She intrigued the hearts and minds of millions over the Internet. Sixteen-year-old Bree -- screen name Lonelygirl15 -- talked candidly to strangers by webcam from the comfort of her own bedroom.
She spoke about her strict parents, about being homeschooled, the guy named Daniel who liked her, and she even quoted the poetry of e.e. cummings.
She made faces like a goofball and adored both her purple stuffed monkey and astrophysicist Richard Feynman. All these details made her an Internet soul mate for the Web-bound around the world.
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She was the girl-next-door with depth and enough warm vulnerability to push atop the clutter of YouTube. And the moment she appeared, thousands reached out just to be her friend.
Little did her fans know, Lonelygirl15 wasn't real. Bree was complete fiction.
Bree was actually Jessica Rose, a 19-year-old fledgling actress from New Zealand. Her character was the creation of a doctor, lawyer and screenwriter, and her bedroom confessional was inside a Los Angeles bachelor pad.
Lonelygirl15 was not just a hoax or a cynical marketing ploy. These guys actually set out to redefine entertainment in the digital age.
Much the way Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" used the new technology of radio to grab an audience, the three minds who created her wanted to explore the storytelling possibilities of this new medium.
"There was something really compelling about somebody sitting in front of the camera and talking about their life, and I thought about sort of the constraints of that medium and the opportunity to take a traditional narrative story and split it up over multiple videos in the life of a video blogger," said Miles Beckett, a former doctor and business partner of Lonelygirl15.
Their vision: a tense mystery in the vein of the TV hit "Lost" that would play out over months in the form of short video monlogues and online chats. They wrote a script, arranged a casting call and in walked a girl who had only been on two auditions in her life.
"When Jessica walked in the door we knew we had our Lonelygirl," said 27-year-old Mesh Flinders, one of the creators of Lonelygirl15.
When Rose heard they were looking for an actress to do a movie on the Internet, she said she wanted to just drive away.
"It was tough. It was funny because at the time nobody really knew about YouTube and of course Internet video. What the heck is Internet video? It didn't really exist in any capacity at that time," said Beckett.
Rose said he assured her that they weren't scam artists and they weren't doing porn.
But it was the lowest of low-budget Hollywood. Beckett said he spent $130 on the first Lonelygirl production, the cost of a webcam.
They rigged up a broken desk lamp for light and searched thrift shops and Target to turn the bedroom of a 27-year-old guy into that of a 16-year-old girl.
Describes Her First Blog
Lonelygirl's first blog was more than just raw and unscripted. It was rough and needed a lot of work. "Hi guys, um, so this is my first video blog, um. I've been watching for a while and I really like a lot of you guys on here."
Two weeks after her debut, Bree went from a pretty face to a real person, describing the heartbreak after her parents refused to let her go for a hike with her friend Daniel.
Lonelygirl's next video log, "My Parents Suck," said: "I think I'm a pretty decent person. I understand that we have certain beliefs and that means I can't do the same things as other kids all the time."
People looked at it and they said, "Oh wow, here's a girl and I may not relate to her specific problems but here's a problem that I really can relate to. Here's her with her boyfriend, and even if I can't relate to that specific problem I can relate to that angst," Flinders said.
Within hours, it registered half a million views -- the size of a good cable audience.
"I remember I was actually at a barbecue with friends on a sailboat in Marina del Rey, and I was just sitting under the stars thinking, 'Wow, I think that this might actually work out," Beckett said.
"Yeah, and I knew those numbers going into it so when that number came up, I was like, 'wow, this is amazing,'" Beckett said.
The phenomenon grew. There were tribute and parody sites. A band in Montreal built an exact replica of Bree's room for a music video. Bree received so many e-mails, the guys were forced to bring in Greg's wife -- an entertainment lawyer -- to assume her online identity.
From High Hits to Trouble Looming
Before long, this humble room became one of the most examined sets in the history of Internet entertainment. Sharp-eyed fans noticed the one clue placed by the storytellers early on -- a picture of Alistair Crowley, master of the occult.
This decidedly dark twist touched off a furious online debate over the religion of Bree's parents.
"My parents promised that they would go talk to some of the deacons and tell them that I'm not going through with the ceremony," Bree said.
And gaining force on the Internet message boards were the skeptics -- fans who believed Bree might be too good to be true.
"You know real early on. I'd have to say the second or third video, we would have people commenting right on the page saying 'fake' or 'actress.' And me personally, when I came onboard I said, 'What you can't do ever ... you can't ever lie to people.' If people say to you, 'Are you an actress?' 'Are you fake?' you can't say no. You can ignore it," Greg said.
"There were multiple points of speculation, but they ranged from 'this is an advertising campaign for X product.' They didn't know what product," Beckett said. "Target was one, which we went to because it wasn't that expensive. They thought it was an ad campaign for purple monkey puppets. They thought it was an ad campaign for pink feather boas. They thought crazy things like maybe it will be an ad campaign for Coca-Cola further down the road."
Eventually, a trio of Web sleuths tracked Bree to lawyer Amanda Solomon's office at Hollywood's esteemed Creative Artists Agency. People suddenly assumed Lonelygirl was some sort of Hollywood project -- a TV show or movie like "The Blair Witch Project."
The truth was that even the creators weren't sure what they wanted. Flinders and Beckett admit they had "absolutely no plan."
But wasn't there a sense of betrayal for all those computer geeks out there who thought they had found their soul mate in this gorgeous young lady who loved Richard Feyman and e.e. cummings? Even Beckett said he's disappointed.
"I think I'm still looking for that girl," he said.
People didn't demonstrate any backlash. Flinders says viewership actually tripled in just a week.
"There was initial anger, but people got over it and stayed fans," Amanda said.
Although the Lonelygirl15 crew is on the cover of "Wired" magazine this month, and they have plenty of meetings with agents and producers, the goal is to stay relevant for a long time.
And of course, how will they make money on it? They say they don't have that answer right now.
"We are still draining our savings accounts and maxing out our credit cards," Beckett said. "We actually recently put up a donation button on our Web site because our fans told us to. Because we told them we were running out of money, and through the generosity of our fans we can actually pay our actors, who are the only people who are getting paid right now."
Pursued by her parent's cult, Lonelygirl15 has now fled home, forced to check in with the audience from seedy motel rooms.
"We look at it as we've created a popular show, so we have no intention of letting that popular show go away anytime," said Greg Goodfried, an entertainment lawyer and Solomon's husband. "We have plot points built out for a very long time, and multiple characters coming in, and we want the show to live for as long as the fans want to watch it."
In otherwords, users will get to watch Bree grow up.