Highlights From 'The Blair Witch Project' Q&A With Co-Director Eduardo Sánchez & Producers Gregg Hale + Michael Monello
Left to right: 'The Blair Witch Project' producers Gregg Hale and Michael Monello, plus co-director Eduardo Sánchez join MoPOP's weekly horror film watchalong, 'It's Coming From Inside the House!'
During last Friday's It's Coming From Inside the House! horror film watchalong of The Blair Witch Project (1999), the Museum of Pop Culture was fortunate enough to welcome a few special guests to the weekly virtual event. The Blair Witch Project co-director Eduardo Sánchez and producers Gregg Hale + Michael Monello joined Robert Rutherford, MoPOP's Manager of Public Engagement, for a special pre-film introduction, in-film Q&A, and post-film discussion.
The filmmakers were generous with their time and extremely active in engaging with MoPOP's audience, having fun answering nearly every question that came through the program's Q&A feature. Below, check out highlights from the in-film portion of MoPOP's webinar, but be forewarned: several The Blair Witch Project spoilers lie ahead..
Q&A transcript was edited for grammar, spelling, and punctuation
Rachel Román asks: What was the inspiration for making the film? Did any other horror movies inspire you?
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: The MAD magazine parody was pretty cool. I dug the game they did last year as well.
JoeAndrew asks: Were you surprised with the unprecedented financial success of the film?
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: It was a total surprise. We thought we had a cool idea, but we just wanted enough money to make another film.
Jasen Woehrle asks: How involved were all of you in decision making on the brilliant marketing for the film?
Gregg Hale, Producer: We were very involved. We basically did that kind of marketing ourselves when we were at Sundance (Film Festival).
Joseph asks: Where did the inspiration come from to do all of the online/internet promotions, setting up the website, etc. I know 20 years ago it was ahead of its time.
Gregg Hale, Producer: Ed could program websites back in the day when that was a super rare skill.
Michael Monello, Producer: John Pierson, the producer who aired (Blair Witch) segments on his Bravo show Split Screen, called us up and told us that his message boards were being overrun with people who wanted to chat about The Blair Witch Project, so he told us we had to launch our own site with a message board so he could send people to it. That's what motivated us to set up the website.
Rachel Román asks: Was the entire film shot with a video camera or was it made to appear that way?
Gregg Hale, Producer: Mostly Hi-8 video and some black and white 16mm film.
Darragh asks: The sound design is great, especially the giggling children. How important was the sound in shaping the film?
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: The sound was actually more important than the visuals, in my opinion. I mean, the film is like 75 percent an audio drama.
Rachel Román asks: How were the sounds created?
Gregg Hale, Producer: The stuff in the woods was literally us breaking sticks and stomping around.
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: Mostly us running around! And then added some more during post-production.
Jennifer Gibson asks: The band playing in the beginning, was that a friend of someone? How did you find them?
Gregg Hale, Producer: The song in the car? That was my friend Klaus' band, Digginlillies.
Kelly asks: What was your key criteria for selecting the actors for the film?
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: We wanted them to feel as natural as possible. Didn't want it to seem like they were acting.
Kelli L. Jones asks: What kind of rehearsals went into this and how did you prepare for the improv work needed for filming?
Gregg Hale, Producer: We really put the actors through their paces during auditions. We knew we had three actors who would deliver.
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: No rehearsals, but some education on the various aspects of filmmaking and Maryland culture.
Conner Angelle asks: What was writing the script like for a film like this? Was there any ambiguity in what the actors were told to get a more "legitimate" reaction?
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: Had no dialogue and we never let the actors see it.
Gregg Hale, Producer: Ed and (co-director Daniel Myrick) gave lots of direction via notes, but actual dialogue was improv.
Joseph asks: Were there any moments during filming that you guys were genuinely fearful?
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: I was creeped out a few times at the house at the end. I made sure I was not alone in that place.
hexele asks: Have you heard about the fan theory that the events of the movie are perpetrated by the guys in order to scare and kill Heather? What do you think about this interpretation?
Michael Monello, Producer: It's not my interpretation, but it's pretty creative.
Gregg Hale, Producer: Heard that. Cool theory, not accurate.
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: Cool idea, but there was definitely something supernatural going on there, not just Josh and Mike.
William Rogers asks: There's an obvious similarity between Mary Brown's fence and the stickmen. Intentional? Is Mary Brown somehow a part of what's happening in the woods?
Gregg Hale, Producer: We always felt she was connected via having seen it when she was a kid.
Kyle asks: What exactly does Heather see when the three of them are running through the woods? Is there footage of it?
Gregg Hale, Producer: A guy in white long johns, and no, you can never see him.
Erin Accomando asks: What was the body part supposed to be in the wood bundle?
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: There were teeth, some of Josh's hair and a piece of his shirt.
On display inside MoPOP's 'Scared to Death: The Thrill of Horror Film' exhibition is one of the only remaining stick figures used in the making of the film (courtesy of Haxan Films and Eduardo Sánchez) + one of two Hi-8 camcorders used by the actors throughout the 8-day shoot to capture most of the video material used in the final film; the second camera was returned after filming for a full refund (courtesy of Haxan Films and Ben Rock)
Nathan Correy asks: Can you guys share any of the wackadoo/late night/"hear me out" ideas that you conjured up as potential sequels/franchise extensions?
Gregg Hale, Producer: We really wanted to do a prequel set in 1600s.
Michael Monello, Producer: It would have been amazing, or a total disaster. The Witch made me so made because that's kind of how we talked about the prequel looking. I loved The Witch though.
Alex Moore asks: I've always had a weird fascination with the legacy of the alternate ending. How come you didn't end up using it?
Gregg Hale, Producer: We shot 5 different endings and they all sucked except the original.
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: We liked the original ending better.
Michael Monello, Producer: The alternate endings were all terrible. I don't think the film would have been nearly as successful had we used one of them.
Williams Rogers asks: I know there are a ton of people who would love to see an extended cut of this movie, or even see some of the unused footage. Is that in the cards at all?
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: I'd love to cut a longer version—maybe for the 25th anniversary.
JoeAndrew asks: What does the future hold for the Blair Witch series?
Gregg Hale, Producer: We're not really sure. We know Lionsgate is interested in doing a series. Ed and I developed with them, but it floundered. We're hoping it still happens whether we're involved or not.
Joseph asks: Do you gentleman have any advice for someone who has a desire to work in the film and television industry?
Gregg Hale, Producer: Persevere. It's a tough business and many times you just have to keep on keepin' on.
Eduardo Sánchez, Co-Director: Move to a production hub if you want to get on a set and PA or whatever to make it in. Writer/director: make mistakes and hold steady. Take feedback and be honest with yourself. Not everyone can be (Martin) Scorsese.