Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Making of The Blair Witch Project

For my upcoming book on The Blair Witch Project, commissioned for the Auteur Devil's Advocate series on classic horror films, I am currently writing a chapter on the production of the film. It's likely a story you have heard a thousand times before but I've been completely immersing myself in research for the last couple of weeks and finding out more all the time.

The directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick took what they called a 'method directing' approach. The level of improvisation they demanded from their actors Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams is astounding. The torment, anxiety and discomfort the cast went through while shooting the film is now legendary.

It's got me thinking how many of these Blair Witch imitators these days actually try to achieve a similar effect. Blair Witch was all shot by the stars. I'm sure this is not the case with most other found footage films. I know for a fact films like REC and Cloverfield did not use this technique.

Is this why Blair Witch was so successful? Is the realism created by the production process the reason for its phenomenal success or was it more a case of being the first on the scene to try the found footage thing since Cannibal Holocaust?

I'm reading some fascinating interviews with the stars of Blair Witch in which they go into great detail about what happened on the grueling shoot of the film. To me, it is absolutely fascinating stuff. It's the kind of film I wished I'd made, not just because it made a ton of money but because I love the idea of totally immersing your actors in an experience and making them improvise. The stimulus that the directors provided should have made 'acting' an easier task for the cast. Not having to wait hours for the camera and lighting departments to set up must have been a dream come true for the actors too.

I don't want to reveal all the details of what is in the chapter but suffice to say it's looking like it will be around 5000 words and if you think you know the full story of the making of The Blair Witch Project, then I assure you that it is unlikely you do. I hope you might buy the book when it gets published, hopefully maybe by the end of this year or early 2014!