By JUSTIN YOUNG
In 1999, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT crawled forth from the woods of Burkittsville and onto the silver screen. Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, the folklore-fueled feature took the Sundance Film Festival by storm. The organic nature of film’s world-building in addition to the turbulent technological evolution taking place at the turn of the century produced a reaction on the screen and in theaters that is still seemingly impossible to replicate. Rue Morgue sat down with the film’s co-writer and co-director Daniel Myrick to discuss the legacy of the witch.
Since the advent of BLAIR WITCH and the modern horror renaissance we’ve seen a resurgence of two sub-genres. The first being the found footage film which has seen hundreds of entries since ‘99. The other and more recent is folk horror a la The Witch and Midsommar. Were you consciously channeling these genres when you created THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and what do you think of these ideas as they stand today?
We’ve always liked the idea of exploring some of the poignant story episodes within the mythology. The origin story of Elly Kedward or even a black and white noir of Rustin Parr’s atrocities are two examples. Unfortunately, LG hasn’t embraced that approach, but we’re still hopeful, that one day they will.
In our previous conversation together you said the advice you would give to a young filmmaker would be to first focus on story and character – with THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, what attributes and traits were you guys trying to express through Heather, Josh, and Mike?
Mainly we wanted to make sure that these characters were real and relatable with distinct personalities. Also, injecting a little levity in the beginning of the film helps out tremendously with the audience liking these folks, thus making the later scenes when they’re suffering much more impactful. This is all in the writing, character arcs and of course, the performances.
You’ve said the first two years after BLAIR were a blur for you, and rightfully so. What are some of the more prominent memories that you reflect on, such as at the premiere at the Sundance Festival and onward into the initial surge of success?
The first screening at the Egyptian Theater was special. Certainly nerve-racking, but once it was all over and we sold the film that evening, we were able to relax more and just go for the ride. It wasn’t until Cannes, when Ed and I were watching Artist (our distributor at the time) throw a party on the beach with a 100 or so trees shipped in to create a ‘woods backdrop’ that we realized things were getting crazy.
How would you make THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT today? With the increased reach of technology and social media, the need for secrecy and a closed-mouth production, do you think it would have the same effect?
Hard to say both in terms of the film itself and the way we marketed it. We were right at the beginning of cell phone technology being so ubiquitous and the internet getting up to speed, so we had the advantage of people not having set expectations. Main thing for us is that we wanted to make a film that was actually scary. Not in a joking, self-referential way; but actually old-school scary. So, I believe no matter what time you decide to make a film, if it delivers for the audience on its promise, then it will be a success.
What can you tell us about your Black Veil horror anthology project?
Black Veil is a horror anthology series set within a Southern Gothic motif. We’ve got two episodes in the can and will be shooting more in the coming months. We hope it will be part of an original content offering that will be part of an overall horror portal plan.
What else is on the horizon for Daniel Myrick? Are there any other impending projects that you can share with us?
Outside of Black Veil, I’m attached to several projects now that are being shopped an I’m currently writing a comedy/horror script called Bailey and the Beast, which I plan to have ready to shop this year. Very excited about taking a different spin on what I’ve done before.
You can learn more about the Black Veil project here.