Matt Foremski’s Sleuthing Leads to Jessica Rose

    by Mark Glaser
    September 12, 2006

    Ladies and gentlemen, it appears we have a winner of the MediaShift Your Blog Here Contest. I was a bit flustered trying to figure out the mystery behind the Lonelygirl15 series of videos on YouTube, so I started a contest to see who could solve this mystery — and to take my pain away.

    Luckily, it didn’t take long before word starting spreading that Lonelygirl15 was not a home-schooled 16-year-old girl named Bree but instead was an actress named Jessica Rose, who recently moved from New Zealand to Burbank, Calif.

    The major credit for this find goes to one Matt Foremski, the 18-year-old son of Silicon Valley Watcher blogger Tom Foremski, a former Financial Times journalist. Matt set up a special website, LG15.com, to show the world his findings, and his dad Tom helped expose his son’s work on Silicon Valley Watcher.


    I’ll turn over this blog post now to Matt Foremski, who will explain how he cracked the case:

    I was surfing the article on Lonelygirl15 on TMZ.com when I came across a comment that linked to a private MySpace page that was allegedly that of the actress who plays Lonelygirl15. As the profile was set to
    “private,” there was no real info one could glean from the page. However, when I queried Google for that particular MySpace user name, “jeessss426,” I found a Google cache from the page a few months ago when it was still public.

    A lot of the details of the girl’s background clicked for me: She was an actress from a small city in New Zealand who had moved to Burbank recently to act. The name on the profile was “Jessica Rose.” When next I happened to query Google image search for “Jessica Rose New Zealand” I was instantly rewarded with two cached thumbnail photos of Lonelygirl15, a.k.a. Jessica Rose, from a New Zealand talent agency that had since removed the full size versions. A later search on Yahoo on “jeessss426” also turned up a whole load of pictures from her probably forgotten ImageShack account.

    Foremski told me his friend Cody Smith then put together a video for YouTube= explaining the Jessica Rose connection that Foremski had made. As for the younger Foremski’s background:

    I’m eighteen and live in San Francisco. Presently, I’m deferring a semester of college to play around on the Internet. My dad spurred my interest in the idea of blogging and later vlogging; I like the community aspect of it all and the great interactions they engender. Lonelygirl intrigued me from the beginning; the production quality was so good and I knew she’d be a hit. So, I registered the domain, Lg15.com, in early July and let it sit, having just gotten around to building out a small page on Friday.

    Not a bad way to “play around” for a semester, solving the Lonelygirl15 mystery in one fell swoop! Not long after Foremski started publicizing his find online, another YouTube user added his own sleuthing to find more pictures of Jessica Rose. Here’s the story from Myles, who runs FreeJavaChat:


    I did find the pics but it was after [Foremski] posted a link to his site in chat, which showed a link to the cache of what he thought might be her MySpace page. All I did then was search all the comments on a lot of her friend’s pages and eventually found some pics she had posted that were no longer there but led to her Photobucket account. I went to the account and was finally able to get into her NYFA folder where the pics were (pics which have since been deleted). I think the guy from LG15.com [Foremski] deserves the credit and I’m sure he would be thrilled…

    Indeed. Many thanks to everyone for playing, and if you dig up even more details on the gang behind Lonelygirl15, please add your intelligence to the comments section below, and I’ll update this post.

    UPDATE: Tom Foremski has updated the inside story of his son’s scoop on Silicon Valley Watcher. It’s interesting to see how it played out, from people who tried to claim the scoop for themselves to others who still don’t believe in the Jessica Rose connection.

    The elder Foremski makes a great point in the comments of his blog post about assigning credit (which goes around to a lot of people) and the great way citizen media and pro media worked together to crack the case:

    LG15’s identity would have been found out very soon, there were many people who would have got to it, coming at it in different ways. We were lucky to connect the dots first and get it out there. There are many that deserve credit for their online sleuthing and helping in the outing of LG15, especially those that traced Bree’s email address to an IP address owned by the Creative Arts Agency. That was the key fact that knocked the door down…

    Also, this story is not over yet, there is still more work to be done and the online communities will get it done. What is is so great about this LG15 saga, is the cooperative effort to break out and make public information that others tried to keep secret. This saga is a great example of mainstream and citizen media working together, that’s the future of journalism. Mainstream media and blogger media are complementary forces, and all are part of the larger mediasphere.

    UPDATE 2: The jig is up completely as the New York Times and Los Angeles Times ran in-depth reports on the folks behind the cameras who tried in vain to keep their identities a secret. A nice line from the NY Times report:

    The story of how Mr. Flinders, Mr. Beckett [the creators] and Ms. Rose were discovered in spite of their efforts to hide, and prolong the mystery, sheds light on the nature of online wiki-style investigations and manhunts.

    Some interesting points in the LA Times article include that the trio of filmmakers used a shoestring budget to make the series, “Two desk lamps, one broken, an open window and a $130 camera.” The creators said that they changed the storyline based on comments from fans on message boards, but were unprepared for the investigative strength of fans who were seeking their identities.

