The Blair Witch Project 10 Years On with Directors Ed Sanchez and Dan Myrick
10 Years of 1999: The pair share their memories of making and releasing Blair Witch.
1999 was one of the most important years for modern cinema. From defining originals like The Matrix and Fight Club to sleeper favourites like Office Space and Election, 1999 was a landmark year for the internet generation of movie fans and set a high standard for the big screen as we headed into the new millennium. Ten years on, we're celebrating a remarkable twelve months of movies with new features around some of the year's best and most important releases.
Shot on a budget of just $22,000 by film school graduates Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick, The Blair Witch Project premiered at the Sundance Film Festival ten years ago this month and started a journey that dominated public consciousness for most of the year. It was an unprecedented success, holding the world record as the most profitable movie of all time after making more than $10,000 for every $1 spent, and became one of the most important horror films of all time. It spawned a wave of imitators both amateur and professional and is the cultural yardstick against which hoaxes, horrors and movies shot with a camcorder are measured.
Now, ten years on, as RT reveals an exclusive Behind the Scenes featurette revealing how the project was put together, we reunite directors Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick to share their memories of making and releasing the film, as well as their plans for more from the Blair Witch franchise...
Dan and I went to film school in Orlando together and we started hanging out and we really dug each other's films. This was in the early nineties. The Friday the 13th
series had really run its course and Nightmare on Elm Street
was starring Roseanne
and Tom Arnold
. There was a really a lull in horror movies at the time and Dan and I just started talking about the films we really liked and we had a lot in common. We started kicking around the idea of doing a very realistic film about something happening to these explorers and them filming their own journey. The best idea we came up with was for Blair Witch
and at the time it was called The Woods Movie
When Ed and I first got together with the idea we spent quite a bit of time outlining the film from a structural standpoint. We wanted all the story beats to be in there and for it to follow a narrative path, so we had a pretty detailed -- almost hour-to-hour -- shooting outline for what the characters would be going through throughout their journey. We had a pretty good idea of what the characters needed to do, but a looser idea of exactly who they were. Their personalities where what the actors brought to the characters. During shooting it was a very collaborative experience of us guiding them through the woods and allowing them to explore their characters on their own. If they strayed too far off the narrative path, Ed and I used this directors' notes system we worked out to steer them back in the right direction.
Between the actors there were a lot of real arguments and emotions in there. Heather
, in particular, I don't know if it was because of the kind of character she decided to be out there, or if the guys were playing it up a bit, but she did get on Josh
's and Mike
's nerves a lot. We spent some time trying to calm Josh and Mike down and steer Heather into being more accommodating of the guys. But once we got the footage, and there was about 20 hours of footage, a lot of it was them arguing with each other. I'd say about 50%, in fact! We had to whittle it down and create the whole idea that there was tension between Mike and Heather when there was actually a lot more tension between Heather and Josh. That's really where the film was born -- as Dan and I went through all that footage. It could have gone a million ways.
Taking the film to Sundance was, for us, the moment where we got some validation as filmmakers. After all the work, when you get into Sundance you can at least start to feel like you've been accepted. It was a big part of the experience for us and being there for the premiere was really kind-of surreal. We were really thrown into the blender right off the bat. We were the first film that sold there, and the next thing we know we're doing interviews for Premiere magazine and photoshoots and all the rest. It all happened so quickly and it snowballed from there. We were elated, excited, exhausted and complete virgins to this film sales phenomenon that happens at Sundance. That was really when the film took on a national awareness that lead us into Cannes later on, which is when things really went crazy. But Sundance was special because you'll only ever sell your first film once, and there we were, deep in the snow, taking this journey together. Blair just took on a life of its own from there.