Creating Modern Ghost Stories: The Blair Witch Project

Creating Modern Ghost Stories: The Blair Witch Project


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington D.C. [ Applause ]>>Roswell Encina:
Good evening everyone. I’m Roswell Encina. I’m the Chief Communications
Officer for the Library of Congress and I want to welcome you all to
the Library of Congress tonight, for our very first LC Halloween. So, if you haven’t seen
our new popup exhibit, it’s really spooky and amazing. So, it shows the Library’s
Houdini collection. We have a day of the
dead collection. And all these other
ghoulish ghost stories. We’d love you to come back
tomorrow and look at it. Um, we started this pop-up, um, series earlier this year during
the Inauguration that we graduated to a Pride exhibit to
an awesome Con exhibit where we feature the Library’s
largest comic book collection. And we decided, you know,
who doesn’t love Halloween? So, we decided to do this
marvelous exhibit upstairs. So, it goes until November 1st. So, we’re hoping that you
come back to the Library. Bring your friends, you
know, it’s the best way to celebrate Halloween
this year at the Library. Also, if you have nothing
going on tomorrow afternoon, please come back we’re
showing ‘Hocus Pocus’. It doesn’t scream Halloween
more without ‘Hocus Pocus’. So, we would love you to come back. And there are other great events
coming up to the Library of Congress in the next couple of weeks. We have Christopher
Nolan here next week. He’s discussing his film making
process from ‘Dunkirk’ to ‘Memento’, so we’re looking forward to that. And, a long list of other great
programs coming to the Library. So, please go to loc.gov for
a long list of these programs. And, these programs
would not be possible without our generous sponsors, so
if you enjoy these free events, we encourage you to
go to loc.gov/donate. I know why you’re all here
tonight, you’re not hear to listen to me talk about, you know, our housekeeping stuff
here at the Library. So, let’s get to it. In 1999 the most successful
independent film was released to America. We all thought it was
real, we all got scared. It was made with only $60,000 and
it generated more than $250 million. So, we’re very lucky and very
fortunate tonight to have some of the film makers part of
the ‘Blair Witch Project’. So, please welcome Eduardo
Sanchez the co-director, Mike Monello the co-producer, and
Julia Myrick– I love her title– she’s history fabricator. Please welcome them here to the
Library of Congress tonight. [ Applause ] Welcome.>>Julia Myrick: Thank you.>>Roswell Encina: I can’t believe
it’s been almost 20 years and I have to be honest, when this movie
first came out it shared, it scared the, out of me. I mean. Last time I
saw it was in 1999. I had to re-watch, I re-watched
it today and I have to be honest, I was a little scared
to watch it again. Because the first time I
watched it, I couldn’t, you know, sleep for the next couple of days. So, I’m a little nervous
what’s going to happen to me when I go back tonight. Um, did you ever imagine
you’d be talking about this film 20 years later?>>Eduardo Sanchez:
No, absolutely not. I mean, you know, when we did it, I
mean we knew we had something cool and we knew that, you know,
everybody we pitched it to was, you know, got excited and, and it
seemed like it was our best idea. But, no, I’m we just hoped for,
you know, a little video deal maybe and just enough money
for the next film. So, and then once it blew up it
was kind of, like Mike and I would, you know, we’d always, you
know, we shared an office and we would just come in every
day, like a different thing. Like what? Did you see this? I remember when he came in and
brought the cover of Time Magazine, it was just like, it looked like
one of those Time Magazine’s you do at like Ocean City, you put
yourself in the [laughter]. You know, I was like, so yeah, I
mean it was a complete surprise. And, and, also just the fact
that people are still talking about it is just amazing.>>Roswell Encina: You know, um,
where did this idea come from? I always wondered like, was it
based on some other folk lore? Did you just make this
whole witch legend up?>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah, I mean,
the whole thing was that we wanted to make this ah, you know, this ah,
fictional, ah, mythology of just, ah, something in the woods. We didn’t know what it was at first. We thought that maybe it was
something evil and eventually, we were like, well it
kind of had to be a witch, that’s really the only kind
of thing that, you know, from the Salem Witch
Trials, we tried to kind of connect those kinds of things. And then we let, just kind of
this, this, the support team, kind of build the mythology
and they went to work and Juliette can tell
you more about that.>>Julia Myrick: Um, well, I
mean I think that you find is, is the you had Dan
and Ed who was like, ok here’s our major points, right. Something happens every 50
years was I think the thing that you came up with.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah.>>Julia Myrick: We know
that this, in 1780 and 1820 and I can’t even remember
the dates, it’s been so long. And then Ben came in, myself
and Christian Gueverra, we were the three kind
of history fabricators. Ben really loved the Blair Witch. He’s a super horror maven and
I think one of the lucky things through the process was, when you
love ghost stories you tell ghost stories the right way. And then you’re like
ok and then bring in some other people I
need this flushed out. The audience was asking for answers. And so, then you bring up, well how
would I find the answer to this? Let me go look up in a history book
and let me say what I want to say to you based on what I would’ve
found in a history book.>>Roswell Encina: Roger Ebert, his review was “This
movie was ingenious”. And I think it was. I think like everyone else here,
we all thought it was real. There were posters going up
that these hikers were missing. So, I walked in and left that
movie thinking, “Oh my gosh, two hours down the road, this, you
know, these hikers are missing, and I could be the next victim.” Um, was this intentional, that
you wanted to make it feel like it, if it was a real thing?>>Julia Myrick: Well I mean
I think that’s what you get with Bloody Mary, right. I mean even when you’re
six years old, you’re like Bloody Mary
