“We're trying to get ahead of the curve,” says Neary, a 25-year-old Temple Univerity film grad who's responsible for much of Heeton's' camera operation and editing. “It seems that the internet is where entertainment is probably gonna be coming from in the future.”
Each of the guys had different motivations for choosing L.A.'s bustling metropolis over Bucks' sleepy suburbs. Spiegel, also 25, who originally hails from California, was the first to go, following his UCLA-bound sister to be closer to family. Neary had the option to go to New York after finishing college but picked L.A. for the thrill of the risk factor. Powell, also 25, had always been interested in films and acting and jumped on board. John, 24, had dreamed of moving west since the first grade, a dream that Stephen, 23, who was the last to make the trip earlier this year, apparently shared. All of them now share a house in North Hollywood (save Spiegel, who still lives with his sister in Burbank), and all of them hold down steady jobs while nurturing their filmmaking aspirations.
“I think the consensus is that [L.A.] is a good place to be for your twenties,” says John, the most outspoken and animated of the group.
The story behind the name Heeton's Glasses sounds like it could have been lifted from a film comedy: In junior high, John and Spiegel had a classmate named Hiten who, during gym class one day, got a little roughed up, causing his glasses to go flying. Spiegel referenced the incident during the group's out-of-a-hat naming process and struck a collective funny bone.
“The fact that Spiegel brought it up so many years later...it still had comedic resonance,” says John, “and we had no other names, so we figured, 'what the hell?'”
When asked if the real Hiten is aware of the fact that a group of his former peers are, essentially, making short movies - they average 7 minutes in length - under his name, the group laughs, saying modestly: “[We] don't think anyone knows that we're making films.”
Heeton's Glasses' short film "The Candy Bar Draft"
On the contrary, as of July 27, Heeton's' third short, “The Candy Bar Draft,” in which the gang fights it out for a bag of Butterfingers in a battle of wits and uses Werther's Original candies and even a cat to great comedic effect, has racked up 376 views on YouTube and 720 plays on their MySpace page. Their other films, “Andorra,” which has the guys – all of whom act in their films, with the exception of newcomer Stephen who has yet to make his official debut – travel to the European nation in search of long life, and “The Trial of Santa Claus,” in which they put their hilarious spin on the courtroom drama, are not far behind.
“I think our largest fan base is in Bucks County, Pennsylvania,” observes Spiegel.
His friend, John, elaborates: “I think there's a lack of good material on the internet and that can be taken advantage of. A lot more people are obviously wired in and spend more time in front of their computers. We're trying to establish a niche.”
The brainstorming processes for devising Heeton's' quirky, often charming plots are apparently not unlike the one that landed them their name.
“If everyone laughs at an idea, we'll turn it into something,” says Neary.
Similarly, the group originally favored an improvisational shooting style, a technique preferred by directors like Christopher Guest and the late Robert Altman. They have since moved on to scripting their shorts, which have been filmed in their home, Malibu, Griffith Park, and other areas across L.A. and edited using Apple's industry standard Final Cut Pro.
“Once we started scripting, we found out it's a lot easier to make the films,” says Spiegel.
Heeton's Glasses' short film "The Trial of Santa Claus"
Heeton's is aiming to take that more organized, professional approach further this fall, when they begin releasing a series of 12 – 15 minute webisodes entitled “God Bless Snitchboro,” inspired by their former stomping grounds of Richboro. Taking advantage of the talent a town like L.A. can offer, the gang plans to bring on additional actors and cameramen for the project and tackle post-production in a studio rather than their living room. A website is also in the works to accompany the series.
“I think now we're focusing more on trying to bring what they're not doing in film to the internet,” says Neary. “There seems to be a real lack of comedy lately in films.” He continues: “Our goal is to try to build as much of a web following as possible and just come out with some really quality shorts to try to change the way people perceive internet shows and internet shorts.”
Until “God Bless Snitchboro” premieres, Heeton's will be posting brief, trailer-like previews on their MySpace Film profile, where all of their other titles can also be found. And until Hollywood starts cranking out more genuinely funny fare, the simple point-and-click trip to their website is probably more worthwhile than the trip to the theater.
Visit: www.myspace.com/heetonsglasses for more.