I’ve been a fan of The Hillywood Show since I discovered their parody videos with their first Supernatural video several years ago. Hannah and Hilly Hindi, the sisters behind The Hillywood Show, were kind enough to chat with me about that video and to also contribute some insights to the documentary film on fandom I co-wrote, Squee! I’ve been eagerly awaiting their second Supernatural parody with high expectations, but the reality surpassed them when it was released last week – Supernatural Parody 2 is a loving tribute to the show, its amazing cast, and its incredible fandom. As I took some notes on why I was enjoying it so much, I realized it’s because once again, they totally got it right – even for someone like me, who adores Supernatural and has written five books on the show and the fandom!
I was at the Supernatural convention in Denver last weekend, and there was quite a bit of talk about the new parody, which both fans and Supernatural stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles had high praise for. Jensen, in particular, was impressed with the production value and the professionalism of the set and the shoot, and especially with the realistic proton packs that he and Jared got to wear – they sometimes had to take them off between takes because Jared kept bumping into the door and other things. Jensen seemed excited that the blasters really worked too, which I think means they were having a lot of fun playing with them! I shared those reactions with Hannah and Hilly when we chatted.
You can check out the Supernatural Parody 2 video here.
Hilly: He did keep bumping into the door, we can confirm that one. Hannah: I just know that Jared really likes to push buttons!
Hilly: The pack, though, really was the coolest toy. They were like the real deal, so it’s the ultimate toy and Jared was like, yes! I could just see his eyes light up.
[There’s a great moment on the behind the scenes feature where Osric Chau shows Jensen how to pull out his blaster, and he does. Then Jared pulls out his, with significantly more flourish, and Osric grins and whispers to the camera.
Osric: The gentle giant…
Jared makes the blaster light up and then asks, with his eyes all hopefully lit up, “do you want this on?”
Hilly: No, cuz that means you’re killing us…]
I laughed out loud at that.
Hilly: We haven’t been able to talk about it or hear from them since the shoot. They asked, “When can we mention it?” I told them you can’t until the video is out. So, weeks down the road now, it’s really cool to hear them talk about it.
Lynn: They definitely enjoyed it. So, after thinking about this a bit, I’ve identified ten things you got very right. I’m gonna go through them one by one, and you can comment, okay?
Number 1. One of the things that makes your parodies so brilliant and so loved by fans is that you really GET the show you’re parodying, maybe Supernatural more than even the other shows you’ve parodied. You were able to reproduce the show itself with the level of detail that fandom relishes – the kitchen set from Changing Channels, the library in the Men of Letters bunker, the proton packs with Dean’s little army man and the Colt and Sam’s with Ruby’s knife. Some of the scenes looked so eerily similar, like that iconic moment when Dean fires the Colt and kills Azazel in slow motion. How do you decide what scenes and what details to include and how much detail to put into it? It must take so much time!
Hannah: That’s kind of a question for you Hilly, because you’re the creative one, and then I do all the organization of making it happen.
Hilly: It’s kind of hard to say how the details come in… because whenever I go into conceptualizing….sorry I’m speaking slowly because I’m thinking about this…
Lynn: That’s okay, that will make it a lot easier to transcribe – I’m not that fast!
Hilly: I basically see a movie in my mind. It plays out for me as I’m hearing the music and I don’t really force it, so it’s not like oh, we have to be really detailed with this scene or we have to make sure that this particular thing is there, because it’s already visualized in my head. I’m a very strong visualizer. I can’t really say where it comes from besides that God made me maybe a little too creative and he poured too much creativity into my poor little brain.
Hilly: I just see it, and then I tell Hannah about it and we do it. It’s not like okay, we have to give Richard an angel tie, because that will be funny. It just happens. Or when we were creating the proton packs, I knew we wanted them to look like the inside of the trunk of the Impala. So, Sam and Dean would have the weapons on their backs. I knew we wanted the symbol there and certain weapons, but then it came down to, which weapons will fit? How does it look aesthetically, is it aesthetically pleasing? And does it make sense? Which weapons would Dean choose and which weapons would Sam choose? I’m sorry I can’t answer more. It’s just in my mind and Hannah puts it into action.
Lynn: That makes sense to me, you both are just very detail oriented. And one of the things that makes fandom such a unique community is that fans are also often very detail oriented – the details matter to fans. So it’s a wonderful meshing considering you’re making things for fandom.
Hannah and Hilly: Awww.
Number 2. It’s not just the details of scenes that you get right – you also get the characters right, especially Sam and Dean. Because if Hilly and Osric weren’t believable as Sam and Dean, it wouldn’t really work. There are little quirks and personality traits that make them recognizable as Sam and Dean, like Dean in the dead guy robe going back to get his food, for example. What things did you pull in, from both a directing standpoint and an acting point, to make sure that it really felt like Sam and Dean?