is really in the mirror, Bloody Mary is really
going to kill you. You never, you never tell another
six-year-old it’s all not a real story. This is playing on your fears,
if you put this on the mirror and in your head, you
imagine it, you’re never going to tell a story that way. So, you want people to be terrified. You want them to believe
this is true. So, of course you’re like,
“This really happened”. And the first time I heard about
it, um, IndieWire had come out, they hadn’t even shot a
single piece of footage yet, and Ed and Dan had come
up with this videotape and it said this is a history
of the Township of Blair. And there was this zucchini
festival and they had. They were trying to raise money.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah, it
was like our investor take, which kind of laid out the story,
a little bit of the history and then what happened
to the three film makers. And, you know, that Haxan Films,
which is the company that we have, when we had at the time, um,
was, was, got the footage, the rights to the footage. And now we’re editing it together,
so, yeah, it was, [inaudible] was like trying to kind of
recapture like the fear that Dan and I had while watching like
‘In Search Of’ or like any kind of pseudo-documentary like
“Legend of Boggy Creek”. Um, even “Chair of the Gods”, like
there’s these, these films that, you know, just the idea that
it could be real for us, was, was kind of the thing that, that
kind of fueled us to come to figure out what, you know, the
whole ‘Blair Witch’ thing. But yeah, we wanted it to feel real. We wanted nothing in the
movie to, to like, um, to give up the fact
that it was not real. Like we didn’t want any,
like crazy special effects, or crazy lighting or
anything like that. We wanted it to be
like, totally 100% real.>>Mike Monello: Yeah, you
know, to your question, there was definitely
not an intension to make people think it was
truly real and I think the fact that it’s very easy to shoot,
to prove that there no Township of Blair, [chuckles] Maryland. So, there are clearly
fictional elements that you would not have
done if you were trying to actually create a
hoax, in that sense. I think it was, it was definitely
more like, let’s, let’s, let’s talk, let’s talk to the audience. Let’s tell this story
in a very realistic way. And, and, that goes to when the
footage came back from the shoot and Ed and Dan started
assembling it, you know. I remember Ed was very
much like “I’m just. We’re just.” The plan was just for them, these guys to cut an
assembly of the footage. And, and just keep everything
that felt authentic and real. And get rid of anything
that felt fake. Any lines of dialogue
that didn’t work. So, the first assembly of the film
which was I don’t know, how long? It was just, was, was,
not an assembly to try to create a narrative or
anything, it was just, let’s just take what’s
good and what’s real and then we’ll work from there.>>Roswell Encina:
I think what made it so effective was the
sound footage technique. I mean it’s not the first
time it’s ever been use, but I think ‘Blair Witch’
really made it very popular. Like, I mean years
later, “Cloverfield” and “Paranormal Activity”
used the same thing. But, it just didn’t have
the same kind of oomph, like what the ‘Blair Witch’ did. As I know, I thought it was real. I thought it was actually
like a documentary. But think using that technique
and not have to be, like, honest, marketing of the film really helped
it, catapult it to where it is.>>Julia Myrick: Well, and I think
there’s, what’s interesting is, I think there’s a lot of chances and
I think this is true of every film, for it to all go terribly wrong. And, and from the very
beginning it was supposed to a little bit more fictional
in feel, you were going to, what became the ‘Curse
of the Blair Witch’. We’re like, ok, we’re
going to shoot this, kind of narrative documentary
sort of stuff, oh here’s this part of the story, and now we’re
going to go to found footage, here’s the story, now we’re
going to go to the found footage. And then through the process. And it was a year, wasn’t it? Of editing?>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah,
it was, yeah, it was like. Yeah, nine months.>>Julia Myrick: It was like
a year of editing and it kept on coming back it’s less
entertaining, it’s less emotional, it’s less scary, whenever
we bring in more things. And there was a big debate about
it and we had outsiders come in and look at it, other people who had
really good taste, and you’re like, I think you’re just going to
have this, play it straight. Because it’s much more
compelling, it’s much scarier, and the fact that you’re
not really sure, like, once it feels more jazzed up,
more formal, you’re like ok now, I’ve been removed from the story.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah, it’s
harder to believe, you know. Like, yeah, because,
because the original idea for the movie was going to
be a straight up documentary about examining the footage
of these three filmmakers in the woods and then.>>Roswell Encina: It was
going to be more like ‘Curse of the Blair Witch’ ended up.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah, I mean, it
really was like an in-search episode or documentary about this, you know.>>Roswell Encina: The decision
to make it what it is now?>>Julia Myrick: Probably towards
the end of that year of editing.>>Eduardo Sanchez:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.>>Mike Monello: It was a process.>>Eduardo Sanchez:
Well we realized. Realized.>>Mike Monello: This
slow realization.>>Eduardo Sanchez: We realized that
the documentary stuff was getting in the way of the footage you know. And every time we came out, we
got out, came away from the kids, you know, the people in the
woods, not that it wasn’t boring, it was boring, but it kind
of like pulled the tension out of the movie, you know. So, we were like, let’s
just play the whole thing and just see what happens you know.>>Mike Monello: What I think to
your point about ‘Cloverfield’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’, I think
that one thing that’s interesting, and I, you know, when, when
we got invited to do this, I kind of thought “Oh I should” —
my kids hadn’t seen anything related to Blair Witch before this–
and so I thought “Well, I’ll show them the Cure
of the Blair Witch”. And I hadn’t seen it since,
