Family & Companions
After slaving years on the edges of the Industry as an award-winning video and commercial director, Daniel Myrick struck filmmaking gold as one-half of the genius behind "The Blair Witch Project" (1999). From the beginning, he and his partner Eduardo Sanchez strove for the ultimate in realism, but the secret to their success lay in trusting the results of their guerilla filmmaking and allowing it to stand by itself rather than frame it with 1940s-style newsreel and TV documentary devices as they had originally intended. "I was scared shitless to just let it go, as is," recalled Myrick in the Village Voice (July 20, 1999). "Think about it. It's Hi-8 video, as raw as you can get. Are people going to look at over 80 minutes of shaky-cam? I'm thinking, 'It'll never play in a theater.'" It was the rawness though, the amateurish home-movies feel coupled with completely naturalistic performances from the actors, that resonated with audiences and made "Blair Witch" the year's sleeper success.
The Myrick-Sanchez plan for scaring audiences was nothing short of brilliant. Hire three no-name actors with improvisational skills, give them a crash course in filmmaking, send them back-packing into the woods for eight days and then terrorize them while they record it all on 16mm and video. Equipping the actors with Global Positioning System (GPS) handsets enabled the directors to know where they were at all times and lead them to specific locations where preconceived parts of the story would play out. The filmmakers left flagged baskets for the actors, containing fresh film, video, batteries and directing notes, all written in the first person for that character's eyes only. Myrick and Sanchez also left food for the actors, but increasingly less as the shoot went on, since the harried group was running out of food in the story. Heather Donahue told the Village Voice (July 20, 1999), "I have not had a Power Bar since, and I probably never will again" but also insisted she would "do it again in a heartbeat," citing the built-in challenges of the conceptual piece.
The filmmakers distilled the 20 hours shot by their actors, much of which Myrick admits was "pretty boring," into the compelling narrative which first worked its disturbing magic at a midnight screening at Sundance, effectively blurring the line between what is real and what is fake. Add to that a web site (www.blairwitch.com), which made no attempt to present their Blair Witch mythology as fiction, and you can understand why the filmmakers received countless e-mails and calls asking if it was true. Inspired by the old "In Search Of" TV show with Leonard Nimoy and such classics as "The Legend of Bigfoot," they had laid it on thick and people had bought into it. According to Myrick (EMPIRE, November 1999): "We're still trying to acclimatise to the idea that we're filmmakers who make money. We're still thinking that next year we may be scraping around for industrial videos again." Meanwhile, with a supernatural drama series pilot in the works for Fox, not to mention a proposed comedy feature and all the Blair Witch backstory offers in the way of prequels (if not sequels), Myrick may indeed have left industrials behind forever.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Editing (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Special)
Met Eduardo Sanchez while both were students at the University of Central Florida's film school; worked on the abortive "Fortune" (a film about a witch) with Sanchez while there, among other projects
Won Alamo award for music video at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival
Established the Filmmaker's Alliance at Universal Studios in Orlando
Earned the national Charlie award for work on a documentary about the Bolles School (a K-12 preparatory school located in Jacksonville, Florida)
Recruited by indie film guru John Pierson to work first as a cinematographer, then as an editor on segments of his series "Split Screen" (Independent Film Channel)
With Sanchez and Hale founded Haxan (from the 1920s Swedish documentary "Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages"), a company which initially made ads and industrial films; later that year fellow UCF alumni Mike Monello and Robin Cowie rounded out the Haxan 5 crew
Commissioned to write and direct the award-winning trailer for the Florida Film Festival
Eight-minute trailer for the Myrick-Sanchez brainchild, "The Blair Witch Project", shown on "Split Screen" and presented as fact, not fiction, capped first season of series; another "Blair Witch" segment appeared on the first episode of the second season of Pierson's "Split Screen"
In concert with the widespread release of the picture, the Sci-fi Channel broadcast "The Curse of the Blair Witch", a mock TV documentary originally intended to frame the "found" footage as part of the feature film; rejected from the final cut (but not abandoned) when filmmakers decided to construct entire movie from the "found" footage
"The Blair Witch Project" debuted at a midnight showing at the Sundance Film Festival and received the festival's first distribution deal just hours later from Artisan Entertainment which purchased the worldwide rights to the movie, including sequels, for just over $1 million, a figure that left rivals laughing, although Artisan would enjoy the last laugh
Produced the pilot for "Freaky Links", a supernatural drama series developed by Haxan for Fox