The master of suspense, the macabre…and marketing?
The Blair Witch Project
...because it's the reason why found-footage movies and tv shows scare the bejesus out of you. There'd be no "Paranormal Activity" if these three "college students" didn't venture out into the Black Hills in Maryland. It took barely any money to produce and ended up making a return on investment that was scarier than the movie itself. Not only did they make their money back, but the success and format of the film allowed them to spawn media tie-ins like books perpetuating the story with reports and interviews, as well as comic books and video games.
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In a review of the movie Roger Ebert said “technology will place the capacity for feature filmmaking into the hands of anyone who is sufficiently motivated, and audiences will not demand traditional ‘production values’ before parting with their money.” "The Blair Witch Project" was the first “indie blockbuster,” grossing over $150 million in its first year. It all comes back to the idea and the story. In this contemporary era, people want to be moved now more than ever. Creators Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez had a very clever idea and a very inexpensive way to shoot it, using Hi-8 video and black and white 16mm film.
The story really began before the movie was released. While editing the film, Myrick and Sanchez populated a website with fake documents and occurrences about the legend, creating a backstory that was believed to be fact. Leveraging the infancy of the internet, they were able to propagate the fabricated “mythology” of Blair Witch during a time where verifying accuracy was still difficult. As a result, fan sites began to pop up and they eventually picked up a bigger marketing spend from Artisan Entertainment. In a New York screening, they filmed audience reactions which they used successfully in later stages of their marketing campaign.
Myrick and Sánchez's unique production method has itself become the stuff of legend. Not only were the actors responsible for shooting the entire film themselves (over the course of eight consecutive days and nights), they had to carry their own equipment and improvised almost all of their lines. Three or four times a day, the directors would write notes to each cast member, sealing them in tubes for their eyes only. Explained Myrick, "we were trying to create an environment for these actors and have this improv come to life and be as realistic as possible. That's what we think really contributed to the unseen fear that's been so very effective."
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