July 16 will be the 10-year anniversary of a little movie called The Blair Witch Project. Perhaps you've heard of it? The film's spectacular journey from Sundance indie to mainstream phenomenon has become Hollywood legend, so much so that Roger Ebert named Blair Witch one of the 10 most influential films of the 20th century. The movie gave hope to young, broke filmmakers everywhere — all you needed was the cost of tuition for one year at college, some cheap cameras, and a very, very, very clever idea.
Since Blair Witch made $249 million worldwide on its initial $20,000-$25,000 budget, others have tried to duplicate its unprecedented success, including none other than the film's own two directors, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. Still close friends, Dan and Ed went their separate ways after Blair Witch, each taking some time off before making a series of horror or supernatural flicks. Myrick directed Believers, Solstice, and The Objective; Sánchez helmed Altered and Seventh Moon. Haven't heard of those movies? Don't worry — most of them went straight to DVD. But it can't be easy when your debut picture shatters records and is so convincing that some people, to this day, believe it's an actual documentary. How do you possibly follow that kind of once-in-a-lifetime anomaly?
EW talked to both of the Blair Witch directors individually, as well as the movie's three stars. To find out what has happened to those three young actors post-Blair, check out the new issue of EW, on newsstands July 10. But for now, enjoy this exclusive Q&A with directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, who discuss how they shot the groundbreaking movie, what they make of the subsequent backlash against it, and whether they'd ever want to return to Blair Witch.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I've heard so many different stories about how you guys went about filming Blair Witch. Could you clarify exactly what it was like shooting the movie?
EDUARDO SANCHEZ: When Dan and I wrote the script, it wasn't really a script. It was more like a glorified outline of all the scenes. We didn't have any dialogue because we knew we wanted to make it completely improv. And then we decided we were going to leave the actors out there and try to remote-control direct them. We developed this system where we would leave notes for them in these little 35mm film canisters, and the notes contained logistical information as far as where to hike, and what time to get to a certain spot that we had already entered into the actors' GPS units. We also provided character notes, like "Heather's driving me crazy" or "You've got to get away from Mike" or "Josh is slowly losing his mind." And then we let them do their own thing. We'd supply them with fresh tapes and batteries, and we would give them food. As they neared the end of the shoot, we started depriving them of food. By the last day, they were basically living off a banana and some juice.
Were the actors upset by the end of production?
SANCHEZ: No, they weren't. We took good care of them. Our producer, Gregg Hale, was in the Army and had Special Forces training, so he led the whole "keeping them safe" part and had escape routes from all of the locations. They had a walkie-talkie with them. If they needed anything, they could just call.
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