonder if they’d done all they could do with The Hillywood Show. So for one last hurrah, they poured every last resource they had into one big “Twilight Parody,” a song and dance number that was to be the culmination of everything they were about: dance, music, comedy, pop culture, and style. Nearly 6 million views later, they figure they might be on to something. Now, they’re churning out what’s fast becoming a true blueprint for viral videos.
Can you go through the genesis of The Hillywood Show?
Hannah: The show started back in 2006. AOL put out information, saying send us your own idea for a teen web show. So Hilly came up with this idea for mixing movie characters together. She did all of Johnny Depp’s characters. She asked me to film it and I did. So we sent it in and we came in third place out of like 100,000 entries, which was amazing. We had people that were watching this contest and were fans and wanted us to continue with the idea. We were younger back then and thought it would be a fun little hobby. Then eventually it started to become a passion.
Did you have a strategy for getting noticed? And did you receive any advice on how to do that?
Hilly: Honestly, we didn’t have any tactics or any special way of trying to get the show going. We kept getting some fan mail. So when we were continuing we had a little audience. But once we did the “Twilight Parody,” that’s when it went viral. Since then, we’ve been hitting what’s most popular and most talked about with celebrities and movies, and it’s really taken off. I don’t really know how to explain our technique other than to just make it entertaining.
Well, any advice for anyone else trying to start an internet show?
Hilly: I think the number one key is for them to be original. I think that’s what made “Twilight Parody” so unique. It was the first Twilight musical. So if someone wanted to say, “Well, I want to do that,” I’d say don’t do what we did. Do something different. That’s the way to make it bigger and better, to get someone to notice you.
What was the moment where you both realized people were noticing you?
Hannah: Actually, “Twilight Parody” was going to be our last video. Our audience wasn’t growing and we’d worked for two years and thought, “Well, maybe the ship has set sail.” Then it was like 100,000 hits overnight and it was like a wake-up call from the Man above. That’s when we really started putting the dance element in our videos, and I know fans always look forward to that as well.
You’ve been doing this for five years — a long time in Internetland. Can you talk about the difference in what your audience was demanding then and now?
Hilly: We set a very high bar for ourselves. When we did “Twilight Parody,” we did our best to make it seem accurate. A lot of parodies, they just do it in their kitchen or in their backyard, and it’s kind of sloppy. But we tried to take it to the next level and we got a really high response. So I said to Hannah, “Maybe we can use this technique of making it look so much like the movie that the audience believes it’s the actual characters and the actual setting. And it really makes a bigger impact.” So video after video, we tried harder and harder to match costumes, makeup, hair, and location. And we’ve kind of dug ourselves a grave. [laughs] So now that’s what fans expect. We get requests from people that say, “Do Avatar!” But the thing is, our fans believe in what we do so much that they believe we can do anything. Which is a compliment, but on our behalf we freak out because it’s a lot of responsibility.
Well, the Lady Gaga video really does have some slick production value. How did you come up with the idea of blending her with The Nightmare Before Christmas?
Hannah: Well, I always say that Hilly is the one who comes up with the crazy ideas. And one day she was just goofing off, singing “Gagaween, Gagaween!” And I said, “Well, what can we do with this?” And that’s kind of how it works. I’m the organizer, she has the crazy ideas, I pull them down to earth, and then we work together. But honestly, “Gagaween” was one of our cheapest episodes ever. It was only about $4,000, which is not a lot compared to other ones in the past. With the “Breaking Dawn Parody,” we had to ask the fans for help with donations. And we had to be honest and said it’s going to be about $10,000. And of course they donated, and we gave ten percent to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. But “Gagaween” was actually one of our easiest; we just kind of thought it would be a fun little holiday special. But we never knew she would see it, and it would go as viral as it did. We’re just so grateful.
Can you talk about how The Hillywood Show is funded?
Hilly: We are completely open with regards to funding. Except for bills, we basically put all of our funds into The Hillywood Show, because we really believe that’s where we want our careers to go. We’ve had to ask for donations from our fans twice. (via GoFundMe) One was for “Harry Potter Parody,” and the other was for “Breaking Dawn Parody.” We don’t like to ask for money because we want it to be a free show for all. But with these, we kept getting these requests, and we thought they might help. And it was amazing; I actually started crying.
So this is all self-produced?
Hannah: It all starts with the idea. Whether it’s a song that inspires us, a movie, or a celebrity. And once we get the idea we go into scripting. Then it’s pre-production, which could take up to a month. That requires costumes, designing, makeup tests, location scouting, casting, props, checking funds, insurance. Once that falls into place, you start scheduling. We shoot for around a week to two weeks, and we start editing, which is Hilly’s job. She does all the graphics for the website, all the promotional photos. It’s almost a two month process — we’re lucky if we can get something in a month and a half.
What’s the ultimate goal for the show?
Hannah: Our ultimate goal is to have it picked up by a television network such as a Saturday Night Live for teens. And people say, well, why for teens? Because SNL is really adult stuff that teens aren’t interested in. They want to know what’s going on with their favorite TV shows, their favorite movies. We feel like that’s something teens have never had before. If all else fails, and if that doesn’t work out, Hilly wants to go into acting. I would love to be a director.
Hilly: We have a lot of parodies in mind. And of course we hope the show will get picked up with someone who can help us with funding, so we can do even more for our fans, because we don’t like to let them down. And we’re actually branching out. We’re going to release a single very soon, with a music video.
What can our readers do to help The Hillywood Show?
Hilly: The Hillywood Show really spreads from word of mouth. But they can also purchase our merchandise and be a walking billboard!
Hannah: And we do have a donate link on our website. Ten percent of our proceeds go to the Children’s Hospital, and the rest goes directly to our next parody. We don’t take anything for ourselves.