Oren Peli and Eduardo Sanchéz: Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project (1999) and Paranormal Actitivty (2007) are arguably two of the most influential films to grace the found footage genre. The Blair Witch Project illustrated the viewer interest and commercial potential of the genre. Paranormal Activity borrowed from the paradigm created by The Blair Witch Project, expanding upon it and propelling the genre to new heights.
On episode #78 of the Found Footage Files podcast, we were joined by two very special guests, Eduardo Sanchéz, co-creator of The Blair Witch Project (2007) and Oren Peli, director and writer of Paranormal Activity (2007). The main topic of conversation is how The Blair Witch Project (1999) influenced the creative direction of Paranormal Activity (2007).
FFC (BB): Eduardo, you came to use with the idea for this podcast and it sounded like an awesome discussion to be part of. There are similarities and difference in the way both films are structured, and we’ll start off with you guys and let you talk about how that all happened.
Sanchéz – “Oren created one of the best found footage movies ever. Probably one of the creepiest found footage movies I’ve ever seen.”
Eduardo Sanchéz: Oren and I became friends a couple of years ago. I reached out to him on Facebook and wasn’t really expecting any response, but he responded to me immediately and the next time I was in LA we had a little breakfast meeting. We hung out and talked and I just loved Oren’s energy. We’ve been trying to get some projects going together, but it hasn’t worked out so far, but I think it’s something we might want to do in the future.
It was just great to hear coming from Oren how he took to our film and was just inspired by it and all the hard work. Oren created one of the best found footage movies ever. Probably one of the creepiest found footage movies I’ve ever seen. Somebody gave me a DVD of Paranormal Activity just a little bit before it came out and it was the original ending Oren, and I loved it and it creeped me out man. It kinda just scared the crap out of me, and it was like in the middle of the day, and I was watching it on my computer monitor. I think that my reaction to Paranormal Activity was probably exactly the way Oren reacted to my film.
Oren Peli: I would say that my reaction to your movie was much more profound. A lot of people can say that a movie changed your life, perhaps made them see the world differently or inspired them to do something. The impact The Blair Witch Project had with me wasn’t so much that I loved the movie and thought it was great and scary, but it really directly inspired me to do Paranormal Activity which is why we are talking now. So you know there can’t be much more of a way that a movie can impact someone than how The Blair Witch Project impacted me.
If you want to talk about the different ways that The Blair Witch Project was groundbreaking at the time, there were several things. First of all, there was the found footage aspect . . . there wasn’t another film in that realm. Other than some experimental movies that people were making, there wasn’t anything in the theater that was anything like The Blair Witch Project.
The second element is the fact that it was done cheaply by guys who had no connections to the industry. I was obsessed with The Blair Witch Project even before it came out. I read about it. These kids from Florida that didn’t know anyone in Hollywood just made a movie and eventually it became a huge hit.
Peli – “The impact The Blair Witch Project had with me wasn’t so much that I loved the movie and thought it was great and scary, but it really directly inspired me to do Paranormal Activity which is why we are talking now”
The Blair Witch Project, was in my opinion, one of the most effective horror movies that I’ve seen in a long time without really showing much of anything compared to the average horror movie that has blood and guts. There’s hardly anything that you’re seeing in The Blair Witch Project, and that’s why it was so effective, and that’s part of what also gave me the inspiration in Paranormal Activity to say, “you know what, I can get away with not showing anything. It worked for The Blair Witch Project, It can work for me.”
The last part, which is something that not a lot of people talk about, is how The Blair Witch Project was really the first movie that I can think of that used social media to get publicity. The film went viral and became a hit before it was even released.
There were so many things that as I was watching The Blair Witch Project and following its success that were mind boggling to me. I said to myself that if I ever came up with an idea for something that I can do in that style, why not give it a shot? If it worked for them maybe it will work for me.
Eduardo Sanchéz: That’s awesome!
Oren Peli’s Horror Film Influences
FFC (BB): The Paranormal Activity series is really creepy once you get into it. And the demonic entity that follows Katie wherever she goes, it’s scary stuff. Oren, what horror films from the past had a big influence or effect on you?
