SXSW – LonelyGirl15 discussion

David Hudson Editor, GreenCine
Miles Beckett Producer, Lonelygirl15
Mesh Flinders Producer, Lonelygirl15
Greg Goodfried Producer, Lonelygirl15

Miles: a short format, about 5 videos a week. a popular serial drama.

Greg: there’s the top level show; then there is the interactive element, teaching the characters as real people. you can send private messages and we answer you back (my wife does that); you can text comments. they can make their own videos and interact with characters. we know the big plot points but there is a lot a smaller things that we use feedback on. eg bree giving a piece offering to Daniel after 1000s of emails back. (video: piece offering Aug 21 2006) got 650k views on YT. over course of week 1.5m-2m collective views per video.

Miles: that video was representative of what LG was. cheap video cam and bad mike.

David – can we back up and give a talk about the idea..

Miles: I was a plastic surgeon internship; saw rise of video on web. started own company to make content; on YT all the time, saw there was an audience there. wanted to create videoblogger, did story with mystery element. had idea in feb or so. met Mesh at party, shared idea and went from there.

Mesh – wanted to be a filmmaker; did internships etc. won panavision new filmmakers award, but still living hand to mouth, making ends make. about a year ago got hired to write first paid screenplay. when i heard the idea the first thing I thought about was Wells and War of the World, using new tech to tell a story. a cool way to make movies. we’ll do it for a few months, generate buzz and we will make a film about it. and that was kind of naive.

Greg – I’m a lawyer. met Miles in feb 06 when he was starting his company. Miles told me his idea; after hashing out the idea they asked me if they could be sued. he advised probably not, but yes shot. advice was don;t try and sell nor ask for money. he came onboard. we got together and did the show.

Miles: we thought it was good idea, if we could get a good story and actors then people would want to watch. we did not know the audience at the time as it was still techy and we did not know if the the reveal would drive away audience. we have a rabid fanbase, 30-50k people to day of people obsessed. when it revealed it was fictional, we gained a huge audience. some went away. we have 70% female, 14-40, cluster in mid 20s. I saw it as an opportunity for entertainment and tech. we have continued this and made it more elaborate. video 2 is Feb 10, 07. shows change in how it was a girl in bedroom and is now a more deeper, richer show, outside the bedroom. far more mystery. bree had to leave due to parents being part of The Order. we massively ramped up the plot. we realised we had to tell a far more compelling story. instead of the movie, we do it on the web. we shoot everything as if it is real, everything is shot as a character.

Greg: a character we had in London, we had to do everything in Uk time, we were loading video at 3am in morning to fit into character.

Miles: we see the video as being the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the experience. they are 2 minutes..but people spend a lot of time.

Greg – we do ARG elements, we do puzzles, the community join in to answer the puzzles, ie opening a flash file, with a riddle. feed across the video, and site. We weave in UGC. we show fan videos on site. people create themselves as characters. we invite them to tell stories. (showed UGC, which is driving an ARG etc)

Q: what kind of interaction are yu seeing around UGC?

Miles: there is not a lot of functionality around the UGC on site. You load stuff as a response and it is not that easy to follow a persons content. we are doing a rebuild which makes it easier to admin your own storylines, vote etc. we have discussion in forum and chatroom, wiki.

Q: how do you pay for it?

Miles: i was working 3-5 days a week on clinics, but slowly reducing hours. got money from parents to pay actors so did not have to work (and be recognised). we were running out of money through fall, we got some fan donations, we have some investment now which helps and we are goign to an advertising model, and there is going to be product placement. there are post roll videos etc

Greg: it makes sense for them to use real products as they are set up as real people. it is a natural fit to have product placement. we can have access to brands for arg elements, partnerships etc to build real world elements.

Q: where are you distributing. where are you trying to go?

Greg – still YT and website. we are trying to build out a syndication model, which are open to monetisation. we want to drive people back to site as where all the functionality is.

