Alumnus is Behind "lonelygirl15"
What started as a conversation between strangers at a mutual friend’s birthday party has evolved into a cultural phenomenon and conversation about how entertainment will be delivered in the future.
Aspiring filmmaker Mesh Flinders, a 2003 Occidental graduate, helped create “lonelygirl15,” a fictional character whose video blogs on the popular YouTube Web site have drawn hundreds of thousands of viewers and international press coverage.
“We never saw that coming,” admits Flinders, who writes the scripts for the fictional character Bree, a 16-year-old home-schooled teen whose nearly 40 segments to date run less than five minutes apiece. Viewers are able to make online suggestions to shape the plot. Flinders’ collaborators include Miles Beckett, 28, a medical school dropout, and lawyer Greg Goodfried, 27. The creators never expected lonelygirl15’s mass appeal, but Flinders says he, Beckett and Goodfried are enjoying the attention and will continue to develop true-life storylines.
“This is a girl talking about real issues: parental control and how you find your independence,” says Flinders, a West Los Angeles resident whose bedroom doubles as the set. “That’s what a lot of people relate to. And it’s short, so it’s great for an ADD generation.”
Flinders, an art history and visual arts major at Occidental, says that while film and television have for years tried to harness the Internet, lonelygirl15 is the medium’s first interactive show. He likens the blogs, which started in June, to “the first season of a very robust prime time TV drama.” Some viewers were disappointed and even outraged to learn – after media coverage – that Bree is a fictional character, but Flinders denies that he and his colleagues set out to perpetrate a hoax.
“The Internet right now is where radio was in 1938,” Flinders adds, citing as an influence Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” that same year. “There’s this question of what is real and what isn’t. Our project is a lighting rod for this whole Internet video thing. The larger question is how will entertainment be delivered in the future? In the next couple of years, everything is going to be integrated. Who knows, maybe you’ll surf the Web with a keyboard and a television.”
The filmmakers recently signed on with Creative Artists Agency in Beverly Hills and are already pitching two new Internet programs. As for Flinders, he says his Occidental experience heavily influences his muse. “Oxy taught me how to think for myself and be a believer in the power of your own ideas,” he says. “That played a crucial role in the creation of lonelygirl15. There was no model for this.”
Flinders won’t reveal what lies in store for Bree, but he does admit there will be substantial plot twists: “Stay tuned.”
To view the video blogs, go to http://www.lonelygirl15.com/.