Peli – “The Blair Witch Project was the next movie that really scared the shit out of me and had an effect on me.”
Oren Peli: Well, I would say the movie with the biggest effect on me was the The Exorcist (1973), which my parents for some reason thought it was a good idea for me to watch when I was eleven years old. I begged them, and said I wanted to watch it, and I made through about half the movie and then I couldn’t sleep that night. I had nightmares for two weeks. I was so traumatized by it that for the rest of my childhood I couldn’t watch anything that had anything to do with ghosts, hauntings or demons. Even when Ghostbusters (1984) came out I didn’t want to watch it because I was so traumatized.
I got over it when I was in my twenties and started watching a lot of horror movies and kind of became desensitized. There weren’t that many movies that had an effect on me after that. The Blair Witch Project was the next movie that really scared the shit out of me and had an effect on me.
A few other movies that had an affect on me were not so much the supernatural, but titles like Silence of the Lambs and Seven that I found scary. For supernatural horror to affect me, it has to be something unique.
Cinematic Differences Between “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity”
FFC (MS): The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity are distinguished from one another by their cinematography. In The Blair Witch Project, viewers vicariously experience the story in real-team from the eyes of the characters as they walk around with the camera. Paranormal Activity, on the other hand, is shot from the perspective of the camera rather than the characters. In Paranormal Activity, the camera knows more than the characters do—the camera is often filming things that the characters do not immediately see. Part of the tension and anticipation that Paranormal Activity comes from waiting for the characters to review their footage the next morning, or watching the characters being filmed while sleeping and something is happening, and they can’t see it, and you can warn them about it. Did you consciously take this cinematic route to achieve these goals?
Oren Peli: Well, I wasn’t specifically thinking that I needed to do it to be different from The Blair Witch Project. It was just the nature of the story. In Paranormal Activity, Micah uses the camera as a tool to see what’s going on in their bedroom when they are asleep. So, the camera and the footage does actually become part of the story, unlike The Blair Witch Project where the characters happen to document the horrible things that happen to them. In Paranormal Activity, the camera is a tool that becomes part of the story.
Peli – “where you see Katie and Micah watch the footage and react to it. It makes the movie much more impactful”
We actually had some re-shoots later on. It’s kind of a cool story—we had a scene at the beginning where [Micah and Katie] review the footage of the door moving, which is in the movie. At the time, I think that is the only scene where we had them review the footage. I had an early cut of the film and just randomly, Micah’s cousin, a famous editor, watched the movie as a favor to Micah and asked why there weren’t more scenes when they’re reviewing the footage.
I said, well “do we really need to?” We know that Micah watches the footage, so why bore the audience by letting the audience watch the same footage again. And she said no, it’s extremely important to involve the audience in the investigation. You want to involve them in what Katie and Micah are going through and see their reaction to the footage. I thought about it and she’s probably one-hundred percent right, so we added a bunch of scenes that are now in the movie where you see Katie and Micah watch the footage and react to it. It makes the movie much more impactful.
Eduardo Sanchéz: Yeah, that’s what I love about Paranormal Activity. You’re right. In The Blair Witch Project, they really weren’t reviewing the footage. They were just trying to get out of the woods. There wasn’t really any investigating going on. And you’re right, I think the creepiest scenes asked “how the hell are these people going to react when they see this thing?” That was a really smart note.
Oren Peli: Yeah absolutely. the movie wouldn’t have been the same without it.
Casting for “Paranormal Activity” and “The Blair Witch Project”
FFC (MS): The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity adopted a similar approach to production, including improv actors, no line-by-line script, and isolating the actors. Oren, can you expand on these similarities?
Oren Peli: To put you in my state of mind after watching The Blair Witch Project—I thought to myself, “I love this movie. This is awesome. I love this style. I can’t wait to see all these other movies that Hollywood is going to crank out that are going to be in this format because it’s great, it’s awesome, I love it.” And nothing. Nothing came out.
