Lonelygirl15, the Blair Witch Project of the YouTube era

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For those of you who were sleeping or babies or not born in the early two thousands -- Lonelygirl15 was a viral video sensation that changed digital #storytelling forever.

This week, the media site Vocativ posted an oral history of the #Youtube sensation, #Lonelygirl15.  In essence, Lonelygirl15 is the Blair Witch Project of the Youtube era. And, according to recent reports, the story is likely to continue in the coming years.

(Image via Vocativ)

The Basics

Miles Beckett approached Mesh Flinders with the idea for Lonelygirl15 in a bar. At the time, they were starving #filmmakers and Youtube was a new platform. They were excited by the fact that they could help shape a new form of storytelling-- and were willing to do anything to achieve that dream. Even with sponsorships from Visa and Mastercard, the two went into $50,000 in combined debt. But they persisted.

After a few #casting calls, the two finally found their stars-- Yousef Abu-Taleb, the actor who played Daniel, and Jessica Lee Rose, who played Bree, AKA Lonelygirl15. 

Beckett and Flinders were particularly taken with Jessica because she had been homeschooled, just like the character of Bree. She was also new to LA, and had an air of freshness about her. Lastly, she didn't have a large following on social media, which has hugely important. The crux of Lonelygirl15 is that the public thinks that she is an actual #vlogger, not a scripted character.

At first, Jessica was reluctant to play the part. After all, Youtube wasn't popular at the time. Jessica was originally told that she would be in a feature film. So, when she realized that the project was for the Internet, she felt duped. In fact, she was convinced that she was being tricked into doing porn. Luckily, she didn't back out-- and was responsible for telling an amazing story.

Growing an Audience

In order to grow a following, Beckett and Flinders would reply to every comment that someone left on one of the Lonelygirl15 videos. As a result, the character slowly became a part of the Youtube community. After that, she completely took off. 

121The momentum of the first video was massive. At the time

134My Parents Suck

Finally, the project got so popular that the creators had to let the public know that the whole idea was #scripted. At first, there was some backlash from fans who felt betrayed. Yet even so, viewership only increased even more after the announcement-- and the creators had the freedom to bring Bree outside of her bedroom and transport the story into the outside world.

The End 

Eventually, Jessica started to feel like her character was losing its shape-- she wanted out of the project. So, the creators killed Bree off:

After that, the series continued with the other characters that had been developed. Some still criticize their choice to eliminate the series' main character.

Then, when the economy came to a standstill in 2008, so did Lonelygirl15. Put simply, the creators ran out of money and the project had to be put to rest.

Where are they now?

As of 2016, Flinders is #directing a film called “God of Rain and Thunder.” The project is about a teenager who is raised in isolation from the rest of the world. 

Beckett, who bought the rights to the #webvideo series, is preparing to re-launch the Lonelygirl15 brand with an #Emmy award-winning #producer. Who knows? Maybe Rose will get her feature #film, after all.

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