Miles: the video only will be on the other site; the rest of the show and the deeper stuff is on our site. we are using tech features as part of the narrative. we had 35k people hit our chartroom the first time..we had about 20 rooms open the first time and people were relaying etc. people talked to the characters. We introduced Jonas as a fan and people debated if it was a show part etc.

Q: production values?

MIles: you can do a lot with time. we started with a desk lamp and a window; people debated whether or not we were real at the beginning cos of the lighting but it was just a lot of time. we shot from the character pov..depends on what kind of camera they would have.

Q: did you become famous?

Miles: we are represented by CAA (?)
Mesh – I’m using LG to write my own feature this year. we are developing film. still at early stages. we’ve only just got time to start thinking outside of LG. the first 6 months were a blur and 24/7.

Q: are you where you wanted to be?

Miles: this is exactly it. this is my dream. tech and film.. this is perfect we are in a good position right now, we have access to the traditional channels. after the announcement we did a tour of the Hollywood stuff. we got some offers, but turned them down. we really want to do internet and interactive and most people we talked to did not get it. we did not want things being an issues. we found people who wanted to share vision and invest.

Mesh: the technology is a door opener for people who did not have the money or knowledge to make these before. people can do it with a web cam and your little brother. we are only just realising what the possibilities are.

Q: did you guys participate in Lost ARG…any ideas from this?

Greg: i did not know what an ARG was 4 months. Now, they are really cool. we attracted the ARG community who thought we were making an ARG, and they started investigating us. a month after the first video, people started selling stuff. we trademarked it. people found it, under his dads address. they started to dig in. they ‘stalked’ the family. we wanted to control press for reveal. the community was passionate but we had to point them away from us. we are going to do more arg stuff. live appearances are in the future, it;s a resource issue. we write, shoot, edit, so the more elaborate stuff we are waiting so we can do it right.

Q: can you express your creativity more now the cat is out the bag?

MIles: the initial thought was to create fictional video blogger I did not know how much they would think about it; I did not realise how much people would dig. as the press got more and more intense it was incredible stressful.. we did not know what the reaction would be, we anted to be cool not fool people. once out of the bag it was liberating,

Greg: we now have more freedom and they are not analysing everything. they got a botanist to look at plants, they analysed where we bought things from. we want to wrap our arms round these people as they will stay, they invested in in

Q: what was the backlash?

MIles there was a little backlash for far less than expected. people seemed to know it was fake all along. it got far more in depth. the vast majority knoew it was not real but were suspending disbelief.

Greg: the numbers are larger now, so people are still in it. we made a decision to answer all the questions to Bree, but answered none of the ones to the producers/actors. People are talking about it as a tv show now, not a web hoax.

Q: how are you handling the ‘fame’ between the 3 of you, the actors etc

Greg: we are closer now then before. Miles add I want to stay in the space, Mesh looking for other stuff. we can do a lot in a short time and then let people do other stuff. Jessica is under contract and is getting work, jessica just shot a film in Feb so we shot everything in Dec.

Miles: it was an emotional rollercoaster. a t times we loved at times we hated.

Mesh: we could not talk about this to any one except with each other. we could only share with each other. i could not talk to my girlfriend (and we broke up) this was a big risk and it paid off in spades. we are best friends now.

Miles: we are uploading a video live. we are running on wordpress…and here’s us loading live.

10 seconds later..there were 2 responses. all going First! it goes from firsts, to discussion, then just general chat, then it goes for chants for new videos.

MIles: we post randomly. they live on our website. we have email, we have an rss feed. none of us are programmers,

Q: how did yo get publicity to start?

Miles: we used YT social network. we had created character on site and talked and commented in character for a few weeks. then we did a few responses to popular people. when we put the first one up, we already had a few 100 people. subscribed. we were active on commenting, adding friends. this was part of the story telling. after that, were these videos good.

Greg: we are getting hired to do this now for other people.

Q: you are turning down deals etc, you are monetising..are you running into problems with cpm etc.

Greg: we are feeling out the model as we go. it;s work in progress

Miles: the web model is different to tv…cpm on tv depends on quality. that model is startign to apply to us, advertisers prefer to be on lg15 and will pay it.

And that was that…

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