Peli – “When I decided to do Paranormal Activity, I said look, The Blair Witch Project already wrote the formula for how to do it right”
When I started researching Paranormal Activity, I was researching what happened between 1999 and it was about 2005 when I started working on Paranormal Activity. I saw that some studios and producers tried to make found footage movies, but they couldn’t resist the temptation of saying “we don’t really want to go with unknown actors” or “we can’t trust the actors to improvise, so we’ll give them a script to read.” The end result was that the acting just didn’t feel authentic. Or “we can’t let the actors operate the camera, that’s gonna look like crap. Let’s use professional cameraman and professional lighting.” The movies would end up looking slick—the end result of all that is that found footage only works when it’s authentic. When it doesn’t look authentic, then why bother doing it as found footage?
The point of the story is that when I decided to do Paranormal Activity, I said look, The Blair Witch Project already wrote the formula for how to do it right, and I studied, “this is how they did they casting..” From what I read, and Ed, you can jump in and tell me if it’s true or not. People would just come into the casting room and sit down and you would throw them a random question like “you’re sitting in front of the parole board, why should I let you go?” without any preparation or anything like that. That’s exactly what I did for Paranormal Activity.
People didn’t know anything about the movie. We didn’t even have a name, and people would sit down and I would say, “so tell me, why do you think your house is haunted?” Some people would be like, “my house haunted? What do you mean?” and then they would get it, “oh, oh, oh, okay, yeah. I hear noises and stuff.” You can see them going through the thought process. But with Katie for example, Katie sits down and she’s like “I’ve been hearing all these noises.” And she goes instantly without a split second of hesitation. Right there I’m like okay, I think she’s the one and the same with Micah.
This is the way I found the actors. Once I found them, to keep them on their toes there was no script. And I will say though, that I tried to do a lot of things that I read that The Blair Witch Project did, like leaving them notes and keeping them literally and figuratively in the dark. A lot of scenes in Paranormal Activity are the one and only take of something that they didn’t know was going to happen and just played through it and it was perfect and like cut and we’re done.
But Katie and Micah were so good that even when we did need to do something take after take after take again, they still delivered the same authenticity. I’m very glad that some of these things worked out that way, but may be it wasn’t that necessary because they just nailed it even when they had to redo the same thing over and over again. You still thought that oh, they’re just going through it for the first time.
Editing “Paranormal Activity”
FFC (MS): I read that the story for Paranormal Activity really came into focus for you during the editing process. Can you elaborate on this?
Oren Peli: We did a lot of scenes. There was a lot of cool stuff that happened at night. When I was putting it together, all this stuff that happens at night is really cool. but some of it felt like it was out of order—the movie was peaking too early. Katie getting dragged out of bed was originally a little bit earlier, and after that nothing really matched it. We realized that this scene needed to go a little bit later in the film. The most important thing we realized is that we needed more daytime scenes which kind of felt like filler, but done right it’s the part of the story that you need to connect to the characters and see what they are going through more than just seeing them asleep at night.
Peli – “So there are scenes where I’m just walking around and you just see my hand in frame. If you ever see Micah’s hand, it looks just a little bit skinnier than mine”
So we went through some scenarios where we would watch the movie and sometimes felt like the pacing was not right. You can’t have two scary nights back-to-back. We needed to find something to put in the middle and would do a couple of free shoots, add a couple of scenes, and move a couple of nights around.
I had a full-time job, so I could only edit on the weekends and evenings. So it was probably 10 months of editing, reshuffling, adding a few scenes, removing scenes, trying to nail down the pacing, and then we started feeling that this is beginning to feel like it’s flowing. I would say it was a good 4 to 6 months of editing before we felt like we had a movie here.
Eduardo Sanchéz: So Oren, how long was the original shoot for Paranormal Activity and how long did you continue to do re-shoots as you edited?
Oren Peli: The original shoot was seven days, seven really busy days. We were working around the clock with no breaks. I really abused the poor actors—they were great they didn’t complain. We got most of what’s on the screen in the first seven days, then I would edit for a couple of months, and we would all watch the movie together, throw in ideas, and see what’s missing.
