A film made on a budget of $60,000, with no set, no script, no on-set film crew and a six week filming schedule should be a recipe for disaster. Yet this film ended up being purchased for $1 million — making $250 million worldwide.

The film I’m talking about is the 1999 horror/indie film “The Blair Witch Project,” which tells the story three college students who venture in the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to investigate a local legend about a witch billed as the source of missing children dating back to the 17th century.

The filming process was a 24/7 project. The three actors, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Micheal Williams, spent eight days filming. At night, as the actors slept n tents, the film crew would play audio of children laughing or bang on their tents, which led to several of the scenes that built suspense throughout the film. 

The Blair Witch Project popularized a style of horror film that has since become popular in recent years, with the film meant to be a story pieced together from “found footage,” adding to the mystery and believability of the media. The Blair Witch Project was not the first horror found footage movie, but it is the one that truly popularized the style.

In 1998, a year before The Blair Witch Project premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick made a missing persons website for the three actors. The website had childhood photos and biographies of Donahue, Leonard and Williams. On IMDb, the actors were listed as deceased. People going to see the film thought they were really watching three young adults disappear in front of their eyes. The actors’ families even received condolence cards.

Is The Blair Witch Project a perfect movie? No. But is it one of the most unique films made in the 20th century? Did it completely change and popularize a new genre? Yes, and for those reasons I will always sing The Blair Witch Project’s praises.

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