The Blair Witch Project (1999) Poster


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Heather Donahue's mother received sympathy cards from people who believed that her daughter was actually dead or missing.
This film was in the Guinness Book Of World Records for "Top Budget:Box Office Ratio" (for a mainstream feature film). The film cost $22,000 to make and made back $240.5 million, a ratio of $1 spent for every $10,931 made.
Numerous fans were so convinced of the Blair Witch's existence that they flocked to Maryland in hopes of discovering the legend. They apparently didn't read the closing credits of the film.
It took a mere 8 days to shoot this film.
The actors were requested to interview the townspeople, who often, unbeknownst to the actors, were planted by the directors. As a result, the expressions on the actors' faces were unrehearsed.
The directors kept in touch with Heather, Mike and Josh with walkie-talkies to ensure the three would not become lost during their trek. Reportedly, they got lost at least three times.
One of the video cameras used by the actors was bought at Circuit City. After filming was completed, the producers returned the camera for a refund, making their budget money go even further.
The three leads believed the Blair Witch was a real legend during filming, though of course they knew the film was going to be fake. Only after the film's release did they discover that the entire mythology was made up by the film's creators.
To promote discord between actors, the directors deliberately gave them less food each day of shooting.
The reactions from Heather, Mike and Josh when they discover they have walked south all day and ended up in the same spot are real; they were genuinely upset that they had walked all day for nothing.
The sign for Burkittsville at the beginning of the movie has been stolen three times, and was stolen opening night of the movie.
In a scene where the main actors are sleeping in a tent at night, the tent suddenly shakes violently and they all get scared. This was unscripted and the director shook the tent; they were really scared.
Heather Donahue also told Fangoria Magazine that the final scene was so terrifying for her she kept hyperventilating and crying long after the shoot was over.
Heather Donahue admitted there was a considerable backlash against her because of her association with The Blair Witch Project (1999). It led to her having threatening encounters and difficulty finding other employment.
The filmmakers placed flyers around Cannes for the film festival that were "Missing" posters, stating that the cast was missing. All the flyers were taken down by the next day. It turns out that a television executive had been kidnapped just prior, and they were taken down out of respect. The executive was since recovered safely.
Although having been given a brief crash course on using the 16mm camera, Joshua Leonard struggled to focus using it for the first few days of filming. This is why the interview with Mary Brown is of such poor focus and incredibly grainy.
The three principal actors, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael C. Williams, shot nearly all of the completed film.
Apparently, Heather Donahue brought a knife into the forest while filming was taking place because she didn't like the idea of sleeping with two guys.
The film was originally of a much higher definition quality and was degraded deliberately to look more authentic to the time it was shot.
The actors were given no more than a 35-page outline of the mythology behind the plot before shooting began. All lines were improvised and nearly all the events in the film were unknown to the three actors beforehand, and were often on-camera surprises to them all.
The first cut of the movie to be screened was 2.5 hours in length.
It took 8 days to shoot the film but 8 months to edit it.
When promoting the film, the producers claimed it was real footage. Some people still believe it.
The 16mm Camera used to film the documentary and the black and white scenes in the film was sold on ebay following the completion of the film.
It should be noted that many of the Futhark runes seen in the old house are reversed, which has a special meaning. A reversed rune implies a dark or negative fate for the person who reads them.
Josh's shouts in the final scene were pre-recorded and played through speakers hidden away in the woods.
The 1999-2000 hunting season suffered badly due to this film. The movie was so popular that fans all over the country were hiking into the wilderness to shoot their own Blair Witch-style documentaries. As a result they kept most of the wildlife scared away from hunting areas.
In the movie, Heather and Mike share a somewhat antagonistic attitude towards each other. In the commentary, the directors revealed it was Heather and Joshua who were arguing most of the time (and more heatedly). Almost all of the footage of their arguments was taken from the final cut after the filmmakers decided it seemed like both men were "ganging up" on Heather.
The directors put up posters at a local college in an attempt to recruit students to help work on this low budget production. Only one person responded to the recruitment ad, and this was Patricia DeCou, who not only portrayed Mary Brown, but also helped with the art department.
To maintain the film's fear factor, the three main actors agreed to stay in character for the entire eight days of filming. Periodically, if an actor had to break from character then the remaining two actors also had to break from character, but only after collectively reciting their safety word: taco.
The crackling sounds in the woods were made by the director and friends walking up to the camp's perimeter, breaking sticks, and then tossing them in various directions.
The production company Haxan Films borrowed its named from Benjamin Christensen's witchcraft documentary, Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922), a source of inspiration for the film. Häxan is the Swedish word for witch.
The movie inspired a short-lived series of young-adult horror novels, written under the name "Cade Merrill" who claimed to have been Heather's cousin and a longtime Burkittsville resident.
Heather, Mike and Josh were under strict instructions to follow trails and directions given to them by the movie crew to ensure they would reach each designated site to camp in for the night.
The VHS version of the movie showed sections of film previously never seen on the DVD.
Heather Donahue wrote her own monologue for the initial scenes in her documentary.
At 85%, this has the highest score on Rotten Tomatoes of any film that was nominated for the Razzie Award for Worst Picture.