Peli – “If you can shoot a movie in your own home, there’s a lot of advantages”
Because I was shooting everything in my house, I would schedule with Katie and Micah to come down for the weekend to shoot a couple of things. I would say that after Dreamworks/Paramount become involved it was probably another seven to ten days of shooting.
Eduardo Sanchéz: That’s great. The ability to test and reshoot, and obviously being in your house made it easy. You were sleeping in the sound stage, so you can shoot anytime. That’s pretty interesting.
Oren Peli: There were some scenes that I needed to do little bridges. For example, I wanted to have Micah taking the camera and walking over there, looking around the hallway, and walking back. I realized, I don’t need Micah for that. I can do it. So there are scenes where I’m just walking around and you just see my hand in frame. If you ever see Micah’s hand, it looks just a little bit skinnier than mine. There were a few times that I could just do it and get away with it. So definitely, if you can shoot a movie in your own home, there’s a lot of advantages.
Eduardo Sanchéz: Yeah, that’s the best advice we can give you. Shoot the movie in your own house!
Oren Peli: It doesn’t work for every movie, and even when it does, it doesn’t work for all aspects. You’re house become a set and you can’t change the furniture or move everything around. You have to reset everything when you do a re-shoot, but for the most part, it was great, especially for me because I didn’t know anything about anything, so I had all the time in the world to practice the lighting and the stunts. There was no rushed pre-prep period. It was a year-long of me and my friend Amir, helping practicing stunts and doing the props and getting everything done right. So it was the only way I could have done that movie.
“Paranormal Activity” Mythology and Sequels
FFC (BB): How much of the story in the five Paranormal Activity sequels was in your mind when you shot the original film? Did you have a mythology mapped out? I realize there were a lot of different people that contributed to the sequels. Was there was a common thread that made its way into all the films?
Oren Peli: If you’re asking if I was thinking about sequels or mythology while making the first one, absolutely zero. I was focused on getting this one done right. Our joke was if someone was suggesting a scene that we couldn’t use, I would say “we’ll save it for the sequel.” Only because the original movie succeeded, that’s when the studio was thinking about how we can make more of these. I can’t really take any credit for the mythology that evolved—that was a group effort. Chris Landon was an integral part of the mythology moving forward into the franchise, but my creative involvement was very limited in the sequels.
Fear of Failure
FFC (BB): When you were sifting through all the raw footage, putting Paranormal Activity together, did you have a sense or a magical feeling, like this is going to turn into something cool?
Oren Peli: I would go back and forth. I remember editing the scene with the door slamming that happened in the middle of the movie. It was late at night, I was in the house editing, and I got kind of spooked out myself. I was watching this scene and watching the door slamming and I edited it, and it came together really well. I’m watching it and thinking this is awesome. I can quit my job. This movie will be amazing. Everything I wanted it to be.
Oren – “I thought either this is going to be awesome and change my life or it’ll be so embarrassingly bad that I wouldn’t show it to anyone”
The next morning I woke up—and as part of my routine, I would render the movie overnight and watch it in the morning. I’m watching that scene and I’m thinking “oh my god, this is so silly. This is just some door slamming. Whose gonna buy this? Why am I wasting my time with this?”
Eduardo Sanchéz: That’s the way it is. You had a little of The Blair Witch Project to guide you, but Paranormal Activity was still very experimental because it wasn’t like you were completely copying The Blair Witch Project. You were just copying the style. That’s the way we felt when we were doing The Blair Witch Project. We’re thought this is going to be amazing or it’s going to be the biggest piece of crap to ever come out.
Oren Peli: Yeah, I thought either this is going to be awesome and change my life or it’ll be so embarrassingly bad that I wouldn’t show it to anyone.
Eduardo Sanchéz: As Oren knows, when you make a movie it’s very rare that you say this is going to be a complete piece of crap as you’re shooting it. You have to believe in your film. Most filmmakers make these movies with the idea that it’s going to be great and it’s going to be so cool.
