If you stick a bangin’ pouty teen or college-aged girl in front of a webcam, people are going to compare her to Bre. If you make the show she stars in about unraveling a convoluted murder mystery and encourage viewers to play detective, people are going to say you’re a straight up ripoff of lonelygirl15.

Andrew Park and Jato Smith make a decent case for why their 37-part web series, The Hayley Project may at first glance look and feel like it’s another EQAL iteration of the LG15 Universe, but it’s actually far more influenced by Veronica Mars than Aleister Crowley.

In a conversation with Liz at NewTeeVee – and throughout his excellent blog that documents the process and aftermath of creating and distributing an independent web series – Park argues that lonelygirl pioneered a new format, “an overarching style of storytelling – you can call it a genre if you’d like, but the actual content can go in many directions.” Earlier this week, he told me, “we wanted to blend the interactive element of vlog-style fiction with traditional TV format in our series…we really wanted to create a television-esque series that had the tone of teen-oriented genre shows.”

I buy it. Just like every iteration of online-series-with-girl-at-news-desk is going to be considered (by some) a derivative of Rocketboom (i.e. WallstripWebbAlertMobLogic, etc.), every show that uses a webcam as a central storytelling device will be compared to lonelygirl (i.e. Meet Me in the GraveyardSofia’s DiaryChelsey OMG, etc.), regardless of the content.

It’s a curse, and one that probably won’t be broken until the success of a successor eclipses that of the original (which will be really hard to do considering how much more saturated the online video industry is with content today than it was two years ago, but anyways…).

The Hayley Project (which is produced by Dave Evans and Paolo De Dios in addition to Park and Smith) revolves around Hayley (played by Rachel Risen), whose social skills appear to be inversely proportional to her looks and whose best friend, Keira just died. The authorities think it was a suicide, but Hayley doesn’t.

Park explains, “Hayley doesn’t have many real world friends. She’s abrasive and the one friend she could trust was murdered. Since nobody in the real world believes that her friend was murdered, Hayley flips on her webcam and starts to find people on the web who support her as she solves the crime.”

I recently chatted with Rachel Risen to get her take on the The Hayley Project and find out how she became involved:

It’s not my bag, but I’m not ten years younger than I am, nor female. If you’re into cheesy, teenage noir, after a few episodes you may just find yourself helping Hayley solve the murder mystery. Check it out at YouTube.com/HayleyWinters.

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