Inside 'Catfish': A Tale of Twisted Cyber-Romance

Photo: Catfish

For Nev Schulman, a 24-year-old New York City photographer who became entangled in a twisted online love affair with the girl of his dreams, it all began innocently enough.

In 2007, Schulman was contacted by an 8-year-old girl named Abby on MySpace. A budding artist from the remote upper peninsula of Michigan, Abby said she'd seen one of Schulman's photographs published in a newspaper months before, and wanted permission to paint it. Weeks later, Schulman received a watercolor rendition of his photograph.

VIDEO: Behind the scenes at movies premiere with Nev and Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost.
'Catfish' Guys Get Ready for Premiere

"I was kind of floored," he recalled, describing the young prodigy's work. "We all said, 'Wow, this is great!'"

Schulman sent Abby more of his photographs to paint. With her mother Angela's blessing, the two began to correspond online and Schulman developed a friendship with the entire family.

"I was in a weird place in my life where I didn't have a lot going on ... and it was very flattering," Schulman told "20/20's" Jay Schadler. "She was inspiring me and... it was a really strangely reciprocal kind of give and take."

Schulman was blown away to learn from Angela that local art dealers were bidding on Abby's paintings; one had sold for $7,000.

"It was just so satisfying to feel like I was contributing to some little girl's life," he said.

Watch the full story on "20/20" tonight at 10 p.m. ET

Schulman was flooded with packages filled with Abby's drawings and paintings. That's when Schulman's brother Ariel and friend Henry Joost -- both filmmakers who shot Schulman and their friends hanging around all the time -- said they sensed a story was building.

"That's when I started filming because he would go, 'Pick these packages up, bring them down to the office and slice them open,'" said Ariel. "I thought it would make a cute short film. Simple as that."

The story would become the documentary film "Catfish," a reality thriller that shocked media and moviegoers alike when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Love Affair Starts on Facebook

Within two months, Schulman became Facebook friends with a small throng of Abby's fans, followers and family, including her 19-year-old half-sister Megan. Like Schulman, she was a photographer and he was intrigued by the striking photos of herself which she posted online.

"She was smoking hot, unbelievably sexy ... super beautiful," Schulman said.

Although they were complete strangers, he quickly fell for her.

"I was opening up to Megan in ways that I had not with actual girlfriends that I had had," he told "20/20."

Sexy Text Messages, Passionate Songs Fuel Romance

As part of their virtual courtship, Megan, who was also a talented musician, would write songs for Schulman -- often singing them as duets with her brother and mother, Angela -- and post them on Facebook.

"I would listen and you know, I would melt," he said. "Here's this girl, this beautiful girl, virgin girl in Michigan who's writing me passionate love songs."

The two talked on the phone and exchanged steamy text messages about their attraction.

Megan: My body is craving you tonight

Schulman: What exactly would you do if you had me there?

Megan: Id have you in the tub with me between my legs. Id kiss you on the neck and whisper in your ear begging you to make love to me

Schulman: begging is something you wouldn't have to do ... in fact im willing to bet if anything youd have to beg me to stop

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