Oren Peli and Eduardo Sanchéz Get Spooked By Their Own Films
Eduardo Sanchéz: When I was editing the final scene in the house at the end of The Blair Witch Project, I was editing by myself when we had this office in Orlando, and it was an older house. It wasn’t creepy, but it was old and I was alone. It was two in the morning and I was editing that scene and I freaked myself man. I started hearing stuff and had to turn off the computer, get the hell out of there, and drive home. Did Paranormal Activity ever freak you out? Obviously, it must have spooked you out sometimes right?
Oren Peli: Not too much. The only time would be the first time I would watch a scene. We would leave the camera running for hours—it would only be up to an hour at a time because we would have to switch tapes. Sometimes I would be watching a scene and there would be a loud bang and it would make me jump. Most of the time I knew what was coming.
“Paranormal Activity’s” Road to Release
Eduardo Sanchéz: Paranormal Activity is only the second found footage film that really exploded, The Blair Witch Project being the first one. It was a truly independent film like Oren said. There was no connection to Hollywood at all. It was broke people trying to cobble a movie together. I was hearing rumors about Paranormal Activity. It had been around for a while. I heard that at first they were going to remake it once Paranormal Activity got bought [by a studio].
Oren Peli: The movie premiered in festivals in 2007 and was bought by Dreamworks for the purpose of remaking it. We didn’t want to remake it and tried to do whatever we could to sabotage it. Ultimately Dreamworks held a test screening and it went great. They agreed to re-shoot the ending and release it in 2008.
So great, except that Dreamworks and Paramount had a little breakup. In the divorce settlement, Paranormal Activity went to Paramount and it sat there for about a year before they decided to do a little cheapo limited release and see what happens. So it took about two years between the first festival premier in 2007 and the actual release in 2009. During that time because a lot of people did see it in festivals and test screenings, Paranormal Activity did get a little buzz going.
Oren Peli and Eduardo Sanchéz Feed Off Each Other’s Successes
Eduardo Sanchéz: I started hearing about Paranormal Activity and asked people, ‘Is it good?’ They all said that it’s really scary. I was really looking forward to seeing it. Then like I said earlier, I went to LA and there were DVDs of Paranormal Activity floating around, like most movies. The same thing happened with The Blair Witch Project, except back then it was VHS tapes of the movie floating around.
Sanchéz – “Years after The Blair Witch Project, and you know, the heat of the career had died down and I hadn’t really done anything . . . I watched Paranormal Activity and it just inspired me. It just kicked me in the ass and said ‘dude you gotta get up and you gotta get out and do your thing’“
Sanchéz – “Years after The Blair Witch Project, and you know, the heat of the career had died down and I hadn’t really done anything . . . I watched Paranormal Activity and it just inspired me. It just kicked me in the ass and said ‘dude you gotta get up and you gotta get out and do your thing’“
Someone gave me Paranormal Activity and a couple of other found footage movies that had not been released yet. I was blown away by it. It’s a completely different film from The Blair Witch Project, but I got it. It was speaking the same language that I understood.
I don’t know if I’ve told Oren this—I was going through this really strange time in my life. Professionally, it was years after The Blair Witch Project, and you know, the heat of the career had died down and I hadn’t really done anything. I had done a couple of movies but they went straight to DVD. I was proud of them but they didn’t have any real commercial success and I was just trying to figure out what I was going to do. I watched Paranormal Activity and it just inspired me. It just kicked me in the ass and said “dude you gotta get up and you gotta get out and do your thing. Whatever you have in your head, do it.”
Peli – “If it weren’t for The Blair Witch Project, I wouldn’t have the courage to do something like Paranormal Activity which ended up saving me. I’m glad to hear that maybe in some small way The Blair Witch Project inspired me, which then in a round-about way ended up inspiring Ed again”
Shortly thereafter is when Jamie came to me with the idea for Lovely Molly (2011). I put so much energy into Lovely Molly. A lot of it came from watching Paranormal Activity, and then seeing it released and its success. Paranormal Activity just inspired me because I knew that Oren’s story was very similar to mine. I was like “you know you can just keep making films Ed,” so it really kicked me in the right places and got me inspired. It was kind of a trip to see all the buzz and people that were driving 100 miles to their nearest theater to see Paranormal Activity.
