The Secret World of lonelygirl

wed17jan2007—03w017d4%— 18h38m00s—0utc

This was originally appended to the original lonelygirl article some weeks ago. I’m moving it to the blog strip ELZR itself because I doubt anyone noticed it.

It’s frighteningly fast how the avant-garde becomes the status quo. Not long ago Google was an underdog. It is now unarguably a behemoth. (“Google is the weather.” EEM) Two months ago it payed 1.65 billion for YouTube, the new media underdog. Now lonelygirl15, YouTube’s first star, has made the cover of this month’s Wired. And her article, The Secret World of Lonelygirl, is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how it all started. From Jessica Rose’s misgivings about the shady project, to her browseresque beauty, to lonelygirl’s origin as the alter ego of a commune-raised, bullied boy.

Jessica Rose was suspicious and frankly a little pissed off. She had come to this organic-tea shop to discuss what she thought was a feature film called Children of Anchor Cove. Now Beckett and Flinders had made her sign a nondisclosure agreement and, clearly pleased with themselves, told her that they wanted her to play the lead in what they billed as the future of entertainment. For free. It was an Internet-something-or-other — – she wasn’t listening. They were also going to “hire” another actor to play a character named Daniel. It sounded a lot like porn.

It was exactly what her acting coaches at Universal Studios’ film program had warned her against: unkempt producer-types hawking shady deals.

When he got to college, Flinders [cocreator of lonelygirl] dreamed up an alter ego — an awkward, geeky homeschooled girl. As a camp counselor, he told fireside tales about her experiences. He wrote short stories about her, and when he tried to make it as a writer in Hollywood, he put her in his screenplays.

There’s something about Jessica Rose that the webcam loves. Her distractingly large eyebrows and small round face are bent and stretched by the fish-eye lens into a morsel of beauty that fits perfectly in a pop-up window. That’s not to say she isn’t pretty off camera — she is — but every step she takes closer to the cam multiplies and enhances her looks. It’s a face made for the browser screen.

[Miles] Beckett was at home trying to decompress. He had been working as an urgent care doctor to pay the rent and was exhausted. Between filming and editing the Lonelygirl15 series and dealing with severed fingers and dog bites at the hospital, he wasn’t sleeping much. It didn’t help that Goodfried called at 2 am.

“Miles, it’s time you quit being a doctor,” he said. “We just passed 200,000 views.”

Within 48 hours, the video had half a million views. Goodfried knew that to be considered a success, a cable television show needs to get between 300,000 and 500,000 viewers. “My Parents Suck …” had vaulted into that territory.

Each episode needs to be short, no more than three minutes. “You wouldn’t show a sitcom at a movie theater, right?” Beckett says. “You make movies for the big screen, sitcoms for TV, and something else entirely for the Internet. That’s the lesson of Lonelygirl15.”

This Web series not only looks different, it’s made differently than other filmed entertainment. As Bree’s universe expands, each new character will have his or her own vlog. Flinders can’t write and film them all, so new writer-directors have been hired and paired with actors playing the new characters. Unlike television, where writers sit in a room and come up with a single script, the Lonelygirl15 team comes up with a general plotline and then sends its writer-directors out to produce independent but interconnected videos. All the characters, in essence, have their own show.

Rose leaps onto the bed and jumps up and down. She makes faces at the camera and waves her hands, knocking askew the picture of the rose hanging on the wall. Beckett got it at a 99-cent store because it was cheap and looked like something a teenage girl would buy. Nobody seems to have noticed the faint pink quotation printed beneath the flower: “It is by believing in roses that one brings them to bloom.”

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