Know that song "Hooray for Hollywood"?
Try this: Sing it -- just mumble the verses, everybody does -- but, when you get to the title line, substitute the word "Hillywood."
First, it's fun. But you'll also remember this little musical exercise someday when the names Hillary and Hannah Hindi flash by on the credits of some TV show or movie you're watching.
It's not far-fetched. The Las Vegas sisters are the creators, producers, directors, writers and stars of "The Hillywood Show," an Internet series of pop culture-driven sketches and, more recently, insanely popular longer-form music video parodies of such films as "Twilight," "The Dark Knight" and "New Moon."
The sisters are talking with the producers of the Jonas Brothers' TV show about taking their act to TV. They'll host their first "Hillywood" cruise in January. And they spend most weekends appearing at "Twilight" fan gatherings all over the country.
Yet, for all of this success, the sisters still create their art with a single camera, many volunteers, a perpetually anemic budget and plentiful creative enthusiasm. And what's really cool is, success hasn't spoiled them. The sisters -- Hillary is 20, Hannah is 23 -- are modest, appreciative of the attention they've received and totally floored that anybody would even care.
The sisters' filmmaking careers began long ago, when Hillary was about 9 and, she says, "I don't even know if YouTube existed."
"We'd make fun films, with just our friends and not editing anything, just us in costumes, walking around," Hillary says. "It was just for fun."
Occasionally, they'd enter films in contests, Hillary adds. And while they'd usually do pretty well in those competitions, often landing spots as finalists, it still was mostly, she says, for family and friends.
Then, when Hillary was 13, she won a "Lord of the Rings" video contest on America Online. As her prize, Hillary traveled to New Zealand to do on-camera interviews with director Peter Jackson and actor Orlando Bloom at the film's world premiere.
A few years later, AOL sponsored another video contest. Hillary enlisted Hannah's help to create a sort of sketch comedy show featuring impersonations of film and pop culture characters. Viewers voted, and the sisters won a third-place award.
A third-place award out of, Hannah notes, a hundred thousand or so entries.
"We were excited," she says.
But equally exciting was the feedback the sisters received from viewers. "We had fans tell us, 'You're funny, and you act good and edit well,' " Hannah says.
"We got fans e-mailing us, saying, 'Why are you not continuing?' It was really inspiring. I think that was really what was keeping us going."
The sisters decided to continue what they came to call "The Hillywood Show," filming new episodes when they could afford to and then posting the episodes on their Web site (www.The HillywoodShow.com).
Hannah describes the show as a spoof of pop culture and the movies, featuring "classical movie characters that everybody knows" from such films as "Beetlejuice," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Edward Scissorhands" and "Back to the Future."
They shot 15 episodes of "The Hillywood Show." Then, they decided to create a music video parody of "Twilight," the first entry in that very popular vampire-themed film series.
Why? "That's because fans told us to," Hannah says. "That was a risk."
But it was, in retrospect, a risk worth taking. The film -- an affectionate homage that incorporates music video-style cinematography, knowing allusions and startlingly professional costumes and makeup -- was a major online success. Continuing in a longer-form vein, the sisters followed up with a "Dark Knight" music video and a "New Moon" parody as the second in their own "Twilight" series.
The sisters say working together comes naturally. While both act, direct and edit, the films result from a sort of tag team approach. For example, Hannah says, "I'm the one who's getting everything ready before the shoot, and during the shoot I'm stressing. She's more the creative (person) on the set: 'We should do this, we should do this.' "
Then, once editing begins, "I freak out," Hillary says.
"See, I know I'm extremely unorganized," she continues, and Hannah "is the one who will talk to me and say: 'But how do you want to do that? That's not possible, we need to bring you back from the clouds back to earth.' "
It is, the sisters say, a truly collaborative effort. Particularly notable, however, is not just the sisters' self-taught technical proficiency, but the director's eye they have developed. The evolution of their directorial skills becomes particularly apparent when watching their "Hillywood Show" and film parodies in chronological order.
That, they suspect, is the result of having watched movies and music videos with, maybe, a keener eye than most.
"I'll watch and I think, 'Oh, that's cool' and 'That's cool,' " Hannah says. "I'll try something out (during filming), and when (Hillary) gets hold of the footage, she goes, 'I like that, I don't like that.' So, it's both our brains."
Hillary says the hardest part of any project is preproduction, "because we have, like, no funds backing us, and what we have is very little. So it's kind of a heartbreaker when we (plan) this whole, entire story and this whole, entire production and ... learning we can't do something because we can't afford it financially."
Hillary estimates that a typical episode of "The Hillywood Show" costs about $2,000. In contrast, the "Dark Knight" film cost about $10,000, and would have, she figures, cost double that without donations from a prop company and other behind-the-scenes players (all of whom receive thanks on the Web site).
The films' professional look even has caused at least a few fans to assume that the sisters are big-time -- financially speaking -- filmmakers.
"Everybody thinks we're getting thousands of dollars," Hannah says. "It's just smoke and mirrors."
The sisters finance their films primarily through savings -- Hannah is a dance instructor, Hillary assists -- and sales of Hillywood T-shirts, DVDs, autographed photos and other merchandise.
Filmmaking is "really fun," Hillary says, "but it's more stressful just because of the funds." They're now saving up for their next project, which may be the "New Moon" follow-up "Eclipse" or their own take on Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland." Then, there's that upcoming "Hillywood" cruise, and, of course, the talks about the possible TV show.
"Hopefully, someone will pick it up," Hillary says "That's our dream, for our show to get picked up and for it to be something teens can really relate to.
"We've been (making films) almost three-and-a-half years now, and we want it to be our career. We want to work together as sisters. We're each other's brains."
But, for now, they're still surprised that anybody even knows who they are.
"It kind of doesn't make sense to me," Hillary explains. "I think they're all trying to play a joke on me: You really aren't fans, you're just being really nice. And they'll be, like, coming up and shaking and some people start to cry. And it's just like, 'Why are you crying? I'm nobody.' "
Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@review journal.com or 702-383-0280.