Paranormal Activity had a lot of the things that reminded me of The Blair Witch Project and it was just cool because at least somebody else did it. It wasn’t just a complete fluke. I immediately felt a connection to Paranormal Activity that I really don’t feel with other found footage movies.
Oren Peli: That’s very cool to hear. If it weren’t for The Blair Witch Project—because I was in a pretty miserable place in my life too because I hated my job and I hated my coworkers. I was working as a programmer and was dealing carpel tunnel, so i was in constant pain. So, I was like, I’ve gotta find something to do with my life. If it weren’t for The Blair Witch Project, I wouldn’t have the courage to do something like Paranormal Activity which ended up saving me. I’m glad to hear that maybe in some small way The Blair Witch Project inspired me, which then in a round-about way ended up inspiring Ed again.
“Paranormal Activity” — A Sound Strategy
FFC (MS): One of my absolute favorite tropes in the found footage genre that I think was created by Paranormal Activity is that low-level humming sound recorded to camera right before there’s a paranormal event. Almost every found footage ghost film since Paranormal Activity uses that trope. More recent films use the sound accompanied by electromagnetic interference or static to the footage as a natural progression. How did you come up with that humming sound?
Oren Peli: The sound was created by taking the camera with my on-board microphone and putting it right next to an air conditioning vent, so the air would blow directly on it. I processed it to make it bassier. That’s all the sound is, an air conditioning event.
As for the way I came up with it—I was watching the night scenes and knew from the beginning there was never going to be any score. I was never going to compromise on that. And again The Blair Witch Project worked perfectly without a score, so I know it can work without a score. I was going to fight any studio or anyone who would suggest that we put in a score.
Peli – “The sound was created by taking the camera with my on-board microphone and putting it right next to an air conditioning vent, so the air would blow directly on it”
But the night scenes did feel kind of empty from an audio standpoint. There was just something about the silence that sometimes was effective, but sometimes something was missing. During my ten months of editing, I did a lot of mini test screenings. I would show the movie to different groups of friend and different groups of friends of friends, people who didn’t know me, so they wouldn’t feel obligated to say good things about the movie. I would do a lot of A/B experiments, where I would do a cut of the movie with the low-level hum and without. People said the version with the low-level hum was so scary, and that was awesome.
FFC (MS): After watching Paranormal Activity for a while, I picked up on the pattern—every time that hum started, I was immediately on alert, scanning the screen very closely, asking “When is it going to hit? When is it going to happen?”—because you knew something was going to happen. It’s a really effective way to generate tension. It’s just brilliant.
Oren Peli: Yeah, it builds the anticipation, that you don’t know what, but you get the idea that something will happen.
Oren Peli and Eduardo Sanchéz on Found Footage Budgets
FFC (MS): Do you see a relationship between the effectiveness of a found footage film and budget? It just seems that the more money a found footage film has to play with, the more polished the film looks. Found footage films with larger budgets lose that gritty realism the filmmakers originally set out to create.
Oren Peli – “Found footage works best when it’s totally believable and can be done in a way that you would think if this is the way it really did happen”
Oren Peli: I agree with that statement. If you try to make a movie that is bigger in scope—I would say Chronicle (2012) is a good example of a movie that worked great for me, but the last act when it got really big, I thought it was well executed, but it lost some of the realism for me. I may be in the minority, but Cloverfield (2008) didn’t work for me because I thought it was well done, but there was no real point of doing it in the found footage style because I knew there wasn’t really an incident of a monster in New York kicking buildings. So, why try to make it in a way that feels like it might have really happened?
The Blair Witch Project? Who knows, perhaps there were some poor students and this happened to them. I know in the back of my mind that it’s not true, but it felt real. But you never know. In Cloverfield (2008), when you see a monster running around, I know it’s not real, so for me when you try to make a movie that’s really large in scope in that style, it might sometimes defeat the purpose. Found footage works best when it’s totally believable and can be done in a way that you would think if this is the way it really did happen, this is exactly how it could look like—when you have a larger budget, you have that limitation. Maybe if I had a large budget I would have been tempted, but I don’t think so, it was a philosophical decision not to show the demon. Maybe I would have been tempted to show it and the movie wouldn’t have been as effective. I agree with what you’re trying to get to with your question.
