Great SlashDot article on The Blair Witch Project yesterday (below). Hollywierd is now calling BWP an “Internet Phenomenon”. I think this is simply because of the fact that the major studios simply can’t face up to the fact that as they continually underestimate the Moviegoing public’s desire for unique and new ideas, they spiral ever further away from bringing us good entertainment.
BWP has hit them, from left field, and it has demonstrated how creativity can triumph over mass. Moreover it demonstrated something that the studios are afraid of — that we’re smarter than they think we are, and that in many cases we go to movies despite, rather than because of, them. Blair Witch Project was so different and unique that it circumvented traditional channels of movie marketing and spread, by word of mouth, like a virus. The real adventure associated with BWP was that it was NOT a major movie.
But the stage for the success of BWP, I think, was set ironically enough by the mainstream media. It was in the early 90s that we started to associate the authenticity or reality of an image or a recorded event with its graininess or roughness. The jittery camera movements of COPS led to a whole wave of reality-based television; amateur videos of events such as the Rodney King beatings brought us “real” unadulterated footage of seemingly crucial events; and the propagation of the use of handheld cameras in action movies such as “Natural Born Killers” and “Full Metal Jacket” to lend to the drama — all of these and more led us to the ultimate statement of authenticity and total suspension of disbelief attempted by the Blair Witch Project.
In short, we do not trust images which appear to be constructed, favouring instead those which are spontaneous and therefore of lesser visual quality. And that use of poor quality as a construct is the real innovation of BWP — the contrasting of video and 16mm film which permeates the movie and in some cases represents the point of view of characters, the varying sound quality (they recorded to DAT via lapel MICs or built-in MICs and video using the simple camera MIC), and the techniques of running with the camera and showing poorly framed shots or shots of nothing in particular accompanied by horrifying screams and other terrifying sound effects — is what makes it all more believable.
So it was just a matter of time before someone figured out that by combining all of these techniques you could make a movie that went for the jugular in convincing us of its authenticity. That’s the only thing that’s unique about BWP — which itself doesn’t actually have a great story, good characterizations, or a solid plot. But that’s what makes it worth seeing as a landmark in filmmaking.
Personally, the ‘net is not where I go to make consumer choices about movies — the marketing of movies via the Internet is immature and unproven. The real tool of movie marketing is still word of mouth, and that is what has the studios scared because they cannot control it. Hollywood is so insular and self-congratulatory that they will not readily accept new ideas — you could never get $30K from a studio to make that movie. Of course, now that BWP is out I’m sure you could and your work will be awful because it will very obviously be derivative — but that’s what Hollywood is these days: simply derivative.
Anyway, my $0.02 .. check out the article.