Article Archive

The NL issue 884 - Owner of a lonelygirl

Author: Darryn King
Wednesday, 7 November 2007
It gained popularity as a personal videoblog of an American teenage girl. It turned out to be a carefully planned and tightly scripted online serial – the first of its kind. There have now been over 300 episodes of lonelygirl15, and its first spin-off premiered in July. 3D’s Darryn King talked to its mastermind, Miles Beckett.

Tell us a bit about the lightbulb moment… How did you realise the potential to utilise YouTube and the video diary phenomenon for something like lonelygirl-
I spent a lot of time watching videos on YouTube. I realised that the most popular content was stolen from the major networks – or people video blogging about their life. I was falling asleep one night and had the idea of creating a fictional video blogger and telling a story that would emerge from the background of their life. It would blur the line between fiction and reality and use a new platform to tell a story in a new way.

How did and does the writing process work for the serial- Was there a story and character arc planned beforehand, or was it made up as you went along-
Mesh Flinders and I wrote a treatment over a couple weeks. The treatment was the storyline up until when Bree ran away from home. We had all the major beats planned out and had some of the concepts for the individual videos. Then, we just started writing and filming and editing in real time. We came up with video concepts each week and then shot and posted the videos. The whole time we stuck to the storyline that we had laid out in the treatment, but we added a lot of nuance, character development, and additional plot threads in response to the audience feedback that we received.

How far did you expect to get before lonelygirl was ‘outed’-
We didn’t know how long it would go! We hoped that we could hook people into the mystery of the storyline so that once they found that it was fictional they would keep watching... and they did!
 
So what was it like for the team when the truth came out- Did it derail any plans-

We wanted people to find out. In fact, we pro-actively posted in our forum on lonelygirl15.com and told people that it was a fictional show before anyone actually discovered us. We knew that the truth would get out soon and we wanted people to focus on the cool and mysterious storyline that we were telling.

Did you ever hear from anyone who was disappointed that lonelygirl15 was a fictitious creation-

There was very little backlash. Much less than we expected. There were some people that were upset, but a lot of those people that posted angry videos decided a couple days later that they didn’t mind and they continued watching the show. We never lied to anyone... whenever someone asked us if Bree was real or an actor we simply didn’t respond. Also, most people knew deep down that she probably wasn’t a real 16 y/o video blogging in her bedroom, so people felt like they were playing a game and when the truth came out there was a lot of satisfaction that they had solved it.
 
Does the medium of the online serial have any particular difficulties- Any particular pleasures-

It has both! The positives are that we get instant feedback from the audience and we can interact with them directly. We can see whether they like or dislike a video, character, or plotline immediately when we post a video. Also, we can do things that are impossible in television; film and upload videos the same day, have characters talk directly to the fans, use interactive puzzles as part of the narrative. It’s totally interactive and real-time. This is all creatively liberating but it also introduces a huge amount of complexity. Writing a week of lonelygirl15 is a Herculean task that requires keeping track of all the characters and plot just like in traditional TV and also tracking the logic of puzzles that the fans are solving, figuring out how the interactivity will work, etc. It’s a tough medium.
 
What do you think are the unrealised possibilities of online serials-
The medium is brand new. There’s a lot of potential! New formats and storylines will emerge. As the budgets increase we’ll be able to do even cooler things with the medium. I think that the interactivity can be utilised more fully, and we’re particularly excited about the live interactive events we’ve been incorporating into KateModern. We’ve created days where the fans show up and meet the characters for a piece of interactive ‘street theater’ where a portion of the plot unfolds in the real world in real time. It’s very cool!

Tell us more about KateModern and what’s next for you…
KateModern is the UK spin-off of lonelygirl15. It’s produced out of the London office of our new media company, LG15, and it’s distributed on Bebo. We have a fantastic production team (Pete Gibbons is the Series Producer, Kelly Brett is the Line Producer, Luke Hyams is the Head Writer, and Gavin Rowe at Big Balls Films is the Director) and I lived out there the first three months functioning as the Head Writer and Exec Producer... I trained the team and got the production off the ground.
It’s about a group of young adults living in London and investigating the secret society called the Order (the main bad guys in lonelygirl15). The show is a massive success; we’re getting over 2 million views a week right now and we’ve had over 15 million views in the first three months. In the next year we’ll be rolling out lonelygirl15 spin-offs in other countries, and we’re developing some other online shows in multiple genres.

Visit lonelygirl15  and KateModern ... if you want.

Tags