May 21, 2024

The Blair Witch project’s unappreciated actors

October has finally begun and what better time to talk about The Blair Witch Project? An influential, genre-shaping movie, developing (basically creating) a format not done- found footage horror. A genre that often has an unstable, handheld camera look to them, using this to put the audience on edge. Since this genre was so unusual and had not been performed this way before, at the time of its release, many thought that The Blair Witch Project was real. Filming yourself was a lot stranger, that mixed with the actor’s constantly improvised scenes- it convinced the audience. Even some that knew the actor’s families thought they’d died. Some watchers believed them to be missing due to posters put up by the team. But it all came to be with the movie’s creators started a rumor online about The Blair Witch before the movie was even announced. Even creating a website for it. It’s effortless to lie on the internet now and it was even simpler back then. After the film was released the website was visited by millions. Urban legends and such posted online made more and more people assume this was found footage. Now, imagine that. Being a role in a movie so big your own family thinks you are dead because of it. Then, you are told to go into hiding, to play into being dead. Imagine that but you got paid $8,000 only. One of the most successful independent movies ever made and the actors were paid just 1k a day.

Behind the scenes

The movie cost $60,000 to film and upward of $200,000-$500,000 after production. However, those figures seem slim to the $248.6 million made back. And sure 1,000 dollars a day isn’t the worse, but when described in relation to how much was made it seems insane. Not to mention these actors weren’t treated to AC trailers and catered nourishment, they slept in tents and were purposefully cut back on food so their performance would be more convincing. It could be argued the film’s achievement is entirely theirs. The most iconic scene of Heather Donahue telling her last goodbyes to the camera is entirely improvised. Her face goes on to be the face of the movie. Being on posters and billboards. But with fame comes hate and after being harassed by those who didn’t like the movie, even being told by a stranger that they wished she were dead, Donahue contacted her local news. She revealed she was alive and received backlash from the movie’s distributor.

“I wanted to say, ‘Well, are you sending me money?’ But I was a 24-year-old actor so I said sorry,”

https://www.looper.com/661199/the-bizarre-way-heather-donahue-was-paid-for-the-blair-witch-project/

The next week she received a fruit basket,

“The crap kind with pears and water crackers and mostly packaging,”

https://www.looper.com/661199/the-bizarre-way-heather-donahue-was-paid-for-the-blair-witch-project/

Outcome

There was no lawsuit over this specific issue though the cast did go on to sue the film’s distributors for using their names and likenesses without permission for a sequel to The Blair Witch.