since we made it and um, as I was watching it I thought this
is deeply weird for TV even today. [Laughter] Class of 1999. And I remember thinking it
was much more traditional in documentary style,
but really, like, it starts off with no explanation
and just kind of dives in. And the film does that too. And I think the difference is
that, you know, as Ed was saying, the film as it exists now was
not intended to exist that way. So, the found footage can, wasn’t
meant to carry the entire film. And I think something happens
where it feels, it feels very real because it’s not, it doesn’t
work like a standard narrative versus like, those other
movies where they’re thinking of the entire film as found footage. So, they’re feeling much closer
to a traditional narrative art.>>Roswell Encina: Now, the three
major players here are the actors. Um, when I was watching it the first
time and when I re-watched it, um, watching it the first time
I thought it was real. So, now at least I
know it isn’t clearly. Um, did they play a key role,
was it, which was improved, did you have to teach
them how to use a camera? Which, were they really
operating the camera?>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah, we had like a little
mini film camp for them. Like a little film school. Um, where we kind of showed them. We’re using a Hi8 video camera,
which is basically slap the tape in and, you know, go,
and start taping. We had to tell Heather, after the
first day of shooting, like zoom, make sure you zoom out,
because she was walking around with the camera zoomed
in and it was even shakier than [chuckles] ah,
than the movie ended up. It was just too much. So, there was like little things
like that that we had to tell them. And then we were using a CP16 film
camera, and we kind of taught Josh, who was supposed to be the camera
man, a little bit about that. About how to you know,
run it and stuff. But, um, yeah, you know, they were,
they were actors and you know, so we had to kind of train them,
not only on you know, the equipment, but also on mythology, like. You know Heather was supposed to
be an expert on the Blair Witch. So, the mythology that we had built
we basically gave it to her to, to, you know, exploit throughout
the movie, to just bring it up.>>Roswell Encina: How was the
process of casting the actors? I mean you had to pick completely
unknowns, there’s not, you know, you couldn’t hire Gwyneth Paltrow,
you know, or your Brad Pitt to play.>>Eduardo Sanchez: No,
it wouldn’t have worked.>>Mike Monello: It couldn’t,
no couldn’t have cast it.>>Julia Myrick: And we didn’t
have the money [laughter].>>Eduardo Sanchez: No
that wouldn’t have worked.>>Mike Monello: For
a lot of reasons.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah. No, we just, we went
to New York mostly. We auditioned here,
we auditioned in L.A., we auditioned in Orlando,
where we were based. But um, New York, you know, the
New York talent is where like the, just the unsinged talent
is, that’s where, where really, where
it’s concentrated. So, we auditioned about
1,000 people. Um, and we were just looking for
like really, like good people. People who could really improve
well and like really feel like, like you were really, like they
were a, like they were real. You know, that’s whole thing. Just do these people sound
like they’re saying lines? Or are they really just talking? And we didn’t write any dialogue
in the movie, in the script. So, we know it was
going to be improvised. So, we just picked the right
actors really, you know.>>Julia Myrick: And the best
part of the story was, you know, they immediately walked
into a fictional moment. So, you, they, Heather
walked into the, I think it was the prison
guard thing, so that she went into the elevator it said “This
is the-” what panel was it?>>Eduardo Sanchez: Oh.>>Julia Myrick: It
was like if you’re, oh! “Parole, Probation Board”.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Oh,
right, right, right.>>Julia Myrick: They go in and
they’re like “Why should you? You committed this murder. You’ve shown no remorse. Please explain why we should let you
back out to the general population?” And there’s no warning right. You’re just walking
into an improved moment. And she was like “Well
you shouldn’t let me out.”>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah, I mean
that’s thing, you really found out exactly who was good
and who was not so good at improves in the auditions. But we just throw as many
curve balls at them as possible and switched the situations up and
just see what they came up with.>>Roswell Encina: Let’s
talk about the story itself. I was told about, you know, it’s probably the most legendary
ghost story in cinema right now. What was the process
of creating this story? How did you know, did it
evolve from a basic ghost story to a faux documentary almost?>>Julia Myrick: Well, I feel
like, I mean, so it’s um, it ends up being a multi-step
process because you start off with what compels you right. So, Dan and Ed were like, their first issue was what will
you believe that you can see that, that we can justify spending
no money on the camera work. Because the fatal flaw
in all student films, is the camera work is terrible. And so, you’re like so how can
you make that weakness a strength? So, they went out there and it’s
going to be the ‘Blair Witch’, we’re going to, get this back story
and then once we started editing it and it came out on-this
is what we were talking about the other day-split screen. Then split screen people were
like “What is this story? Is this a true story? You have to tell me more about it.” And John Pierson who really
gave ‘Blair’ its original break, premiered it on split screen,
opened up his bulletin board system, which was supposed to have
been in [inaudible] film. And then everybody was like “I
need to know about this witch. What is thing about Burkittsville? Do you have the footage? We want to know more.” And then we had to launch a website. And then the website
had to develop answers to all these questions
that everybody had.>>Roswell Encina: This is 1999,
I mean there was no such thing.>>Julia Myrick: It was the
year before the film came out.>>Eduardo Sanchez:
No there was nothing.>>Mike Monello: So, it was
before the film was even edited.>>Roswell Encina: So, like do you
think a movie like this would be as successful as it was in 1999? In the world of, you know, Twitter
