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Gregory Weinkauf

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Neil and John in 'The Key' Go Head to Head With Justin Bieber

Posted: 12/04/2013 7:25 pm

There's funny. And there's funny. And then there's WTF?!

Welcome to the world of Neil & John -- they being Neil Hopkins of LOST fame, and John Forest of Young Adult fame. They're weird. They're wacky. They're popular on FunnyOrDie.com and their own site and their YouTube channel. And their new epic short ("epic short"?) will -- trust me: will -- leave a mark on your mind.

"Neil & John in: The Key" represents the newest episode of Neil & John. This one's got industry folks talking and sharing, in a way I haven't seen since some Colorado yokels called Trey & Matt long ago let slip a few VHS dubs of "The Spirit of Christmas (Jesus Vs. Santa)" -- thus launching a modest little TV series called South Park.

As with all good secrets (this short is in fact a goof on The Secret), the spiritual awakening of "The Key" lies in the experience itself -- not in some journalist telling you about it -- thus find it here for your viewing pleasure:

Neil & John in: The Key


"The Key" is written, directed and edited by Sherwin Shilati -- based on his original (to say the least) idea. You may know him as the director of (I am not making this up): "I Kicked Luis Guzmán in the Face" -- and hey, "The Key" is so well produced that it has resulted in him getting signed with the big-boy agencies.

But wait -- there's more:

In a shocking act of lame-o copycatting, it seems rather suspicious that some kid named Justin Bieber (?) has made a desperate attempt to ride on the coattails of "Neil & John in: The Key" with his own sad little product (a perfume or something) -- also called "The Key." This Bieber kid, whomever he is (scouring the Web suggests that he's a minor player in the perfume business), even rushed into production on some sort of commercial -- pardon: "short film" -- also called (you guessed it) "The Key." Bieber's perfume even has its own smartphone app, because obviously a perfume needs a smartphone app. Google it if you want. Or actually, don't; for Bieber's "The Key" withers in contrast to "Neil & John in: The Key."

Kind of recently I spoke simultaneously and somewhat confusingly by telephone with Messrs. Forest, Hopkins and Shilati -- the key players of "The Key" -- and even more recently I figured out where I put the recording thereof, that I may at last share. First, impressed by the film, I demand of them: Is "The Key" real?

"The Key is real," one of them assures me. "As long as you believe strongly enough, it is real."

"It's like a placebo effect," scientifically adds another one of them.

"We encourage people to try it on their own," one of them definitely says.

"Yeah," chimes in possibly a third, "we just want to ask the questions; for other people to figure it out for themselves."

This is much funnier when you consider that we're in L.A., where people believe a lot of crazy shit. I ascertain that one of the speakers is director Shilati, and ask him about the origins of "The Key."

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Sherwin Shilati


"The concept was born when one day my sister came home and brought a thing called The Secret (Rhonda Byrne's eye-roller self-help flick and subsequent bestseller), and said, 'Family, gather round, we must watch this!' I was kind of taken aback. I had seen, like, Tony Robbins-style self-help. But I had never seen the movie version of self-help." He adds: "After that, it started a fire in my mind, and I told Neil about it, and over the course of years, really--"

"I remember him telling me about it, actually," helpfully posits Neil Hopkins.

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Neil Hopkins


"Finally we just decided to go for it," laughs Shilati. "I had a lot of mental prep-time."

"Neil and I met through summer-stock theatre in 1997 on a farm in Maine," John suddenly divulges. By 2006 they were both in L.A., where there is entertainment. "We always batted around silly ideas, and since we were in the same place, and often frustrated by the life of actors in L.A., we just decided to give ourselves work!"

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John Forest


"We had always written songs," chimes in the person I correctly deduce to be Neil, "like, John's an amazing musician -- we're both singers, but John plays, like, 16 different instruments. All the musical numbers we have, John produces all that."

Accordingly, when I ask Neil about LOST (on which he appeared as Dominic Monaghan's junkie rock-star brother), Neil sings the praises of director Jack Bender (also Exec Producer of Under the Dome -- hm: Stephen King . . . Maine . . . it all connects?), who helmed the episodes on which Hopkins met up-and-comer Shilati. "That show was shot very cinematically, and I was like, 'Each episode feels like we're making a movie.'"

"That experience left a huge imprint on me, as a filmmaker," reflects Shilati.

"One of the things that John and I have always tried to do with our shorts," adds Neil, "was to make ridiculously high-concept things -- in our garage, with green screen. Just to see how far we can stretch the concept of an Internet video."

Obviously (when you see it), these combined experiences add much to "Neil & John in: The Key."

In closing, I ask (with some concern) if the New Age community has lain the smack down on them for their unenlightened recalcitrance.

"This is the shot in the arm they needed," posits one of "Key" players.

I'm not sure who said that, but considering what's really the best medicine -- and how well these guys deliver it -- it's easy to concur.

 
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