Hannah: OMG, that’s a deep question.
Lynn: (laughing) I’m a psychologist, I can’t help it!
Hannah: We’re going deep, this is fun! We’ve only done one interview, you’re the second one. We haven’t gone to cons or anything, so I’m like ooh new questions, yay! A lot goes to Hilly with regard to the acting. I can’t say, Hilly, just so you know, Dean furrows his brows a lot.
Hannah: I can’t tell her that, that’s not really my job. It’s on Hilly and Osric. Before we started filming, we said study Jared and Jensen, study those characters and look in the mirror at yourself, see how your face is going to be able to portray that. Because everyone’s faces are different and everyone’s facial expressions are different, so to mimic that you have to practice. And they both did their jobs. Mainly, what I did as a director, was to watch the scene and think, is it feeling right? Do the facial expressions look the same? Is there chemistry between the two of them? Does it feel right behind the camera? Then I can say okay, we have five good takes that we can choose from.
On top of that, I sit behind Hilly as she edits, so I know exactly how many takes she’s gonna want to work with. I know her vision – she’s my sister – I can’t explain it, it’s one of those things where I just know what scene is going to work. So for me as a director, it was more thinking about, this is a scene that we ’re recreating from Supernatural or Ghostbusters. For example, the hallway scene with the Slimer, that was challenging because it was a mix of both Supernatural and Ghostbusters.
Lynn: Right, that one very much was.
Hannah: So obviously we’re paying homage to Ghostbusters, but does it feel like Venkman and also, does it feel like Dean?
Lynn: Which is tricky, because you were meshing them. I haven’t watched a ton of directors at work, but I’ve watched a few — Hannah, what I thought was so interesting was that your instincts are so good about when a scene didn’t play right, even down to asking, can you run a little differently because that’s not the way Dean would run?
Lynn: And I was like OMG she’s totally right. I don’t know how she knows that, but she’s right.
Hannah: Well, we’ve done parodies for a very long time. When we shot Suicide Squad, I encouraged Hilly that she was doing great, but for that parody she didn’t feel like I was directing her enough. I told her that it was because she was playing a female, this is much easier. However, she kept asking me, if she was doing a good enough job. But she was — if you’re playing a male character, that’s when more directing takes place between the two of us, like how you’re running or how you’re standing.
Lynn: And it’s those little subtle things that make the character believable as Dean.
Hilly: Aww thank you. I will say, from my and Osric’s perspective, we had it a lot easier because we had already done the characters. So we felt like we were back where we were supposed to be in regards to acting. Last time, every take Osric would have to get into Jared. I could see him turn it off and on, because he’s known Jared for so long that he can reflect the expressions. The first one, he was nervous about it, but this one I was like, show me and then I was like yep, you’re fine. For me, it was hard to get back into being Dean during the first two days, when we were filming in Kansas with the Impala. It was a little difficult to revisit the facial expressions because they were sort of rusty. I was in the Impala posing for photos, and I was like, dude, I’m trying to remember, how does my face go?
Hilly: But by the time we were doing close-ups the following day, my muscles found themselves again. If you don’t use those certain muscles, you’ll lose the character’s facial expression. It’s like when you go to an exercise class and they tell you to squeeze your abs, and you’re like, where’s my abs? For example, if you asked me to do a Harley Quinn smile now, I’d have a hard time finding it, because that was not my smile. So for Dean, it took me a while to find my little Dean muscles again.
Lynn: It’s kind of sense memory. That makes sense. Oh, sense sense. Everyone (laughing again)
Number 3. You include not just the obvious well-known moments from the show, but little fan favorite bits. For example, Ruth Connell as Rowena ‘bopping’ Dean’s nose. Or Sam and Dean on the tandem bike from Changing Channels, or Dean terrified on the plane, or Sam terrified of the clown in the elevator.
Number 4. Some of the favorite things you included are more of a thing for the fandom than the show itself, so they’re not even bits on the show necessarily but something that’s talked about alot in the fandom, almost like fandom private jokes. For example, the fact that poor Adam is still in hell – it was brilliant to get Jake Abel to play him too! Or the way that Sam and Dean are constantly calling out for each other – the iconic Sam! Dean! Sam! Dean! Or even that Sam and Dean wearing glasses to kill the invisible hellhound, because fandom loves them in glasses, that’s for sure! How are you able to have such good instincts about what to include?
