You may have been one of the viewers of the viral YouTube video entitled Drunk Girl in Public (Social Experiment) in which a young and beautiful woman pretends to be drinking beer from a paper bag on Hollywood streets. She stumbles and slurs supposedly attempting to find her way home, and is met by a variety of all-too-eager men who appear to be ready to take advantage of her. While the filmmakers made clear from the start Jennifo Box was merely acting like she was inebriated, they purported that a hidden video camera was capturing random men on the Los Angeles streets–some of whom tried to lure her back to their homes or to a vehicle. The video highlighted the sensitive and dangerous reality that some men may pose a threat to vulnerable women. And after watching the video, many people believed the males involved were disturbing predators; on the other hand, other viewers immediately questioned how these guys would be ready to go with proper mics amidst the noisy city streets, and why they’d ever sign release forms of themselves doing something so despicable.

Well, it turns out the so-called “Social Experiment” was indeed completely staged according to The Smoking Gun. The video’s creator, Stephen Zhang and his assistant Seth Leach are said to have hired Jennifo Box after a Facebook posting reading: “Shooting some videos in LA all day Thursday and need a good actress, tag them/hit me up!” After the video was posted to YouTube, and Jennifo saw the end result was not what she expected, she explained her participation in the project this way via Facebook: “I was just the random actress they hired that day. I had never met them before, and I didn’t even know exactly what we were shooting until I got there, but was told it was a comedic prank show, not this. They hired me as an actress to go pretend to be drunk so I said okay and stumbled off. I had NO idea it would snowball into this.” She’s also come out with a YouTube video clip apologizing for her participation in the project, saying, “Had I known the damaging outcome of this video, I never would have participated.” Box’s video clip makes clear that all of the men who she’s seen with in the video were indeed “perfect gentlemen.”

The men shown in the clip were likewise mislead to believe they were going to be involved in a “funny prank,” and asked to “say a couple of lines for a comedy sketch.” One of the outraged and regretful male actors, Josh Blaine, who drives a Hollywood tour bus said, “I wouldn’t have agreed to it if I knew they were going to make me look like a sexual predator.” 

It’s been reported that Mike Koshak was fired from his job for his involvement in the video because he was wearing a logo of the company for which he works on his t-shirt and hat. When Koshak complained to the filmmakers about how he was falsely presented, Leach sent him a private Facebook message promising him a night of free drinks, saying that the video “is going to get you well known and have a future with us and our company,” and urging him to, “Just go with it dude, you are in our team now and we will take care of you.”

Another of the supposedly shady men featured in the video is actually a bucket-playing street musician known as Ashtray. He now is warning others about how to avoid such trouble. “I tell most people, like if somebody approaches you, make sure you know exactly the medium in which they gonna put it in. And if you don’t know the medium in which they put it in, then don’t do it,” he asserts.

The viral video has since been taken down from YouTube, but it’s not the end for the Zhang-Leach filmmaking team. Leach boasted on Facebook that the clip was “on the homepage of pretty much every news and media website you can think of.” Then he enthusiastically informed readers that they’re “heading out to LA again tomorrow and creating some more viral videos for your viewing and learning pleasure.”

In other words, fine and reputable thespians, consider yourselves warned! This story serves as a reminder to gather as much information as possible about a project, the names of the producers, casting director, director, and the location when answering a casting notice. Don’t hesitate to do a google search for any pertinent information. If something seems unclear, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If those involved evade your questions, then they may be hiding something. Most of all, use your instincts. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, or strikes you as a false promise, then it’s likely something to avoid.