Appearing on VH1, the Bravo television network and a Dutch KFC commercial, UCSB students Zach Hart and Jon Poser have climbed to celebrity status, all with the flip of a coin.
In “The Quarters Trick Tape” (also known as “Guy Plays Quarters”), Hart flips coins into shot glasses from both short and long distances, great heights, and even over flames. The video received three million downloads in its first five weeks this summer on the popular website Collegehumor.com, it was listed as a top download on VH1’s “Web Junk 20,” and it will soon be the centerpiece of a KFC Europe commercial in the Netherlands.
Originally from Danville, Ky., Hart – a third-year film studies major – developed his quarter flipping skills while in high school.
“I started when I was 15,” Hart said. “I was a freshman in high school and I would go to parties with my brother who was a senior. … He was just beating up on me in quarters and making me drink a lot. I either had to play really well or be passed out at every party.”
Hart’s roommate and third-year political science major, Poser said he was amazed the first time he played quarters with Hart. In the film, he falls down in amazement as Hart makes a shot across the room.
“I went into it knowing Zach had some skills, but I didn’t know how extensive they were,” Poser said. “There was a parting of clouds and a total eclipse of the sun. There were angels singing and shit, and then I knew it was gold. I mean it was nickel, but it was gold.”
Hart said he and Poser filmed “The Quarters Trick Tape” in 2004, just after his freshman year, on a rainy day in his Isla Vista apartment.
“[Poser] said, ‘Let’s play quarters,’ and we put shot glasses all around the room,” Hart said. “Within a day, 75 percent of the shots were done. It took 6 or 7 hours. The rules for the shots were that we couldn’t try a shot more than 20 times. If we didn’t make it by then, it didn’t go into the movie.”
He said there were two scenes that did not make it into the final cut of the film because of this rule.
“One was flipping a quarter over a skateboard on the table,” Hart said. “Another was from three stories up and into a cranberry juice container.”
Hart, who works at the Kerr Hall Digital Editing Lab, said he edited the “Quarters” film himself.
“None of it is fake,” Hart said. “If you slow down the film, you can see the quarters spinning. I actually wish I could say they were fake, because then I would know I’m doing good editing.”
Poser said he helped direct the short film and suggested new tricks to Hart.
“I was director of photography,” Poser said. “I do a brief cameo and I did the soundtrack. My lighter is used in one shot. I call this the ‘Jerry Bruckheimer shot.'”
Poser said his favorite shot involved Hart flipping a quarter from across the room into a shot glass placed at the center of a cooking pan. The stunt ultimately broke the shot glass.
“The final shot seemed like it was seemingly on the wings of Pegasus or a friendly dragon – like ‘The Neverending Story’ dragon – that is taking you to places you would never even imagine,” Poser said. “It shattered the fragile minds of the viewers, which was symbolized by the shattering of the shot glass.”
The selection of tables and coins used were essential to the tricks’ success, Poser said.
“The table was crucial because some surfaces provide more bounce,” he said. “Also, many people don’t know about this, but only American coins can get that kind of bounce. Only in America.”
Once the film was completed, Hart said, he sent it to all of his close friends before premiering it at a Magic Lantern screening in I.V. Theater. He said the film later appeared on Collegehumor.com after a friend, posing as Hart, posted it on the site. Hart said he was unaware of the film’s popularity until a stranger stopped him on the street.
“I was walking in I.V. one night and this drunk comes up to me and says, ‘You’re effing crazy, man,'” Hart said. “He then ran half way down the block yelling, ‘Quarters guy!'”
The film has since crossed over to other popular websites such as eBaum’s World and YouTube. Hart said it is surreal seeing Internet users discuss his film on web forums.
“My favorite [forums] are the ones that dis me,” Hart said. “This one guy said, ‘These guys should put bullets through their parents’ skulls.’ Others ripped on my roommate.”
He said he finds it strange that so many people have taken interest in his short film.
“It’s really easy to bounce quarters into shot glasses,” Hart said. “It’s probably one of the stupidest things to be talented at.”
After the film had received several million downloads, Hart said KFC Europe e-mailed him asking permission to use clips of the video for a commercial in the Netherlands. Hart said he copyrighted his film for $200 and received about $7,200 from KFC Europe for licensing rights.
“[KFC Europe] used two clips and mixed it with shots of chickens,” Hart said. “It’s really weird. … It’s in Dutch and then there’s this part where as [Poser] falls down, they cut to a chicken patty falling on a bun and there’s symphony music. … It took four or five weeks to negotiate.”
The film later received some controversy after the Bravo television network, owned by NBC, aired portions of the clip without obtaining permission, Hart said.
“KFC was mad,” Hart said. “They sued Bravo and settled for $5,000.”
VH1 recently used the clip for its show “Web Junk 20,” which resulted in another lawsuit.
“They’re owned by Viacom,” Hart said. “It’ll be in litigation for six years.”
Poser said he thinks VH1 underestimated the film’s international appeal.
“They thought we wouldn’t be able to do anything with it on our own,” Poser said. “We’re everywhere in the fucking Netherlands, man!”
Hart said he hopes to make another film featuring his quarter tricks.
“I’m working on a new one, maybe over Spring Break” Hart said. “I’m going to try to get three quarters in three shot glasses all at the same time… I’m really rusty, though – I haven’t played in two months.”
Despite his talents, Hart said his ambitions lie in professional screenwriting, which he hopes to pursue after graduating from UCSB.
“I’m planning to move to [Los Angeles] and work as a writer’s assistant or go to grad school,” Hart said. “My goal is not to play quarters the rest of my life. It’s to do something legitimate.”
While he joked about his newfound fame, Poser said the experience has treated him well.
“We have a lot of fans,” Poser said. “Women have been throwing themselves at Zach. … This one guy said he’d kill himself for us, but we’re not down with that. Ours is a message of peace. It’s a big deal for us, but it hasn’t consumed our lives.”
Hart said he was excited by the film’s success, but said he hopes to move on to other projects.
“It is what it is,” Hart said. “It’s not something to take too seriously. It’s just two guys flipping quarters into shot glasses.”