Hannah: I remember shopping for those glasses was a nightmare, I can say that! (laughing)
Hilly: We started by going through the lyrics, that’s when we were building the theme. In Ruth’s scene, for example, the original lyrics of the song are, “An invisible man sleeping in your bed”…so I thought what’s invisible in Supernatural? Oh, a hellhound. If Sam and Dean come to Rowena’s rescue, there would be a cute scene of Ruth bopping Dean’s nose just because I know that’s a special moment between them that stood out to fans. I wanted to include that, but then I thought oops, if they’re hunting a hellhound, they need glasses! I can’t forget that!
Lynn: Yes! See, you get it – they’d need the glasses!
Hilly: It was one of those moments where we had to make sure we weren’t leaving any details out. If they showed up without glasses, I’m not sure that it would have made sense that they were hunting a hellhound.
Lynn: And fandom would have noticed.
Hilly: It was just a matter of reviewing everything. With Adam in the cage, we thought what does the cage look like in hell? So, we found episodes of when Lucifer is in the cage. We noticed torches in the background, lightning etc. so we incorporate what we saw and hopefully the message came across clearly enough that fans could recall it.
Lynn: It did, it did.
Number 5. Some of those favorite things you included aren’t even from the show itself, but from promo shoots that were popular with the fans, or from the gag reel, which fans adore. You had that promo set with the chains, and the gag reel moment of Jared carrying Jensen through the woods, for example. Oh, and the Harlem Shake bit with the giant devil’s trap even!
Hilly: We don’t try to force in the gag reels, it’s more about the overall vision in my head and how those things just happen to pop up. In other words, I have a crazy brain that does its own thing (laughing) I’m sorry, I can’t answer why my brain functions how it does!
Lynn: Hey, I’m a psychologist, and that’s totally a valid answer. I’m not a filmmaker, but I guess a lot of it is tapping into that creativity and your own instincts and maybe that’s why it works so well.
Number 6. The songs you chose for the first parody and this one are both great, but this parody is also distinctive because it’s a fusion of two beloved properties, Supernatural and Ghostbusters. They’re both fan favorites for some of the same demographics. I loved Baby with the Ghostbusters topper, and I loved Misha playing Janine so perfectly. Why and how did you decide on Ghostbusters for this parody?
Hannah: Again, that’s Hilly. At the same time as the original Supernatural parody, this was her original vision for a Supernatural parody. Back then, we didn’t have the connections we’re blessed to have now, so it was impossible. At that point, we didn’t know if people would ever commit that sort of time. For this one, they had to be on set for like three or four hours – Jared and Jensen had to be there for two hours. So, for the first Supernatural Parody, we thought, there’s a con in Vegas, maybe they’d be willing to do something for it. We just sat in a room and hoped someone would come in. With this one, Hilly had this idea a long time ago and I loved it and I’m super excited that it worked out. Jared and Jensen were the first we had to ask to see if they would be a part of it, because Hilly said that’s the finale, it ends with them, that’s how I see it, that’s the only way it is gonna end. Luckily, we texted Clif and pitched a second Supernatural Parody just to see if they’d be interested to be a part of it. We didn’t even tell him the idea; we just said we’re reaching out, thinking about doing another one and that we have a number of actors who are interested, but number one question is, do they want to be a part of it? A couple days later, Jensen texted him back and said, “Hell yeah!”
Lynn: I’m not surprised, because they loved the first one. And really, this is a cast that relishes making fun of themselves so it’s like right up their alley to do this.
Hannah: It was such a huge blessing. They’re all good people – we call it our little God story, it’s very supernatural.
Lynn: It is!
Hannah: It’s just amazing, and we can’t thank all of them enough. Hilly and I have said the same thing forever, but we’re just two creators on YouTube. There’s a team behind us when we film, obviously, but they’re mostly friends and volunteers who have known us for years. They show up and say hey, what am I doing? You’re moving this, the camera goes here, we’re setting this scene up, okay. They literally have no clue what’s happening until that morning when they show up. We’re nobodies, we’re two sisters on Youtube, and here are a whole bunch of people who are professionals and their time is valuable. It’s mind-blowing and very humbling.
Lynn: I think part of the reason they all wanted to do it is that they trust you. When I put together Family Don’t End With Blood, I was just as humbled and shocked that all the actors wanted to be involved, all wanted to write a chapter themselves for the book. They said it was because they trusted me, and I think they also trust you guys to put something together that will be a loving tribute to their show, that they will love, that the fans will love.
Hannah: Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s humbling and still feels like a dream. We can’t thank them enough. So many people jumped on board with this one. Obviously, we pitched everybody the idea and explained what their scenes entailed, but the majority of them, when we asked are you even interested, they just said “yes.”
Lynn: I’m not even surprised.
Part 2 of Lynn’s interview with The Hillywood Show on Supernatural Parody 2 continues here.