Tag Archives: The Blair Witch Project

‘The Blair Witch Project’ Turns 20 By Sandra Carr

Watching The Blair Witch Project on the big screen 20 years ago was an eye-opening experience. I believe film making changed and took an in-your-face and more authentic storytelling approach after the film hit theaters. Plus, the film popularized the found-footage technique, which was successfully used by thriller films like Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield and the Chronicle.

Writers and co-directors Dan Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez were inspired to make The Blair Witch Project after discovering that documentaries about paranormal phenomena were much scarier than traditional horror films.

The result was a film about three student filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard) taking a jaunt in the Black Hills of Maryland to shoot a documentary about Elly Kedward who was banished from the Township of Blair for witchcraft in the late 1700s. One year later, their footage is found, revealing the eerie events leading up to their mysterious disappearance.

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The Florida Film Festival at the Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida celebrated The Blair Witch Project’s 20-year anniversary with a 35mm print-film screening and question-and-answer session with Haxan Films’ filmmakers Eduardo Sanchez, Robin Cowie, Dan Myrick, Ben Rock and Michael Monello and actors Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard on Sunday, April 14. Actress Heather Donahue wasn’t able to attend the film screening.

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I’m posing in front of the Enzian Theater’s marquee before The Blair Witch Project’s 20-year anniversary screening during the Florida Film Festival.

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The Blair Witch Project’s filmmakers and actors are pictured in front of the marquee from l-r: Eduardo Sanchez, Robin Cowie, Dan Myrick, Ben Rock, Joshua Leonard, Michael Monello and Michael Williams

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Full Sail University’s Course Director Carol Nowlin and the Enzian Theater’s Program Director Matthew Curtis introduce the filmmakers and actors of The Blair Witch Project before the film’s 20-year anniversary screening during the Florida Film Festival.

I relived the fear that I had experienced 20 years ago during the horror movie’s anniversary screening. I was still on the edge of my seat and felt the very raw and real moments of The Blair Witch Project once again.

One thing that attracted me and others to the film was how relatable the characters were on camera. Plus, you truly felt their anxiety, anguish, frustration and sleeplessness during their terrifying ordeal in the woods. After seeing the film again, my feelings haven’t changed. I also think that folks who are watching the film for the first time will also appreciate the film and characters in the same way.

The Blair Witch Project Brush Figure

A figure made out of brush, leaves and sticks is hanging in a tree during The Blair Witch Project.

Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams

Actors Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams are in the woods during The Blair Witch Project.

Rocks

A nest filled with rocks in a tree creeps out the three student filmmakers during The Blair Witch Project.

Heather Donahue

Actress Heather Donahue is experiencing a happy moment during The Blair Witch Project.

The Blair Witch Project Ending

Actor Michael Williams stands in a corner of an abandoned house in the woods during The Blair Witch Project.

The Blair Witch Project premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 1999 and had a north American release on July 14, 1999 before expanding to a wider release beginning on July 30, 1999.

The low-budget, sleeper hit cost $60,000, but reaped an amazing award after it made nearly $250 million worldwide at the box office for the UCF filmmakers.

The Blair Witch Project also opened a lot of doors for the filmmakers and actors and put Orlando and UCF’s film school on the map.

The filmmakers and actors discussed The Blair Witch Project during a question-and-answer session with UCF Center for Emerging Media’s Studio Director Rich Grula after the film screening.

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Pictured from l-r: Rich Grula, Eduardo Sanchez, Michael Monello, Ben Rock, Robin Cowie, Dan Myrick, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard

The Enzian Theater was pivotal for The Blair Witch Project. The test screenings were conducted at the theater before the film was submitted to the Sundance Film Festival.

The filmmakers are forever grateful for the Enzian Theater’s support. The Florida Film Festival’s home base was an instrumental component for the film’s success.

The discussion provided fans with some interesting tidbits. One thing I learned is that the twine that was used for the stick figures cost $8 a roll. The Haxan Films’ team have not let production designer Ben Rock live it down to this day!

Rock’s inspiration came from the Rune Man pictured in the Magical Alphabets: The Secrets and Significance of Ancient Scripts – Including Runes, Greek, Ogham, Hebrew and Alchemical Alphabets book by Nigel Pennick. Rock and Fahad Vania worked tirelessly to create the stick figures featured in the movie.

Stick Figure

The Haxan Films’ team still gives Ben Rock a hard time about the $8 twine that was used to create the stick figures during The Blair Witch Project.

Producer Robin Cowie shared a hilarious story about him getting distracted by a bikini-clad teen walking her dog, which caused him to hit the Senior Vice President of Blockbuster Video’s brick mailbox with his car in Atlanta, Georgia. It turns out; the girl was the executive’s daughter. Cowie pitched him The Blair Witch Project and he decided to invest in the film. The backer also predicted that the film would be a hit.

Co-producer Michael Monello discussed the movie’s marketing. He said the marketing campaign that was associated with the film was accidental and happened organically. The website, which included footage, was designed to engage and provide viewers with an opportunity to ask questions before the film was released, but turned out to be a wonderful way to promote the film before it hit theaters.