Sanchéz – “when I saw Paranormal Activity, there was somebody doing it the right way, with limited assets and limited money and somehow made a much scarier movie than anything I had seen since The Blair Witch Project“
Eduardo Sanchéz: I completely agree with Oren. You have to keep the scale of it at a certain point and there has to be a kernel of believability that this could have happened. There are a lot of found footage movies that just light the hell out of the night exteriors. They’re looking through a window and the tree is perfectly lit outside and there’s a perfect slit of light hitting the window. That’s not how reality works.
Oren Peli: You know what’s the wost for me? When the actors are mic’d and you have a scene where you’re zooming way in to a couple that’s having a dalog 200 feet away and you hear them perfectly like they are close to the mic.
Eduardo Sanchéz: I like The Office. Even though I love the show and it’s funny, it’s a comedy so you can get away with it. The Office mic’ing where everybody is mic’d all the time—and to me, like Oren, those things bother me because well, you wouldn’t be able to hear that. It just takes me out of it, you know what I mean? So, I think the scope has to be controlled. I like Cloverfield (2008). Obviously it wasn’t supposed to be real. What I appreciate about Cloverfield (2008) is that was the first time something that big budget had been done in the style of The Blair Witch Project. That’s why I was so happy, or I guess inspired. I don’t know if I was happy or more pissed off that I didn’t think of the idea! But when I saw Paranormal Activity, there was somebody doing it the right way, with limited assets and limited money and somehow made a much scarier movie than anything I had seen since The Blair Witch Project.
The new Blair Witch is a found footage movie and it sticks to the rules. There are some weirder moments, but it sticks to the rules of found footage really well, which I appreciated that those guys did.
Petition Lionsgate for an Extended Version of “The Blair Witch Project”
FFC (BB): In our last interview you expressed an interest in creating an extended version of The Blair Witch Project using the 19 hours of unused footage from the first film. Is there anything our listeners could do to get that thing rolling?
Eduardo Sanchéz: I know that you guys put some links up and I don’t know if anyone started a petition. For me, it’s something I’d love to do. I don’t know if Lionsgate would ever let me do it. You could start a petition and obviously if I can get enough interest from the people out there, the fans, I can bring it to Lionsgate’s attention.
FFC (MS): We’ll see if we can get some traction on that.
Update: We worked with Eduardo Sanchéz to create an official petition to Lionsgate for the creation of an extended version of The Blair Witch Project: Sign the petition. Hashtag #ReleaseTheFootage #BlairWitchPetition
Eduardo Sanchéz: Oren, I wanted to do this because these guys are such students or scholars really of found footage. I thought you would appreciate their passion for the movies that brought us into the mainstream, gave us careers, and that they just love. They have this found footage database that’s crazy and I just want to tell you guys to keep doing what you’re doing because it really does inspire us when people love the stuff that we do so much as you guys do.
Oren Peli – “The good thing about found footage is that anyone can make it. The bad thing about found footage is that anyone can make it”
FFC (MS): That means the world to us.
Oren Peli: I know that found footage gets a bad wrap and some of it is deservedly so. The good thing about found footage is that anyone can make it. The bad thing about found footage is that anyone can make it. There’s a lot of crap out there, so I think because of that there a bad rap that you get, but I still unshamefully and without excuses love the format. When a movie is done will as a found footage movie, I definitely love it and enjoy it on a level that I don’t enjoy a traditional narrative movie. For me, there’s something special about found footage when it’s done right.
Eduardo Sanchéz: Same with me. I think we know how difficult it is to do right. It’s relatively easy to get a camera and pretend you’re doing a found footage movie. To do one that’s interesting, especially these days, is difficult. You’re right Oren, I really appreciate it when it’s done right.
FFC (BB): Well guys, thank you so much for giving us this much time to talk about found footage. It’s been really fascinating. Best of luck to you Oren Peli and Eduardo Sanchez.