The aspiring actress had abruptly fled her May 2006 meeting with the producers at a West L.A. organic tea shop.
But when she got outside and answered her cell phone, 20-year-old New Zealand native Jessica Rose, a recent Universal Studios film school grad with no credits yet to speak of, was lured back into the project with a simple reassurance: “It’s not porn.”
Indeed, “The Children of Anchor Cove” wasn’t a feature film, conceded Miles Beckett, who at 27 was in the process of tossing away four years of med school — and borrowing money from his parents — to produce a viral video series focused on a mysterious teenager named Bree, aka Lonelygirl15. (“Jewish plastic surgeon becomes bum living in an apartment making a video,” is how he describes what was then a bleak scenario.)
However, Beckett contended, the mysterious YouTube sudser he and his partners were planning — which, at least initially, would be successfully shrouded as vloggings of a real-life 16-year-old — would attract industry buzz and lead to bigger things for everyone involved.
By the Fourth of July, Rose had become the first megastar of the Internet video age, and “Lonelygirl15” had become its first original hit, with the seminal “My Parents Suck” episode drawing an audience of more than half a million viewers — on par with cable TV — and eventually national sponsors such as Neutrogena to the skein.
For Rose, Bree was finally killed off over this past summer, but the role led her to starring on the successful ABC Family series “Greek.”
As for Beckett and his business partner, Greg Goodfried, “Lonelygirl15” ended up becoming its own big thing. “We were taken around to the biggest TV networks and studios, and we were offered typical Hollywood development deals,” recalls Goodfried, who initially obtained CAA representation for Lonelygirl15 by sneaking into the tenpercentery using his wife’s employee access.
Ultimately, these connections weren’t really needed — launching LG15 Studios, Beckett and Goodfried decided to keep “Lonelygirl15” where it started, on the Internet, and have branched off their operation to London, where they’re now shooting a second viral vid series, “KateModern.”
Recent breakthrough: On Aug. 3, the season one finale of “Lonelygirl15” — which involved 12 short videos uploaded exclusively to MySpace within the span of 12 hours — produced the skein’s biggest one-day viewership. In fact, a highlight video designed to catch viewers up generated 1 million views all on its own.
Role model: Co-creator Miles Beckett cites early podcasters TikiBarTV as providing key inspiration for “Lonelygirl15.”
What’s next: “Lonelygirl15” lives on even though its seminal character, Bree, was just killed off. The founders are now producing another Web series in London, “KateModern,” that also targets a female-skewing twentysomething demographic.