and Facebook, when you know, in a 10-minute period people could
say that “Oh, this is not real. There’s no real Blair
Witch out there.” “There’s no missing hikers.”>>Mike Monello: It
can be, you know, I mean the whole is it real is it
not real angle would not fly at all. But I think we still
see that people want to play along with great stories. In particular great ghost stories. So, I think it could be done. It wouldn’t be done the same way. I think the story wouldn’t
necessarily be told the same way, but absolutely, like when you look at internet myths like
‘Slender Man’. I think that’s an example of
people participating in a, in a new kind of ghost
story mythology, um, um, in very interesting ways. In very similar ways that people
did originally around ‘Blair Witch’, particularly in that period of
time between the website launching and the movie premiering at
Sundance and then that you know, from Sundance to when
it premiered in cinemas which was practically a full year.>>Roswell Encina: I mean USA Today
said this is probably the first movie that ever went viral.>>Julia Myrick: Right.>>Roswell Encina: Especially how
technology was in 1999 and or 1998 and 1999 compared to what it is now.>>Julia Myrick: Right.>>Roswell Encina: So, how do you,
how do you feel how the viewers or the audience reacted
after watching it?>>Julia Myrick: You’re
going to have to answer that question [chuckles].>>Mike Monello: About going viral?>>Roswell Encina: Yes. Or like the response that
you got from the audience after they saw this movie?>>Mike Monello: Well,
I don’t know, for me, I suspect we’ll have different
answers because we got, the, the, I have very, like, like, I
think to a lot of people, particularly Hollywood, ‘Blair
Witch’ came out of nowhere. Right and just, and
they, it didn’t get on their radar until maybe Sundance. But for us by the time we
were at Sundance, right, like I remember distinctly it was
a midnight screening, the premier, and we were there and I had been to
Sundance a couple of times before because I worked at a film festival. And, so I knew the environment. And we’re standing there at the
midnight screening and the, the, if you’ve ever been, there’s
like the film had sold out before the festival started. And they, you do a standby line. And it was midnight and the
film was, the screening in, in, in Salt Lake City later that week,
and that screening hadn’t sold out. The standby line to see it at
midnight at the premier was packed!>>Roswell Encina: What does
standby line mean, just in case?>>Mike Monello: The standby
line is like, the film sold out, but there’s pass holders, so they
sell standby lines, you get in line and you get a number and then
if, if somebody, if a certain, pass holders don’t show up, and
there’s 15 or 20 seats open, they let 15 or 20 people in. Which would be a large number. Of people to get let in. There were like I don’t
know like a 100.>>Eduardo Sanchez: A
lot, there was a lot.>>Mike Monello: And
they were students. They were college students,
they were high school kids. Who you never see come up, up
the mountain and to the festival.>>Roswell Encina: Do you
think helped spread the word?>>Mike Monello: Well, we knew, we
knew that was from the word of mouth that had been going on for like six
months before we got to Sundance. I mean, I even, we were
talking there and we said “Look, if we don’t get a deal that we
like, we can four wall this. I remember telling you. I said we can four wall
the theaters and make our, our, investors’ money back.” Just because we’ve
already built an audience. But nobody, nobody, none
of the distributors walking in really understood and when
Artisan bought the film they actually, the, the, they said that
there was a split in the company with the older executives
going “We don’t get it?” And all the younger executives
going “We have to buy this film!” Because they had been
following it on the website. And um, and the, the, one of
the co-presidents said that, what sent him over the line
and decided to buy to it, was actually he noticed that split. And when he was the
split, the age split, he realized that something
was happening that he just hadn’t
seen and went with it.>>Julia Myrick: Well
and I think to speak to what Mike said a
little bit earlier, I don’t know if anybody
has kids that do Minecraft?>>Roswell Encina: Probably is.>>Julia Myrick: And there’s,
there’s a ghost story. Do you know this ghost
story in Minecraft? Who is that guy again? With the eyes?>>Mike Monello: Oh,
I don’t know that one.>>Julia Myrick: So,
so, it’s this myth that the coder had put a secret
evil inside Minecraft and there’s, oh I wish I could remember his name. But, all of my son’s
friends knew about it. And the it became an excuse of
“I didn’t blow up your world! That evil ghost blew up your world.” And because of my history, my
son’s world got blown up “Oh, I don’t know who blew
up your son’s village. It wasn’t me. It was, I saw, I saw
this evil character. That’s in the code.” So, I sat them down and
I’m like “Let me explain to you how a viral myth starts. And how you cannot use a viral
myth on me to lie about blowing up my child’s [chuckles] village.” But looking at that
again, like, in some ways, I’m like oh you can’t do this again,
because the audience is too savvy, but my son’s not too savvy, he’s like I think maybe this evil
ghost inside Minecraft actually did it. And I’m like, no. You want to believe that. Everybody else has picked it up. Every twelve-year-old boy is
like this is true, I’ve seen it, I’m going to perpetuate the myth. I witnessed it, my story
is also a true story. So, I think, we, we’re
constantly doing this to ourselves.>>Roswell Encina: Were you
guys ready for the tsunami that happened when
the movie came out? I remember watch the cast on the
Tonight Show and they were all kind of like deer in the headlights
of what was happening. How did you guys react to it?>>Eduardo Sanchez: It was, you
know, it was just like a crazy ride and it was, it was like one thing
after another and we kind of became like a little bit desensitized
to it. And I think that the fact that we
were um, you know, there was five of us in the company and then
there was other people all around us that had. You know, we had really built
this movie up as a community. Um, I think that was the reason
that nobody kind of lost themselves and like went off and to L.A.
