The story and lessons of Lonelygirl15

lonelygirl15Wired has a lengthy and fascinating account about Lonelygirl15. It’s a story of 21st media, how to make a hit and what works on the web.

It’s the story of two aspiring and inspired filemakers who wanted to do a different kind of storytelling.

When he got to college, Flinders 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.

But nobody bought his scripts: Agents and producers didn’t think much of the character he had created.

How Lonelygirl15 became a hit is instructive for those interested in viral marketing. It is all about linking, answering e-mail and being interactive.

There is also a bit about how big media doesn’t get it.

SO FAR, HOLLYWOOD HAS NOT EXACTLY EMBRACED Beckett and Flinders. With CAA’s help, they landed meetings with studios and TV networks. But their first sit-down with a major broadcaster was, Goodfried says, an “exercise in futility.” Beckett tried to explain to the executive that the central theme of online entertainment was interactivity, as opposed to the passivity of television. He wanted to create shows in which the line between reality and fiction is blurred, where viewers can correspond with the characters and actually become involved in the story by posting their own videos. The exec responded by walking them through his fall lineup and pointing out that the network’s Web site had great supplemental video material for the season’s upcoming shows.

Beckett is clearly frustrated. “The Web isn’t just a support system for hit TV shows,” he says. “It’s a new medium. It requires new storytelling techniques. The way the networks look at the Internet now is like the early days of TV, when announcers would just read radio scripts on camera. It was boring in the same way all this supplemental material is boring.”

What’s needed, he says, is content that’s built specifically for the Web. It doesn’t need to be lit like a film — that would make it feel less real. The camera work should be simple. There shouldn’t be a disembodied third-person camera — a character is always filming the action. 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.”

There is so much in those three paragraphs that newspaper online editors need to think about. It isn’t just about fiction.

[tags]lonelygirl15, media, youtube, video[/tags]

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3 thoughts on “The story and lessons of Lonelygirl15

  1. Howard, the way you and I think has so many interesting parallels. I totally believe what you’re saying. Noveltown’s Zowietown is teaming up with Hectic Films to create interactive online commercials for our products. They’re more like film with a product embedded in them… only, in this case, film for the Net, made specifically for an audience in mind who wants short, to the point videos that are engaging, and interactive… stay tuned. Thanks for being so avante garde. The world of journalism needs you!

  2. LonelyGirl also owed some success to a number of media critics who became ga-ga infatuated with her to the point of being sickening–and were stupid enough to perpetuate the myth that she was a 15 year old…maybe it’s that I’m female, and often look at the faces of extremely young women in just about every fashion magazine that’s out there, but it was bloody obvious to me (and to a number of other non-female savvy media people) that she was not 15–and by observing the film quality and soundtrack choice we could tell things were just a bit *too* produced.

    If it weren’t for the media pundits getting their glasses all fogged over the fantasy of a cloistered, virginal, 15 year old exposing herself online, the whole thing might have passed in the blogosphere as just another piece of hype–like the Paris Hilton Channel on YouTube.

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