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YouTube was very good to this pair
Associated Press

Ryan Higa, left, signs autographs on the back of co-star Sean Fujiyoshi at the Honolulu premiere of "Ryan and Sean's Not So Excellent Adventure" in Honolulu on Saturday.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 11/10/2008 12:12 AM

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HONOLULU -- Two teenagers from Hilo have turned their YouTube stardom into a feature film that opened over the weekend.

"Ryan and Sean's Not So Excellent Adventure" showed in Honolulu on Saturday and in Hilo on Sunday. It now moves to California, where the Bay Area premier has already sold out.

Ryan Higa and Sean Fujiyoshi have made 55 short videos and posted them on the YouTube video-sharing Web site since 2005.

Altogether, the clips -- on topics such as "How to Be a Ninja," ''How to Be Emo" and "How to Be a Nerd" -- have been viewed 150 million times. Their video channel "Nigahiga" has over 624,000 subscribers -- the second most on YouTube.

The pair are famous enough to get stopped in mainland airports and have girls take photos of them with mobile phone cameras.

Over 100 fans came to their film's Honolulu premiere at Restaurant Row Saturday to ask for their autographs and take photos with them.

Higa, who recently started his freshman year at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said living in Hilo started it all.

"There's not much to do other than go watch a movie. Pretty much boredom kicked it off for us, and our parents didn't mind because it kept us out of trouble."

They created the videos to share with friends -- nothing more.

One day, when one of those friends couldn't come over and Higa and Fujiyoshi didn't feel like going out, they posted a lip-sync video on the Internet. Later, they saw that it received 100 hits. "How did it get so many views?" Higa recalls wondering. "Did that person click on it 100 times?"

Demand for their unique style grew. It was the ninja video that first earned 1 million views. At first, they celebrated, says Higa, "but now every one gets at least a million."

Independent movie producer Derek Zemrak saw the "Ninja" clip when his 10-year-old son said all his friends in Los Angeles were talking about it.

"I immediately saw the raw talent," says Zemrak, a producer/writer/director with a background in horror films. He told his business partner at Zemrak Pirkle Productions that these kids were going somewhere, and if their production company didn't make a movie with them, someone else would.

"As a producer, you're always looking to see what the next thing will be," he said. "There's an audience built in. This is where kids are getting their entertainment now. They're logging onto YouTube while they're supposedly doing their homework."

"Ryan and Sean's Not So Excellent Adventure," directed by veteran actor Richard Van Vleet, is about a producer losing his job on the studio lot. He's given 30 days to save his career. He stumbles across Higa and Fujiyoshi on the Internet and puts them through the paces to create a movie, spoofing buddy flicks and reality shows along the way.

Higa said spending several weeks making the movie in San Francisco was "very tiring" and "much harder" than he anticipated. But Zemrak says the young men were "so natural when they got out here."

Of their growing fame, however, Higa remains somewhat ambivalent. "It's kind of surprising," he says simply. But he expresses a bit more enthusiasm for the movie itself. "It's kind of unbelievable, especially since we're from Hilo, and not much big things come from Hilo that I'm aware of."