I had an opportunity to ask a question during The Blair Witch Project’s panel discussion. I wondered if the filmmakers or actors would change anything in the film 20 years later as well as what was their favorite part in the film.

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Rich Grula and the audience get up close and personal with The Blair Witch Project’s filmmakers and actors during a question-and-answer session.

Williams jokingly said he would change his contract. Seriously, he said he wouldn’t change a blessed thing. He also felt there was no way that the actors and filmmakers would be able to create the film today on nonunion terms and is happy for the relationships that everyone has established over the years because of The Blair Witch Project.

Williams is currently writing a book about his Blair Witch Project experiences. Plus, a book titled Eight Days in the Woods, which was written by a fan of the film, discusses all-things Blair Witch and will be publishing soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate Cinema at Florida Film Festival By Sandra Carr

Do you fancy film festing? The 28th Annual Florida Film Festival has your back and is your movie mania solution!

Support filmmakers from around the world by embarking on a movie-watching journey with 184 films representing 41 countries. Plus, moviegoers have an opportunity to pick the best flicks by voting during the festival.

This year’s Florida Film Festival features 87 women directors with amazing girl power and 25 world premieres. Additional festivities include celebrity guest appearances, forums and parties at the Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida and Regal Cinemas Winter Park Village Stadium 20 Movie Theater in Winter Park, Florida from April 12-21, 2019.

Florida Film Festival 2019

The 28th Annual Florida Film Festival is April 12-21, 2019.

The film fest is an Oscar-qualifying festival that will be premiering top-quality current, independent and international cinema throughout its 10-day run.

Oscars

The opening-night film and party is occurring on Friday, April 12 at the Enzian Theater and features Woman in Motion, a documentary filmed by Full Sail University students about actress Nichelle Nichols who is renowned for portraying Lieutenant Uhura, the communications officer aboard Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise. The film showcases Nichols’ undying support and how she helped lead the way for women and minorities who dreamed of having a space exploration career. Attendees will have three opportunities to watch the movie screening that night at the Enzian Theater and Regal Cinemas Winter Park Village Stadium 20 Movie Theater.

Woman in Motion

Woman in Motion begins at 7:15 p.m. and the party follows at 8:30 p.m. at the Enzian Theater. The film frolic will include cuisine, craft cocktail and beer samples and cake provided by Eden Bar, MidiCi, Nothing Bundt Cakes, the Outpost Neighborhood KitchenRoque Pub, Terrapin Beer Co. and other local bars and restaurants. The film and party admission is $125 and the party only ticket cost $100.

Opening Night Party

The fete continues during a Festival Block Party on Saturday, April 13 from 3-5 p.m. at the Winter Park Village’s fountain across from the Regal Cinema. The festivities include free drinks and appetizers from select Winter Park Village restaurants and live entertainment. The free event is for Florida Film Festival ticket and pass holders only. Space is limited.

Florida Film Festival Block Party

Festival Block Party

Relive your fear during the 20-year anniversary of The Blair Witch Project on Sunday, April 14 at 8 p.m. at the Enzian Theater. Three student filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Michael Williams and Joshua Leonard) take a jaunt in the Black Hills of Maryland to shoot a documentary about Elly Kedward who was banished from the Township of Blair for witchcraft in the late 1700s. One year later, their footage is found, revealing the eerie events leading up to their mysterious disappearance. The sold-out film will include a post-film reunion and question-and-answer session with the cast and crew. A backstage pass is available for $60 and will include a limited-edition, screen-printed poster created specifically for the event by Lure Design, a meet and greet and photo opportunity. Patrons must supply their own camera for the photo opportunity.

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Spend Good Friday (April 19) with Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss at the Enzian Theater. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1978 for The Goodbye Girl, which film festival attendees will have a chance to see on the big screen at 7:30 p.m. A question-and-answer session with Dreyfuss will follow the film. Tickets are $60. Producer-pass holders will have an opportunity to meet the actor following the event.

The Goodbye Girl

See why actor Richard Dreyfuss won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1978 for The Goodbye Girl on Friday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Quench your thirst during the free Sip and Savor: Cocktail Tastings on Monday, April 15 and Tuesday, April 16 from 6-8 p.m. at Eden Bar. Sample flavorful concoctions provided by Diageo on Monday night and Tito’s Handmade Vodka on Tuesday evening.

Sip and Savor Cocktail Tasting

To be or not to be, that is the question after William Shakespeare decides to retire after his Globe Theatre burns to the ground in 1613 in All is True. He returns to Stratford-upon-Avon, England to mend the broken relationship with his wife and daughters after the disaster. The film stars Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench and Ian McKellen.

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The world lost the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin on Aug. 16, 2018, but her music and legacy will live on forever. The documentary Amazing Grace keeps her spirit alive as she performs gospel songs at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California in 1972.