The runic lettering in the old house are a mixture of two different alphabets, Hebraic and Futhark. Hebraic runes went on to become Ancient Hebrew. Futhark runes are proto-European, dating from the first millennium B.C.
In the initial draft, Josh was intended to have a strong romantic interest in Heather. In several of the scene instructions given to the actors on the callback auditions, it was instructed that Josh take note of how attractive Heather was, and how dejected he should be that she seemed oblivious to this. Eventually the idea was scrapped as fear the movie would become too cliché.
After the first thirteen minutes, no characters other than Heather, Josh and Mike are seen in the film.
The first title for the movie was The Blair Witch Tapes.
This film uses the word "fuck" 154 times.
Sanchez and Myrick wanted Heather to have a sort of Captain Ahab quality (obsessively documenting everything). Heather Donahue had that. Mike's function in the film is to say the things the audience is probably thinking. And Josh (for a time) is the team peacemaker.
The slime on Josh's backpack was actually KY jelly.
Heather Donahue mentioned to Fangoria Magazine that her first question she asked the director upon arriving on the set was if he was planning on making a snuff film.
Some theatergoers experienced nausea from the handheld camera movements and actually had to leave to vomit. In some Toronto theatres, ushers asked patrons who where prone to motion sickness to sit in the aisle seat and to try not to "throw up on other people."
The house that Heather is in during the opening shot is owned by Lonnie Glerum, the film's key production assistant. He is also operating the camera during the opening shot.
When the movie was released the town of Burkittsville, in the hopes of making at least some profit from the film, did its own marketing. During the annual summer carnival the local Ruritan Club featured the "Bur-Witch" sandwich - country fried ham and a fried egg on top of a cheeseburger, nestled in a sesame seed bun, and doused with horseradish. The sandwich was the most popular selling item on the menu two years in a row.
Although Heather, Mike and Josh had to pitch and take down the tent they slept in, they did not have to carry it from location to location for them as this was done for them by the movie crew who would do so out of sight.
According to the directors, the scene where Heather, Josh and Mike were in the motel room was the longest piece of film that the three had shot. The scene reportedly went on for at least ninety minutes and involved Josh and Mike reading poetry followed by some drunken arguing between Josh and Heather.
The two fishermen were father and son in law. Sanchez and Myrick toyed with the idea that one of them was playing a prank on the kids, like something out of Scooby Doo, Where Are You! (1969). They didn't follow through with it because it seemed a cheesy reason for all the spooky goings on.
The 16-millimeter camera was broken during filming; Joshua Leonard (who had the camera in his pack) rolled down a hill, causing the lens to pop off the camera.
The nighttime shot of Heather running through the woods (a prominent image in the trailers) had to be filmed twice because of logistical problems.
Sanchez and Myrick admitted they had to tone down some of the outbursts from Heather, Mike and Josh. They instead allowed them to accumulate in smaller doses.
Held the record for the highest-grossing independent movie of all time until October 2002, when it was surpassed by My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002).
Rock band HIM shot parts of their music video for the song 'And love said no...' directly outside the house seen at the end of the movie
When Joshua Leonard and Heather Donahue pick up Michael C. Williams, they were originally listening to the song "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" by The Animals on the radio. However, Haxan Films couldn't get the rights to keep it in the film.
The film premiered in the midnight movie section at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival.
The working title was "The Black Hills Project."
The waitress asking about Blair High School is played by Sandra Sánchez, the sister of director Eduardo Sánchez.
After pitching the idea to the studio Sanchez and Myrick had to wait a further three months just to get the go-ahead. It was especially frustrating because they were strapped for cash at the time.
The film takes place in October 1994.
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The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Before the film was released, the three main actors were listed as "missing, presumed dead" on the IMDb.
When Heather screams "What the **** is that?!" she is seeing one of the movie crew standing on a hill dressed in white with a ski-mask on. Josh was holding the camera as ran behind her and didn't manage to catch the image on film.
One of the original script ideas was for a giant-size version of the stick figure to chase the students through the woods. This was rejected in favor of an enemy that was malevolent, but never seen.
Heather Donahue's discovery of Joshua Leonard's teeth, blood and hair wrapped in a bundle of twigs bears a striking similarity to Washington Irving's story "The Devil and Tom Walker". Tom's wife goes to find the devil in the swamp, and never returns home. When Tom goes to find her, he discovers her apron with her heart and liver inside. However, it also reflects a scene in the silent documentary "Haxan" where a severed hand is carried by a witch hidden in a bundle of twigs.
Despite the fact they never get out of the woods, civilization was rarely far away in reality. Sometimes it was just a few yards away, slightly off camera.
Other endings shot in post-production that were scrapped included Mike being hanged, another had him bound to the wall with twigs in the manner of a stick figure. Stick figures themselves were experimented with as decorations in the final scene.
Off camera, Heather took one of the stick figures. It is later seen in pieces after they are chased from their campsite by unseen forces and is even mentioned by Josh in a later scene.
This film was one of the most pirated films of 1999 because of limited release due to its independent status. The pirated version was an unfinished leaked work-print with several plot holes and most of the initial interviews missing leading to audience confusion at final scene of the film.
The ruins of the old house where the backpack was found was Rustin Parr's house.

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