and like, became you know, you know this crazy, you
know, Hollywood person. You know, like we all kind of,
there was so much temptation, so much like craziness going on, like things that we never
imagined were ever going to happen to us, were happening. And then on right after
the other you know. And but, it was, and it was,
actually got to the point where it was kind of scary because
after, Dan and I were like, well, we’re going to have
to, we’re going to have to make another movie after this. And, whatever we do no matter
what the hell we do, this is, it’s never going to compare to this. So, we, I remember one,
Dan and I sitting in like, it was Canada somewhere we were
in the middle of the press tour and it was like you know,
just question after question. But for us it was like, we love
talking about it, nobody’s asked us about our movie ever, so you
know, this much, so we were really into it, but and we were
enjoying it, and we were, and we were just sitting
there doing our break, and we were like just sitting there,
you know, in this café somewhere and we’re like “Man this is never
going to happen to us again.” You know, we have to like enjoy it
and we were like “Yeah absolutely. This is never going to happen again. This is like a miracle and we
just have to kind of ride the wave and see where it takes us and not
take ourselves too seriously.”>>Roswell Encina: Twenty years
later, almost 20 years later, how do you guys looking
back at this?>>Julia Myrick: I still think
it’s an amazing phenomenon. I think what I have been
talking about today, coming through the Library
of Congress and looking up paraphernalia and remembering
some of the interesting things that I got into at the time was, I’m like “Oh I’ll go
to the land records. I’ll write down the land records for ‘Blair Witch’ I’ll help
fabricate this part of the story.” We had lots of conversation
about true fakeness and fake this is the
fake, fake document. This is a true fake document. And this is a true document that’s
unrelated to the story at all. That we’ve used to bring
in some credibility. And because of that experience
from that, I’ve continued to be “Oh, Bigfoot could be real. Here’s a fake document. Here’s a true. The Lock Ness Monster.” And then today when I see things, like you know, just
in the modern age. You’re like is this a true story? I need to look the source material,
because I know from my experience, I’ll say “Here’s a piece of
source material, I’ve linked it. It proves that the
Blair Witch is real. But if you click on it,
and you actually read it, it doesn’t really do
what I said it does.” But, you’ll tend not to look at
it, you’re like “Oh”, for instance, Maryland’s Historical Society
for years had people call up and say “I need this book that’s
the ‘Cult of the Blair Witch’. It was published in 1870,
there’s one copy you have it. Because it says it on this website.” And they’re like “It doesn’t exist.” And they’re like “So you
won’t show it to us?” [ Laughter ] And they’re like “No,
no, it doesn’t exist. It’s not a real thing,
there’s no such thing book.” And they’re like “Well
you had it and now.” And so, we put on, it’s
in a private collection. So, people will leave the poor
Maryland Historical Society alone.>>Eduardo Sanchez: They
still won’t show to us. They still won’t show
it us, I don’t know.>>Julia Myrick: And then you know. So, it’s just a cover
and there’s some stuff that we fabricated for inside it. But, um, I think as I was
fabricating more documents, then I would look for the
documents that I fabricated. Because I referenced the very one. I wanted it to look accurate. “Like here’s the Dewey Decimal
number, here’s the code, and I’m like, this isn’t here? Oh, because I made that up.” [ Laughter ] And, And, there’s a book ‘The
13th Warrior’ where he was like “The true story of Beowulf. There was an Arabian man joined
the Vikings to kill Beowulf.” And he had references
in the back of his book. And he had the same problem. I remember feeling
sympathy with him. I’m like “I know!’ He’s like “I spent months.” “I know that this is what
inspired me to write this.” “Oh no that’s fake. I faked that.” “Oh! That’s no there.” And so, just today I was looking
at these old notes and I said um “Oh look at this interesting
thing that I had come up with. I’m going to Google myself
to see what else I did.” And there was somebody
that was saying “Oh this, this ‘Cult of the Blair
Witch’ book isn’t true, but here’s 10 true things.” A very obscure website, ‘Top’
like you know, I don’t know, ‘Facts of the world.com’,
something very strange. And I’m like “Oh! Look at these true stories.” I instantly believed they were true. This is my business. You can say anything, somebody needs to make money selling the
top 10 things, I have no idea if the first one that they said
was a true Maryland witch story, but I believe it, because it
came from the most obscure, least referenced place ever. And I’m like, well you said I was
a liar, which I know I’m a lie, so you must be a truth teller.>>Mike Monello: Which actually
goes back to the question you asked “If you could do this again today?” I actually think that we
probably went WAY deeper in fabricating the narrative,
for the myth for ‘Blair Witch’ than most fake news sites do to fabricate the slight
evidence that they use to. [ Laughter ] That people willingly believe now.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah.>>Mike Monello: There’s
actually, I think, less need to prove
something’s true today.>>Roswell Encina: It was the
1998 version of fake news I guess. Right.>>Julia Myrick: I mean it
actually really is interesting, I never thought this would be
so salient on a national stage, but in the last year, there’s
certain things that you did and you can’t make
a good ghost story if people don’t want to believe. Like X-Files is true. If you want to believe in UFO’s you
will look for reasons to believe.>>Roswell Encina: Trust me, my
name Roswell, I know the exact. [ Laughter ]>>Julia Myrick: But so,
you can’t have the success if people don’t want
the success to come. So, if I tried to sell you a story
on caterpillars, you’re not going to do the work, to search
out that information. Like, I just don’t care. But, we want witch
stories to be true. We’ve heard them when we were young. When you stumble across it in a
certain way, the more obscure it is, the more you feel like I
finally found the real one. thought it was out there. I know that this town is nearby. You don’t. We had even private investigators
who were like I’ve always wanted to investigate a witch
story and they really did. And so, just spent three
weeks trying to figure out they could help us
find these three students. So, finally called us up
and like “I’m having a lot of problems tracking
information down.” But part of it is because
they wanted to believe the story was true. And so, if you have a
story and it doesn’t matter if it’s more a factual story or
mythological story, you’re like, I want to believe my
world view is true. I want to believe this person’s