    “Our hats are off to the really impressive investigators,” LG15 co-creator Greg Goodfried told the LA Times. “We really didn’t know what to do.”

    According to Goodfried, Jessica Rose, the actress who played Lonelygirl15, was out in the open in Los Angeles and was never found out in public. “There is no place better to hide then right in the middle of L.A.,” Goodfried said. “Everyone is so focused on themselves that I guess they don’t even notice.” Or maybe the people focused on their computers and YouTube don’t always see what’s going on out in the real world?

    In the end, I seriously doubt as many people will be interested in the continuing story now that the mystery has been solved about the creators and actress. But I bet a million look-alikes will try to garner similar attention on YouTube and elsewhere.

    Tagged: film investigative reporting lonelygirl15 videos youtube
    • Jim

      I think the guy who posted the link between “Bree” and Jess Rose’s myspace on the tmz comment section deserves most of the credit. After that it was a quick google search away and the jig was up.

    • I’ve been caught up in this “drama” since finding out about the fictional story line (I, like many others have been viewing the lonelygirl15 videos since July). My interest now is not so much the storyline (that was stale long ago), it has always been “why” this YouTuber was so popular? And it really comes down to a couple things – she’s attractive (in a “reachable” girl next door way) and the production value was much better (now we know why).

      Here’s my biggest problem with the whole affair — There are obviously “commercial and commercial-grade” videos on YouTube, and many of these producers take credit for their work (my favorite is “My Drunken Dad”). But the lonelygirl15 videos were deceptive in nature, attempting to deceive watchers, believing these were videos created by “Bree”. It’s the deception that bothers me, not the fact they were “a creation” and I’m surprised that YouTube has not reacted in some way (possibly moving towards forcing a disclosure with each video).

      The cynical part of me says that YouTube funded the “production” to get more people coming to the site – but in reality, I truly believe it’s much less sinister in nature. Just a group of people with an idea – and a fairly inexpensive way to distribute it.

    • Kim
    • So it was fake. So they decieved people. Big deal. What I’m surprised about is that they didn’t try harder to sell something.

    • Jessica
    • kalki

      I clicked on some of her best friends from the cached Jessica Rose MySpace page that is linked from the NYTimes Screens blog. Only one is still open to anyone.

      In an April 3, 2006 comment on her friend Michelle’s MySpace page, Jess Rose mentions an audition that will pay $30,000 for ten months, if she gets it. Wonder if that was the lonelygirl15 job…

    • You left out the Satanism aspects of Lonelygirl15. That is one of the mysteries only slightly veiled. The picture of Aleister Crowley, the candles, ceremony, religious camp.

      The subtle Satanic components, left half exposed for viewers to explore, is the main story here, not the Viral Fraud Marketing “success”.

      There is now a backlash against Consumer Fraud, misrepresentation, lying, con artist scam, toying with the emotions of fans who even emailed “Bree” advice and were concerned about the “poor girl”.

      Is it okay to use deceptive practices and satanic undertones to hook people? Is it okay to lie and evade, as long as you become popular?

      The blogosphere has already decided this issue that is now a topic in the videosphere. The verdict: up with transparency, down with inauthenticity.

    • Rymatica Film Was In The Building! LonelyGirl15…Get At Us! We Miss You Dearly! See, I Told You It Was A Good Idea To Let The World Know! Where Is Our Credit Rose? :(

      Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

    • J

      Normally I’d say it was great he tracked her down, but I actually don’t think it was needed. In fact I’d say the action was immature and overdone. I feel that while her acting seemed realistic, between the lighting, editing tricks, music, untypical fast cut scenes, movie-like clues that were dropped in everywhere, it was fairly obvious they were acting within 3 videos.

      I think most just love to jump on someone if they feel they can be part of the band wagon. A peer issue such as smoking because friends at school did it etc. What? Everyone says she’s fake? Oh, let me put up my youtube video about that so I can get some hits.

      Being that all actors/actresses are not real, and being that the videos were loaded with clues that only the slowest of the slow wouldn’t get, I’m against all the hype from the “slueths”… Which were not that amazing anyway.

      I’m sorry, but I see right through the bull for what it is. Hey, it takes guts to speak out against everyone. But I don’t care if someone says something negative. I really don’t care.

    • pilotbarr

      What’s signifigant here is we seem to have a new art form, mixing reality and entertainment (fantasy) in a new and unpredictable way. The intrigue in unraveling the truth is a story yes, but where is this artform going is the crux of Lonelygirl15. What truly makes it interesting is no one knows where this is all leading.

    • elena ovesen

      take a look

    • Viewer that Care’s

      Whatever is it as long as it is decent and Entertaining… that all that matter… We all have a Dreams. Jessica’s Dream Just happen to be answered.

    • Cesar

      >>What’s signifigant here is we seem to have a new art >>form, mixing reality and entertainment (fantasy) in a >>new and unpredictable way.

      Its called Magic Realism a genre mastered by latinamerican writers… watch… Pan’s Labyrinth

    • Cesar
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