"I told Dan, 'This is either going to be a great movie, or we're going to be the joke of the year.'"
The joke was on skeptics of the first "found-footage" movie, which 15 years ago launched a lucrative subgenre in
Sanchez, 44, who is directing episodes of the upcoming BBC America paranormal series Intruders, says he and Myrick knew they were on to an idea but had no notion it would make
They simply wanted to emulate
He and Myrick began cobbling together a screenplay in 1994; the movie would be largely ad-libbed, and filmmakers would ambush actors with cameras rolling to film their frights.
The 62-page script, which called for chunks of improvised dialogue, changed dramatically over the shoot; the movie initially was to be a faux-documentary about the faux-footage. "But when we looked over the footage," Sanchez says, "we decided a documentary about a documentary would take people out of the movie."
Tom Schatz, chairman of the film department at the
Not that Sanchez and Myrick (who stopped directing films in 2008 and could not be reached for comment), realized their fortuitous timing. "We were just broke
"We just wanted to scare the crap out of people, and it looked like it was happening. But I never expected it would be my calling card."
It also became the template for an entire franchise in Paranormal Activity, which has produced five films (a sixth arrives
"We thought it was going to be seen as a clever gimmick, but just a gimmick," Sanchez says. "A passing fad."
But the legend of Blair Witch is as resilient as the legend of the Blair Witch.
"There's not a day goes by that I don't think about it," says Sanchez, who is helping piece together an actual documentary on the film to celebrate the anniversary. "I was just learning about horror, and how the trick is to make people feel trapped and alone. I guess, in those woods, people did."
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