Lonelygirl15 Goes Hollywood: Web 2.0 Stars Grapple With Success

Lonelygirl15 Goes Hollywood: Web 2.0 Stars Grapple With Success


Crashed servers, agitated fans, and even corporate sponsorship sometimes follow instant online success, producers recall







How does one deal with success in a Web 2.0 world? Ask Kent Nichols,
one of two creators behind comedy site AskaNinja.com, and Miles
Beckett, the co-creator of "Lonelygirl15,"

The producers appeared together on a panel entitled "The Future of Web Fame" at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

The pairing was something of an anomaly considering that "Ask a Ninja"
won the inaugural "Best Series" award in the inaugural YouTube Video
awards last March, beating out "Lonelygirl15."

Some attributed the Lonelygirl defeat to the ill will of YouTube fans
who felt duped when it was revealed that Bree, the eponymous lonely
girl featured in the supposedly homemade videos shot in her bedroom,
was neither lonely nor real: she was an actress named Jessica Rose.


For many, the truth failed to dampen their ardor. After the
hoax was revealed, said Beckett, who created the character along with
filmmaker Ramesh Flinders, two MySpace profiles were created: one for
"Bree" and one for Rose the actress. Amanda Goodfried, a lawyer who
helped develop the serial, served as Bree’s online
alter ego. "One guy sent ‘Bree’ and e-mail and basically said ‘Who am I
talking to?’" recalls Beckett. "She said ‘I’m still Bree,’ and he was
like, ‘Whatever, I still like the fictional character.’"

Revelations of hoaxes are sometimes the least of worries for
Web content producers who find themselves with a runaway hit on their
hands. Crashed servers, agitated fans, and questions of follow quickly
thereafter.

LG15 — the production company set up to capitalize on Lonelygirl15’s
popularity and to develop spinoffs — pioneered online product
placement when Bree and her pals were seen conspicuously consuming
Hershey’s "Icebreakers Sours" gum. "Ask a Ninja" now has a corporate
sponsor: Doritos. Nichols says that the site is now grossing $100,000 a
month in advertising revenue. That doesn’t mean, however, that
Hollywood studio-style excess is the wave of the future for Web 2.0
production firms.

"We’re still on the curve growth, and it’s fun to see the
growth in the dollars month by month," Nichols said. "But we’re
profitable because we’re really small — we’re still a two- person
team, and we’ve been able to achieve profitable growth with a small
investment."

With the greater fame, and marketing dollars, accrued to LG15,
there has come more opportunity. Beckett has produced another Web
serial, admittedly fictional from the start, called "Kate Modern."
Centered on an enigmatic London ingenue and her circle of young
friends, the show, like later episodes of "Lonelygirl15," features an
ominous secret organization known only as the Order.

Spin-off opportunities in the old-media world of movies and TV have been offered, says Beckett, but so far he is holding off.

"Our business model
is we’re focused on creating ‘Lonelygirl’ and ‘Kate Modern,’ we’re
developing other distribution partners for those, and it all feeds into
one branded universe," Beckett said at the session. "Our production
budget got pretty big pretty fast but we’re still very focused on
building out the online network, and producing online properties."

As for Lonelygirl15, fame has changed her life — or that of
the actress who played her on the Web — as well. "Bree," the
character, was killed off in August by the Order. Actress Jessica Rose
has gone on to a series of small film roles.

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