Blog Post

Greg Goodfried, the Professional Amateur

As an early auteur in the online video space, Lonelygirl15 creator Greg Goodfried has very distinct idea of what works and does not work. Which made him the perfect judge, and guest speaker, for this month’s NewTeeVee Pier Screenings event at the Metreon in San Francisco last night.

Liz Gannes interviews Greg Goodfried, one of the creators of Lonelygirl15For Goodfried, it’s not just the web’s interactivity — like his wife spending hours on YouTube sending messages in character to bring in early Lonelygirl viewers — that’s native to producing video online, it’s the aesthetic. He contended a video’s look, the often-shaky handheld shots and low production value, was key to the medium’s epistemological power.

Goodfried was even critical of screenings finalists like Dontcha and Get Engaged Quickly for their high production value, saying it fell somewhere between what we expect from web video and what we expect from the pros. And according to Goodfried, that can be a bad thing.

Goodfried also answered questions about the night’s theme, the intersection of content and advertising. Initially, he said, when Hershey came to the Lonelygirl team and asked to have one of its brands included in an episode, the team was reluctant to betray its audience, and made sure they were OK with the move by asking them in the show forums. “Like 92 percent of the people said: ‘Yeah, go ahead. Do it. If I get to see another Lonelygirl video it’s fine if someone’s chewing a piece of gum.'”

Now, Goodfried’s team has taken the concept to a whole different level, with the integration of a Neutrogena-themed central character. Spencer Gilman, the newest addition to the cast, is being posed as a research scientist at Neutrogena’s research and development department who might hold the key to saving lead character Bree from the bad guys. The skin care company really got into it — even making the apocryphal R&D lab rat employee of the month on its actual company website — Goodfried chuckled to the crowd.

Meanwhile, KateModern, the team’s newest show, a Lonelygirl spinoff based in London, is taking product placement to a new extreme. The show will feature brands like Orange Mobile, P&G, and Microsoft. Goodfried said the 20-person team can now pay all its bills, and is hoping for futher expansion.

“We are trying to become a mini-studio, doing both the production and the distribution end,” Goodfried explained. “We’re also talking to several other countries and the goal is within the next six months to have two or three other shows in other countries. It’s all about staying local,” Goodfriend added, stressing the physicality of the show’s participatory scavenger-hunt style ARG, and telling a story about how the show involved its Southern California viewers in a plot where a character left his fake ID at a bowling alley — leaving a fake ID for fans to find if they visited the actual location.

Would Lonelygirl take the big media buyout? Goodfried said the talent agents at CAA took the team on a tour of all the Hollywood TV producers. The Lonelygirl creators declined to take their development offers, what with the layers of control and more rigid approach as compared to the show’s near-real-time writing and shooting. An audience member (via our live-streaming on Veodia) asked if the Lonelygirl creators would ever take the show as it is to television. He would entertain offers, said Goodfried, but probably wouldn’t want to sacrifice the interactivity of living online.

Pictured: NewTeeVee editor Liz Gannes interviewing Greg Goodfried.

9 Responses to “Greg Goodfried, the Professional Amateur”

  1. Thee Stranger

    I think the major point that everyone seems to overlook is that the success of both Lonelygirl15 and the KFC stems from copying previous viral video success.

    Lonelygirl15’s path to worldwide attention is too similar to emokid21ohio’s (which came out months beforehand) to be a coincidence, and KFC merely mimicked Phil Hansen’s video painting Bruce Lee back in April.

  2. I disagree with setting amateur or low quality as a standard. By it’s nature, any media starts out with hobbyiest and people trying out different approaches of varying quality. Radio had loose amateur operators (and still does), but gained structure and sophistication congruent to it’s media form. Similarly, film or cinema had at start quickly made stories that largely copied theater with over-acting poor camera work or simply comedies like the Keystone Cops.

    It’s a mistake to take how a media starts as it’s standard for how it will evolve and gain in quality.