horrible or this person is great. And this obscure site said
that this thing was true and they’re saying
nobody’s reporting it because you don’t want
to hear the truth.>>Mike Monello: Yeah.>>Julia Myrick: You know, Maryland
Historical Society doesn’t want to show you the book.>>Eduardo Sanchez:
They’re hiding it. They’re hiding it.>>Mike Monello: Yeah. I mean the thing is, is that
when it comes to ghost stories in particular, I think, it’s
human nature to want to believe that there are forces
that play in the world that are affecting our lives
that we have no control over.>>Roswell Encina: Or it’s
beyond human capacity.>>Mike Monello: Yes. And, and that’s just a
simple fact of human nature. So, you know, you’re crafting a
myth that essentially plays on that. It’s, you know, and then on top
of that, like what Ed was saying, is that, you know, when cutting
the film together was always like, you can never give a piece, every
piece of information can suggest one or another, but it can
never definitively say, it’s something super natural or it’s
something that’s, you know, human. And so, when you’re playing
that balance the whole time, you’re basically feeding
the evidence for whoever, whatever story the
viewer wants to believe.>>Roswell Encina: Before we
take questions from the audience. Um, let’s do a little
quick where are they now? Could you tell us, where
the cast members are and what projects all three of
you guys are working on now?>>Julia Myrick: Oh.>>Roswell Encina:
We’ll start with Ed.>>Eduardo Sanchez: The cast,
um, um, Mike Williams is ah, ah, a high school counselor now. Ah, he got out of the business
probably like ten years ago.>>Roswell Encina: The last time
we saw him he was facing the law.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yes. Exactly. He still acts, but he
is a happy guy just, you know, doing the high school
counselor thing. And them, um, Joshua’s still
acting, he’s still directing. He does a lot of TV stuff. Ah, a lot of TV work. He was on ‘Bates Motel’, which I
just, we just watched recently. Um, and then Heather is, was in the
business for a while and then she, she went off and grew pot
for a while, um, and now, I’m not sure where Heather is. She kind of goes on and
off, on and off on Facebook and kind of just, she’s kind of.>>Julia Myrick: Carpe Diem.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Kind of
doing her own thing, you know.>>Roswell Encina: She
might be in Colorado anyway?>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah [chuckles].>>Roswell Encina: What
projects are you working on?>>Eduardo Sanchez: I’m, I’m
mostly on, working on TV right now. Ah, just directing TV shows
and developing features and um, still trying to make features, but the Indie feature world
is very difficult right now. So, just moving forward
on TV and trying to get our own TV show on the air.>>Roswell Encina: Before, um,
Mike answers, I should say though when this movie came out, I
think it gave a little big boost for independent filmmakers
or student filmmakers.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Absolutely. And, and, that’s what I
think, is like for me, it’s like the thing I’m most proud
of because like when I was young, there was these movies and
there were these filmmakers that are like, really inspired me. And the fact that, you know, there’s
some people out there who, um, just went out and tried
to do it because of us. Because we really did
prove that anybody, these, these completely unknown people
with the right idea and a little bit of luck, actually a lot of luck. Can do something that kind of,
you know, has this kind of impact. So, I think we definitely
inspired people. Just the way I was inspired
by ‘Clerks’ and ‘El Mariachi’ and you know ‘She’s Gotta Have It’. You know before that
I, I loved the fact that ‘Blair Witch’
still inspires people.>>Roswell Encina:
How about you Mike?>>Mike Monello: Um, yeah, so I, I
really loved the kind of, you know, the, the, you know, taking this
mythology that was really built for the actors to improvise from
and, and as we released it online and see how audience’s
kind of took it, and, and, and the way that we were
essentially improvising the story with them in that sense. Improvising by the way it was
released and how we decided to kind of, what we
decided to flush out and what we decided to hold back. Um, I, I, I, wanted
to do more of that. And, um, it was still
early days, Hollywood even after ‘Blair Witch’ was still
like, “Ah, no that’s marketing. We’re not going to
find anything online.” And um, and so I started
actually, ah, a marketing agency
called “Campfire”. And we work with, ah,
entertainment brands. Do a lot of work with HBO, Netflix,
Amazon and we essentially do a lot of what we were doing with ‘Blair
Witch’, which was help them build out there, the worlds
of their shows, um, online and in other forms of media. So, we continue to do that, we like recently did a
whole experimental thing at New York Comic Con for
‘Westworld’, so I love it. It’s like we basically kind
of create these experiences that go beyond the, the,
the, original property.>>Roswell Encina: Excellent. How about you Julia?>>Julia Myrick: Well, from
the ‘Blair’ stuff I did a bunch of research for, we researched
for ‘In Search Of’ and then we had to do this whole elaborate
backstory for ‘Hellboy’ with the Lance of Longinus. So, from that I got to do
these great research projects into really obscure kind of
paranormal sort of things. But since then I’ve
been script writing for science fiction and horror. I had a movie come out
called ‘Alien Raiders’. I have another coming out from
Bonaventure Pictures called ‘Higher Power’. And I just finished one for STX
which we’ll see if it goes about. It’s like a cow version of Godzilla. You know Godzilla’s come up, it’s
through the nuclear holocaust and GMO comeuppances is coming
and the cows, will [growl], get their revenge [chuckles].>>Roswell Encina: So, I think
we time for one or two questions from the audience if
anybody has one? We’ll start with you sir.>>Hello.>>Roswell Encina: We have the
microphone coming in your direction.>>Very interested in, ah, kind of the blended media
movement that’s kind of been going pass couple of years. Blended media, meaning both
film and interactive media, such as computer games,
that can be blended together to perhaps tell a story, if
you’re doing a fictional film. But also, looking at,
personally myself, how you would design blended
media that is non-fiction? And in particular, if you have a
non-fiction genre that has lots of elements of horror,
meaning, it attacks someone, it attacks the viewer
or the consumer in a way that they feel very scared. Um, have you any experiences
first with, ah, computer games? In either sort of the ‘Blair
Witch’ kind of phenomenon or any suggestions on how
to blend a computer game and some other movie that’s
being presented as non-fiction?>>Julia Myrick: I think
that’s a good Mike question.>>Mike Monello: Um,
I would look at, ah, the National Film Board of Canada. They, um, have been
funding for years now, a lot of kind of interactive
