What do you do when you’ve watched a movie that appears so real that your fear stricken numbed brain starts doubting it being a fictional movie at all? Dive for the covers and clamp your eyes shut hoping for sleep to come, cursing yourself for staying up late and being stupid enough to watch a horror movie all alone. That was what I did the night I watched The Blair Witch Project. The next day, I did a bit of research on it. The finds were assuring…I was not the only person who began doubting that the movie was fictional. So many years after the movie’s release, there still remains widespread myth about it , the reason being a mix of an ingenious marketing campaign by the movie’s makers…..the kind that is still a case study for every ( serious) marketing student, and brilliant movie-making. The whole documentary like look of the film (with one of the characters doing all the shooting i.e. having a film within a film) along with the brilliance and notorious astuteness of its promoters has resulted in many people still swearing on the truth and authenticity of the entire thing.
So, how did the impressive hoax began? Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, two film students at the University of Central Florida in Orlando had the idea of making a fake documentary kindof like the ones that investigative movie-makers make, and over the next few years they wrote an extensive story about a woman, Elly Kedward, who lived in the late 1700’s in Burkittsville, Maryland (formerly known as Blair). Mythology says, she was branded by the locals as a witch, exiled, and then abandoned to the surrounding woods. Since then, strange events occurred in the area, which involved missing or murdered children every 40-60 years.
Sanchez and Myrick added footage of three young film-makers who get lost in the woods while trying to make a film about the legend, to the ‘documentary’ in order to give structure to it and for more dramatic effect. They enlisted three unknown young actors, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams and then enlisted them in a kind of guerrilla filmmaking. They were sent out in the woods, equipped exactly as the characters in the movie (two video cameras and a DAT audio recorder). The actual film-makers remained hidden form their view, about 100 yards away from them and they were asked to do all the filming. The filming went on for eight days and the actors were left detailed instructions every morning in sealed film canisters and were asked to react exactly the way that they would normally do. The actors went on filming without knowing what was next in store for them or what instructions the other actors had received or how they were going to be scared next. So, in essence, the entire film was ad-libbed with no written dialogues, and almost all of it was shot by the actors themselves.