Brian Flemming: lonelygirl15 jumps the shark

September 2, 2006

Snarky filmmaker and blogger Brian Flemming deconstructs the narrative mechanics behind the lonelygirl15 saga and offers advice on how future YouTube hoaxsters can avoid “jumping the shark:”

Avoid all hints of professionalism. The lighting on Bree is incredibly good, certainly ranking among the very best webcam lighting ever. The video quality is also quite good for a webcam — almost no noise at all in the signal. Real webcam videos have flaws. And casual vidbloggers tend to be pretty inconsistent — they don’t put out a steady stream of similar-looking videos on a regular schedule. Having Bree not post for a month, or having her videos look very unpolished when Daniel isn’t around to edit them would have added verisimilitude.

The story is not king. In conventional film and TV writing, a commitment to Aristotelian principles wisely ranks story at the top of the list. All other elements are subordinate to the plot. But in mock-doc, the style takes story’s place at the top. Not one single idea should make it into the piece if it is not 100% consistent with the central conceit. Because in this form of fiction, unlike most others, one inconsistent part can destroy the whole.

Know that you’re going to be investigated. Bree’s first video was posted in June. A fan website called lonelygirl15.com, purportedly created by an independent fan, appeared in July, after Bree became popular on YouTube. But YouTubers discovered that the lonelygirl15.com domain was registered on May 12, 2006 — before the world even knew lonelygirl15 existed. Oops. The excuse offered by the fan website’s apparent proprietor sounds like desperate backfilling:

I didn’t register it (wish i HAD!!!) daniel did. he said it was only 20 bucks and he did it to get a rise out of LG (she kept going on about how popular she was gonna be and he said she was FOS) I PM’d him a bit, said i was doing a fansite, he wasn’t using the url and he said to use it. simple really.

Strange, he didn’t mention this intriguing fact at the start. And he would have.

YouTube is a conversation. The Bree videos so far all could have been shot within the span of one or two days. That may work financially for the production, but it wreaks havoc on verisimilitude. If the lonelygirl15 saga were real, Bree and Daniel would be far more specific in responding to the comments of other YouTubers. In fact, Bree mentioned specific YouTube denizens in her first videoblog post, but she hasn’t mentioned a single YouTube user in the weeks since — even though many users have posted response videos. She and Daniel only make vague references like “you guys were asking about…” Not good enough. If Bree and Daniel existed in real time, they’d be referencing specific comments and videos, both inside and outside YouTube. It was a serious mistake not to have Bree available 24/7 during the run of the YouTube episodes. (slumdance.com)

Bitter, bitter, bitter!

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