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The documentary Marching Forward examines how music overpowered division in Orlando, Florida when Jones High School’s all-black marching band and Edgewater High School’s all-white marching band performed during the World’s Fair in New York City in 1964. This UCF Burnett Honors College production features interviews with band directors and former students, many of whom are now professional musicians.

Marching Forward

Marching Forward photo is by Lisa Mills.

Did the devil make you do it? The Satanic Temple advocates for religious freedom and challenges authority in the Hail Satan? documentary.

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Award-winning actress Elisabeth Moss portrays a burned- and strung-out rock star trying to find her way back to stardom in this riveting, rock ‘n’ roll drama, Her Smell. The cast includes Eric Stoltz, Amber Heard and Virginia Madsen.

Her Smell

Sudan, 45, is the last male northern white rhinoceros in the world. The Kifaru documentary follows the lives of two young Kenyan recruits who join Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s rhino caretaker unit in Kenya, which features a small group of rangers who protect and care for Sudan.

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Punk rockers took their angst away from Los Angeles, California to the Mojave Desert during the 1980s. This movement started the Desolation Center, which featured DIY music showcases in remote locations that included performances by the Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Redd Kross, the Meat Puppets, Einstürzende Neubauten and the Swans. Talent will be in attendance during both Desolation Center screenings.

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The music adventure continues with Our Most Brilliant Friends, a documentary about the British indie-pop duo Slow Club. The film explores the ups and downs of being in a band and the not-so-luxurious life and challenges with touring.

Our Most Brilliant Friends

Experience Italian-style boogieing during the 1980s in the Dons of Disco. Italian model Stefano Zandri a.k.a. musician Den Harrow, is one of Italy’s biggest stars. Years later, the truth came out that he lip synced his way to the hearts of fans after American singer Thomas Barbey revealed that he’s the voice of Den Harrow.

Dons of Disco

Bang your head! Watch the Maori Metal documentary about three native New Zealand brothers who are proud of their Maori culture and enjoy rocking out in their metal band Alien Weaponry.

Maori Metal

Princess of the Row is the inspiring and moving story about Alicia Willis who travels to Los Angeles, California to find her homeless, military-veteran dad Sergeant Beaumont “Bo” Willis.

Princess of the Row

Computer startup General Magic was ahead of its time with concepts for smartphones and the other technological devices and ways that we communicate today. Learn about this company’s innovative ideas and pitfalls in the General Magic documentary.

General Magic

Weddings can be stressful for the bride, groom and everyone involved in the big day. People have a say with social media at gatherings and life-changing events nowadays. Can a social media poll determine a bride and groom’s fate? Should they still take the plunge and say “I do?” Find out in the humorous Made Public short.

Made Public

Wear plaid attire or a kilt while watching the Chef’s Diaries: Scotland. Foodies can travel with the three Roca brothers who are chefs at their El Celler de Can Roca restaurant, which was named the world’s best restaurant in 2013 and 2015.

Chef's Diaries Scotland

Table football, better known as foosball, was the rage during the 1970s. Two players at a table spin little men on rods, trying to slam a ball into a goal. A small, but mighty group is keeping the game alive with tournaments for foosball fanatics. The Foosballers documentary explores the sports history, trick shots and foosball champions.

Foosballers

The Interpreters is a film that illustrates the challenges and risks that Iraqi and Afghan translators face after they have joined forces with the United States.

The Interpreters Roll Red Roll explores how a high school football team in Steubenville, Ohio tried to ignore a sexual assault in order to protect the team’s star players.

Roll Red Roll

Three filmmakers are on a mission to save one of the last Blockbuster Video stores in this documentary. The Saving Blockbuster documentary was the 2018 Brouhaha Grand Jury Award winner.

Blockbuster Video

John Waters’ films come to life in the Spider Mites of Jesus: The Dirtwoman Documentary. The film’s star is Donnie Corker who contracted spinal meningitis—which his mother pronounced as Spider Mites of Jesus—as an infant. He later became a cross-dresser and drag queen and was the heart of Richmond, Virginia before he passed away two years ago.

Spider Mites of Jesus The Dirtwoman Documentary

Doomsday prepper and retiree Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow) has a connection with Ronnie Meisner (Blythe Danner). These two eccentrics form a bond and are happy together despite their emotional baggage, which comes to a head and spews out before them.

The Tomorrow Man

Marine life evolves and causes the rules of survival to change in Hybrids.

Hybrids

The Florida Film Festival says farewell to its 28th year by celebrating Easter and the 40-year anniversary of Monty Python’s Life of Brian on Sunday, April 21 at 8:30 p.m. at the Enzian Theater. The comedic film is set in 33 A.D. in Judea where Romans are trying to bring order to the country, but experience some pitfalls after would-be messiah Brian Cohen develops a following.

Monty Python's Life of Brian

Individual film tickets are $12, packages are $55-$200 and passes are $125-$1,500 per person.

Browse the film schedule by downloading the free Florida Film Festival app for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. For more information, including the Florida Film Festival schedule, visit floridafilmfestival.com.

 

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