documentary work. And it’s all available
on their website. There’s an enormous amount of it. And, and, and, some of it is
quite excellent in terms of like, just thinking about how
to convey those stories. As for video games, I
mean, there were three, there were three video games
that actually came out as part of ‘Blair Witch’ but they were, they were really largely done
by, ah, the game company. I mean the stories were kind of
pulled from the, the mythology, but.>>Julia Myrick: Didn’t you do some
multimedia anything with horror or where you’re like, this
collaborative, kind of horror?>>Mike Monello: There’ve been,
but you know, in terms of like, topping the things that are real. I mean that’s a, that’s a tall
order when you start to do that, because you know you’re
dealing with real people. Real people’s stories. So, I think it’s ah, I think
there’s a lot of more ethical issues around it, then maybe
with fiction narrative.>>You brought up the video games. I never got a chance to ask
you guys, what do you think of the sequels that came after
the original movie ‘Blair Witch’?>>I’m sorry. [ Laughter ]>>Roswell Encina:
We’ll start with Ed.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Um, this, these,
these, the first sequel was um, you know, it was a weird time. We had just finished the movie and
they were, Artisan, to come to the, about ‘Blair Witch’, was like we’ve
got to do a sequel right away, we’re going to release
it next, um, Halloween. And um.>>Roswell Encina: Did you
guys have any input on it?>>Eduardo Sanchez: Well, we, we
had input on it until we told them that we didn’t like what
they were doing and they kind of didn’t pay attention
to us anymore. So, the, the first sequel was a
little bit, it was really rushed and it wasn’t quite the right idea. And I don’t think it’s a terrible
film, but I don’t think it has, it’s like a cousin of ‘Blair Witch’. It doesn’t really belong
in our mythology. And then the second sequel
that came out last year, um, I think that one ties in much better
to the original mythology and I, I enjoyed that one a lot more, yeah.>>Roswell Encina: How about you?>>Mike Monello: Um, um, I’m trying
to, ah, [laughter] I’m trying to think how to answer this and
not, most politically expedient way. Um, I think, I think the
second film was made by people who were looking to push out a film. Who were thinking about a brand
called ‘Blair Witch’ rather than a film or the fans. And I think the film reflects that. I think that, um, you know, I
that it was and I think that’s, that’s the studio, I
think the filmmaker wanted to tell a completely different story
and wasn’t necessarily interested in the ‘Blair Witch’ story. And so, took it in
a direction there. So, I really think it’s I
wouldn’t even called it a cousin, I would say it’s really somebody
else’s idea of, of the socio, sociological impact of ‘Blair Witch’
and wanting to make a commentary on it and doing it under
the name of ‘Blair Witch’. Um, I think, I actually just
recently saw the other sequel, which was fun, but,
uh, uh, it was fun. It felt like a reboot, right,
because it was hitting a lot of the same beats in that sense. Um, but what I really think
for me, was the most sad, is that about the sequels. Is that, um, I feel like the
‘Blair Witch’ franchise right now, is in the hands of people who
still don’t respect they think Ed and Dan brought to it. And I think that there’s definitely
some thought thinking and care around it and I think
that the original ideas for how a franchise would actually
rollout, were in my opinion, infinitely more interesting
and more commercial than what has come out today. But, I don’t think we’ll ever
see those films unfortunately.>>Roswell Encina: Julia,
for the person who helped.>>Julia Myrick: Build the mystery.>>Roswell Encina: Build the story.>>Julia Myrick: Well, I
would you know, the thing is, is I think that within the core
group, so you have like the five and then you an additional seven,
and then it gets to 20 and. I don’t think that even internally
we all would agree on “Oh, this is what I liked
the most about”. I think Ed and I even
have different views of what’s happening in the woods. You know, I have a whole,
“Oh, the Native Americans and there’s a specific
incident that happened. And it’s the evil that
was there the whole time.” And I have a whole story in my head. And that’s the story I
want in a sequel and the. And I don’t think that
they would do that one. And I think Ed might do something
a little different than Dan. So, it’s, it’s hard to, it’s hard
to pass judgement on anything.>>Roswell Encina; So, you think
there’s never going to be like ah, like ‘Friday the 13th’,
12 or something?>>Julia Myrick: Mine
should happen [chuckles].>>Roswell Encina:
‘Blair Witch’ the theme.>>Julia Myrick: I don’t know. I mean I actually think there’s,
I there’s a specific space that ‘Blair’ could continue. I don’t think that it’s the
space that they’re following. I don’t think it’s
the narrative type. It’s not a traditional story. I think that if we went back into
this more, audience collaboration.>>Mike Monello: Well, on
a very basic level right. If you follow the mythology, you actually can’t have
a sequel until 2034. Right?>>Julia Myrick: Exactly.>>Mike Monello: 2034? 2044?>>Julia Myrick: So,
stay tuned for 2034. [ Laughter ]>>Mike Monello: So, technically
right, there can’t be a sequel. I think the only movies you can
make are the ones that go backwards. In my opinion. That’s the.>>Julia Myrick: And then in 2034,
it’s going to have to be somebody with their own camera and it’s not.>>Roswell Encina: Their own
iPhone or their own Smartphone.>>Julia Myrick: Exactly. Or what. Their own virtual reality.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah,
it’ll be like a holographic. [ Laughter ] Experience or something. You know.>>Roswell Encina: We’ll
do one more question. I see the gentleman
there in the middle.>>They’re saying something
about insatiable happened tonight for a really gross-out gore and
horror films like ‘Walking Dead’ and contrary to distinction
to your film, which, was about the imagination. Which can be far more terrifying,
seeing people’s entrails, you know pouring out on the screen. So, why do you think today we’re so
fascinated by zombies and so forth, and do you think it’s
the excessive amount of violence being perpetrated
on the screen?>>Julia Myrick: I
agree with that one. I think that there’s a. And I
actually think a lot of it is just, it’s easy, and including
in script writing, right. It’s easy to say and then
their head gets chopped off. Right. And if you’re going to say it
was really, the person was terrified of dying, that’s much more
complicated to do correctly. And instead you’re just
like, I’m bored, I’m not, I don’t feel this emotion
that you’re feeling. But if you chop the head off
like I showed you somebody with their head chopped off, and
now you should feel something. Because an event happened. So, I think probably
a lot of reasons in movies you see clear cut awful
