One-half of the brainpower behind "The Blair Witch Project" (1999) phenomenon, Cuban-born Eduardo Sanchez (along with co-editor-screenwriter-director Daniel Myrick) engineered one of the greatest rags...
|Cinema Verite: Defining the Moment||Actor||n/a||1|
|Curse of the Blair Witch (1997-1998)||Director||n/a||1997||2|
|The Blair Witch Project||Director||n/a||2|
|V/H/S/2||Director||("A Ride in the Park")||2|
|Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2||Executive Producer||n/a||3000006|
|The Blair Witch Project||Screenplay||n/a||4000005|
|Curse of the Blair Witch (1997-1998)||Writer||n/a||1997||4000005|
|The Blair Witch Project||Editor||n/a||7000005|
|V/H/S/2||Editor||("A Ride in the Park")||7000007|
|Freakylinks (1999-2000)||Executive Consultant||n/a||1999||12000007|
|Raised in Maryland|
|Met Daniel Myrick while both were students at the University of Central Florida's film school; worked on the abortive "Fortune" (a film about a witch) with Myrick while there, among other projects|
|"The Blair Witch Project" debuted at a midnight showing at Sundance and received the first festival distribution deal just hours later from Artisan Entertainment which purchased the worldwide rights to the movie, including sequels, for just over $1 millio|
|Worked with Myrick and Gregg Hale on "Black Chapters", a Twilight Zone-style trilogy of short movies|
|Eight-minute trailer for the Myrick-Sanchez brainchild, "The Blair Witch Project", shown on "Split Screen", indie guru John Pierson's Independednt Film Channel program; at that time presented as fact, not fiction; also provided another "Blair Witch" segme|
|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 ab|
|With Myrick and fellow University of Central Florida film school alumni Hale, Mike Monello and Robin Cowie founded Haxan (from the 1920s Swedish documentary "Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages"), a company which initially made ads and industrial films|
|Worked for two years at Enterprise Network Solutions (ENSOL) in Rockville, Maryland where he became a highly accomplished graphics and web designer; responsible for the Blair Witch website (www.blairwitch.com)|
|Made a VHS feature at the age of 19|
Years before, the filmmakers, friends and collaborators since film school at the University of Central Florida, had discovered that they both got a kick out of the intersection of horror and documentary. "Our common vision for this film," Sanchez told THE BOSTON GLOBE (July 11, 1999), "sprang from having felt the same fear as kids watching that stupid show 'In Search Of' with Leonard Nimoy. It still creeps us out." They came up with the inspired concept of casting three actors with improvisational skills to play student filmmakers who had come to investigate the Blair Witch and disappeared without a trace, except for their "found" footage. Having selected their actors, they embarked on an inventive shoot that thrust them and their production team into the role of the witch, hectoring the filmmakers during their eight-day ordeal in Maryland's Seneca Creek State Park, chosen for its varied terrain that could convince viewers the characters were lost in the middle of the woods. The cast and crew's exploits, which Sanchez and Myrick call method filmmaking, produced 20 hours of footage and some surprisingly naturalistic performances.
In fact, the film taken by the actors proved so good that Sanchez and Myrick abandoned their original plan to use it only for the last half-hour of the film after vainly trying to incorporate their own 1940s-style newsreel and a reality-based TV show called "Mystical Occurrences". Recognizing that a coherent narrative existed in the "found" footage alone, they took the daring leap of making the movie a completely shaky-cam affair, and as Sanchez recalled in EMPIRE (November 1999): "We were definitely scared. We were scared we were making a piece of shit." Though "Blair Witch" was not for everyone's tastes, it definitely touched a nerve without showing any acts of violence, proving that the unseen is often more frightening than the seen. The universal terror of being out in the water and unable to touch bottom that "Jaws" (1975) exploited so well was certainly analogous to the archetypal fear of things that go bump in the night, and Sanchez and Myrick put horror back into the imagination of the viewer by revealing some very raw emotion on the faces of their worn-down actors.
Sanchez was also responsible for creating the Blair Witch web site (www.blairwitch.com), a repository for the mythology which helped drive the hype and spur interest in the movie. The site's deadpan look at the disappearance of the students, as if it were a continuing news story, gave no clue that the story was fiction, though the filmmakers certainly never tried to pawn it off as truth on the interview trail. They had originally hoped to sell it to cable and make a modest return on a film that Sanchez has joked "cost about as much as a new Ford Taurus with all the options," but when its debut at Sundance led to a deal in excess of $1 million from Artisan Entertainment, they still had no idea of what was to come. Material originally intended for the film appeared as the pseudo-documentary "The Curse of the Blair Witch" on the Sci-fi Channel just prior to the film's July release and helped fuel a runaway box office. By November it had grossed over $140 million domestically, a testament not just to clever marketing but to two men who had set out to scare people and created a video verite masterpiece in the process.
|Stefanie DeCassan||Companion||born c. 1968; became engaged in 1999 after long relationship|
|University of Central Florida|
|"We've had our little successes and our big failures, but this ("Blair Witch") is the first film that's been sold. And it was a complete experiment.
"We wanted to go after ultimate realism, so we just gave the actors an outline and let them improv. We decided, all right, we're shooting this thing in real-time format, eight straight days in the woods. Let's set it up so we don't have to interact with the actors and just see what happens. Daniel and I would go home and sleep occasionally, but we were actually making the film 24 hours a day--we'd wake up at three in the morning, walk out in the woods and scare the hell out of them." --Eduardo Sanchez to Michael Atkinson in MOVIELINE, July 1999
|In response to Jan De Bont harrumphing, "I kind of feel sorry for the directors who did 'The Blair Witch Project'. Where do they go from here?": "He's got a point. Although I don't know if he should feel sorry. You know, what filmmaker in the world wouldn't trade positions with us? Especially him. They spent a lot of money on 'The Haunting' [De Bont's pic slaughtered by "Blair Witch"] and I don't think he had an idea of how to scare people at all. But, sure, we know the only way is down." --Sanchez quoted in EMPIRE, November 1999|
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