'LonelyGirl15' producer to launch online mystery

Yumiko Aoyagi, an exec producer on “LonelyGirl15,” is getting ready to launch online mystery “The Scary City” as a big-budget follow-up to the popular Web series.

The $5.2 million project, which bows Sept. 15, will involve a storyline that spans several countries.

The U.S. version of the story revolves around a haunted Los Angeles apartment complex and the missing 10-year-old daughter of an architect who battles the building’s unseen evil forces. Tenants from all over the world get caught up in the global intrigue.

The Japanese version begins with a murder mystery that a Tokyo high school girl tries to solve.

Future versions of the mystery are planned for Korea, Israel, the U.K., France and Thailand, with the international casts involved in the globetrotting narrative.

Series will start with five episodes of 1½ to three minutes. Viewers will be able to email episodes of the show; installments will also be syndicated to sites such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.

Aoyagi intends to distribute content to mobile phones and adapt the plot as manga graphic novels. She also hopes eventually to develop the property into a full-length feature. “It’s like a full-fledged pre-release campaign, with each story in every country serving as a trailer for the movie,” Aoyagi said.

Aoyagi, who is based in Los Angeles, wrote and produced the series. The Tokyo story will be co-produced by Tamon Andrew Niwa.

Japanese interactive agency IMJ and design firm THA is producing a $1.4 million website to launch the series. The site will include games, blogs by visitors and characters, sponsorships and merchandise sales.

The entire budget of the project is considered on the higher end for an indie endeavor and could lead the way for more expensive online entertainment fare, should it prove successful.

“Our goal is to produce the next generation of Web-based scripted series, with better production values,” Aoyagi said. “The promise of the Internet is how it allows us to mix reality with fantasy.”

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