things happen, is because it’s, it’s easier to pull off,
you know what that beats are and the beats go that way. And also, I will say that when you
get to the machine of Hollywood and I know, both of these
guys have experience this, and you go into a room and
you’re like “Ok, here’s my story and you don’t know
what’s happening.” And they’re like “Well, you
have to know what’s happening. Because I’m the executive.” So, you have to explain
it to them “Ok, let me explain the
backstory to you.” So, I’ve always agreed with Ed
like, they did the story right because it’s a ghost story, you come
in you’re like Bloody Mary’s going to show up in the mirror. And then you don’t say and here
is the novel to read to explain to you the history of why she
would show up in a mirror. And now you’re not scared any more,
you’re like I know this will happen, this is where the person. And you don’t need a
lot of explanation. But, in film studios you
need a lot of explanation and then you’re like “Ok.” And then they kill this person
and they kill this person and all this stuff and then suddenly
everything becomes a lot more literalized, a lot more explained
and then it’s not scary anymore and then sometimes it’s just “Well,
we’ll just do the brutal version.” Because there’s specific people that
like the brutal part of the film, so we’ll just make the whole film.>>Mike Monello: Well, yeah. I mean think you know, it’s
kind of like comedies, you know, there’s really intelligent satires
and then there’s gross-out comedies. And I think horror’s like that and I
think the films with a lot of gore, are kind of about a
different emotional state. They’re more like I
think a theme park ride. And um, and I think this, whereas
the more psychological horror films, are really about trying, kind
of shaking you to your core. And sometimes you get a mixed
picture of both and something like the ‘Exorcist’ where
it’s, it’s pretty explicit, but at the same time it
also hits you deeply inside. But, um, that’s a hard,
hard to balance it. And, and it’s you know, to
Julia’s point, it’s a lot easier to see the commercial appeal
of the theme park ride than it is the psychological horror, because those commercial
aspects are easy to market. Whereas with the more psychological
stuff, if the critics don’t like it, it kind of becomes a hard sell.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah,
and it becomes like, the search for like trailer moments.>>Mike Monello: Yeah.>>Eduardo Sanchez:
You know and you have like when it’s a real subtle
movie that doesn’t have, you know, it could be really scary,
whatever, but it doesn’t have the, the trailer, you know,
thing exploding or somebody coming at
the camera, whatever. It’s just hard to market you know. But I mean, you know, for our
film, I mean, you know, I think Dan and I were definitely
fans of like you know, kind of the psychological stuff. But also, you know, what
our film, you know, the big, the big reason why nothing happened
really, crazy or gory or anything in our film, I think a lot of it
had to do with we had no money. Um, because you know,
because everybody’s task, everybody asks like, you know, “What was the original going
to be in this and that?” And I think that if we’d
had, if we’d had some money and we had some resources, we would’ve done something
a little bigger in the end. I mean, maybe we would’ve gone
back to the original ending? But, but.>>Mike Monello: We did shoot.>>Eduardo Sanchez: The gore. And, because that ending for us, was like the hardest
thing to find, you know. To not betray the rest of movie
but a lot of it was just like, we can’t um, we can’t afford
to have, like Julia said, we can’t afford to have a
dismemberment, you know. We don’t have the budget
to like really do it right. [ Laughter ] But I think if we’d had,
you know, unfortunately, if we’d have had the
resources, I think, you know, we would’ve added something
in there. I don’t if it would’ve worked, but.>>Mike Monello: It’s like Spielberg
and the shark not working in ‘Jaws’. Except like a lot fewer zeros.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yes.>>Mike Monello: On the budget.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Nothing. Yeah, I know, absolutely. [ Laughter ] You know a lot of it, like just
the creativity of just, you know, coming up with something
where you don’t have, you have very limited
resources, you know. So.>>Julia Myrick: Well and I
would say but there’s two things. Again, it’s you actually,
like ‘Jaws’, you triumph when you’re doing
less with limited resources, but we had a lot of things where
we’re seeing other people do stuff and you’re like if you have a, if you have an 18-year-old
giving an interview, they’re clearly not a reporter. We don’t have the budget
to hire somebody who is going to play
a reporter well. We don’t have the budget to make
the sound stage look correct, so we’re just not to
have that scene. And so, part of doing things
right is knowing that you’re going to do it badly and
so just don’t do it. You’re not allowed to have.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah,
it’s knowing your limitations that you’re not going to be able to
pull that off with that budget level and you just kind of find
another way to keep the audience.>>Julia Myrick: I always say that
90% of people, just if you’re going to be in a low budget film,
90% people make that mistake. They’re like, “Well, I’m going
to have ambition and I’m going, I’m going to show you all that I
can, you know do something for $20 that takes you $20 million.” And if you’re just slightly off the
mark, then the whole movie fails.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah.>>Julia Myrick: And you’re like
man you almost pulled it off and now you’ve failed more
spectacularly and you have nothing to work with, which is unfortunate.>>Roswell Encina:
Well, I appreciate all of you being here tonight. Um, on behalf of the
Library of Congress, we welcome you here of course.>>Eduardo Sanchez:
Thanks for having us.>>Roswell Encina:
Thank you so much.>>Julia Myrick: Oh.>>Roswell Encina: Oh. What?>>Julia Myrick: We have
a little present for you.>>Roswell Encina: I love presents.>>Julia Myrick: This is an
original Sundance poster from 1999.>>Roswell Encina: Can we unfold it.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah.>>Roswell Encina: We would love to.>>Julia Myrick: You can
have it at your disposal.>>Roswell Encina: I was
about say we can add it to our Halloween pop-up exhibit. I’m doing it backwards, sorry. I’m very anti-climactic here. Wow! This is great.>>Julia Myrick: Mint condition.>>Roswell Encina: It is. [ Laughter ] Thank you so much! We really appreciate it.>>Eduardo Sanchez: Sure. [ Applause ]>>Roswell Encina: Thank you
again to Ed, Mike and Julia. So, for all of you who haven’t
seen the ‘Blair Witch Project’, I hope you enjoy it. For all of you who are
going to re-watch it, get ready to be scared
all over again. Thank you again. [ Applause ]>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

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