Now 20 years after its release, The Blair Witch Project has attained mythical status. A scrappy little movie made for $60,000 with old cameras and without a fully fleshed-out script, it took advantage of the nascent internet to construct a whisper campaign that led to a global smash hit.
The story of the film's unprecedented success generally begins at Sundance, where it became an overnight sensation after a midnight screening, assisted by early grassroots marketing that suggested the actors in the found-footage horror flick were actually missing persons and the movie really was a documentary. The movie was quickly scooped up by a distributor with a fat million dollar check and plans for an innovative advertising campaign. There were plenty of consultants that wound up working on the project, but much of the credit should go to co-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, who not only conceived of the idea nearly a decade before it hit theaters, but drove much of the unprecedented marketing for it as well.
In fact, even before they made the movie, they were relying on buzz and word of mouth.
"We produced a little eight-minute proof of concept video in Orlando," Myrick remembered in a new episode of The Fandom Files. "Its intention was to get a room full of doctors or dentists who give us money for the movie. "So we did a little kind of mini version of the conceit, that it was a found-footage film and that we were going to get our hands on this footage and local authorities were doing a search for the kids. We called the investors reel and it ultimately aired on John Pearson's Split Screen show on Bravo in his first season. So we were going in with that sort of fact or fiction conceit way early on, and by the time we got to Sundance it was firmly established."
Myrick offers any more details in the half-hour interview, and will be presenting the movie during a special Q&A screening at the Austin Film Festival this weekend.
To contact us about the podcast — or to nominate yourself or someone else as a future guest! — feel free to drop us an e-mail or tweet at us. And if you like what you hear, please be sure to rate and review us on iTunes!