When The Blair Witch Project came out in 1999, people actually believed it was real. The viral marketing claimed it was footage found from missing film students, and even though they appeared on talk shows promoting the movie, some audiences bought into it. Now found footage is everywhere, particularly in other horror movies, and Eduardo Sanchez, co-director of Blair Witch, is back with a new one.
Exists is a found footage movie about Bigfoot. A group of friends on a camping trip, one of them filming extreme stunts for a YouTube channel, encounter the legendary creature. Bigfoot does exist, and he’s coming for them. Exists is available on VOD and in select theaters as of Friday, October 24 and we got to interview Sanchez about his new movie.
Nuke the Fridge: Now that found footage is so prolific, you did it when found footage meant film cameras and bulky video, didn’t you?
Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah, I mean, look, man, things have definitely changed. Even the stuff that we shot Blair Witch with, we’re shooting with Hi-8 cameras and we shot on a big ass 16mm camera. Even the audio equipment, you can record audio on an iPhone now and you don’t have to carry those huge DAT recorders or even a Nagra. It’s definitely changed, man, and also this film really took advantage of the GoPro revolution that’s happening. Kids are shooting stuff on their phones and mounting GoPros to any part of their bodies and doing the craziest things.
Nuke: What was it like to revisit the format with GoPros and the YouTube culture?
Eduardo Sanchez: It was nice because when we did Blair Witch, we invented it and we came up with the idea of making it this way because the story kind of pushed the technique. It was supposed to be a documentary that these people were shooting, so that’s the way we would shoot it to create this reality within the narrative of the movie. With Exists, it’s different. It’s 15 years later. There’ve been dozens of found footage movies. Everyone knows it’s not real, this is not real footage so you can kind of loosen up a little bit and back up a little and say, “Okay, I can put a little music on this movie. We can light the night scenes and we can steady the camerawork a little bit. We can compose shots if we need to. We can be a little more cinematic, use some editing techniques and make the movie come to life.” Also the sound. We don’t have to make it sound like it’s coming from the mic on the camera. We can do a 5.1 mix and make the creature bounce around. We can have fun with it. The main mission of the movie was to bring this creature to life. I’ve had a fascination with Bigfoot since I was a little kid. I’ve always thought that I could bring it to the screen in a way that I hadn’t really seen before. So I’ve been, not studying, but keeping up with the suit technology. I love that movie Greystoke because the apes look amazing. If I can get someone like Rick Baker to design the Bigfoot suit and get an actor that knows how to move, I always thought I could pull it off. That’s really the main mission for me as a filmmaker. I wanted to put Bigfoot on the screen in a way that hadn’t been done before. The technique around it just lent itself to bring the creature to life in a really cool way, because to me Bigfoot, if you want to belief in Bigfoot, the Patterson-Gilmin film, all those eyewitness videos, they’ve all been found footage. They’ve all been POV video. So I thought it’s kind of the same genre to make a Bigfoot movie and make it found footage. Once we made that decision to go and do found footage, we knew we had made the right decision because everything started coming together after that.
Nuke: And you did get smoother of running through the woods with a camera.
Eduardo Sanchez: We did. We were fully aware, we never meant Blair Witch to be in the theater, so we were fully aware of all the nausea we caused in our initial theatrical release. You can’t help but shake the camera because sometimes you’re running, but our DP John Rutland definitely had that in mind. He actually did most of the camerawork in the movie which in Blair Witch, the actors did 99.9% of the camerawork. Even just that, it was very different. It was much more of a conventional film than Blair Witch was.
Nuke: And this wasn’t about being ominous with bundles of sticks and piles of rocks. This was about showing the creature.
Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah, I mean, look. In the end, I want it to be a fun action-y horror film. I definitely wanted the creature to be scary. It’s a monster movie but at the same time I definitely wanted to show it and I wanted to make it thrilling for the audience. It helps to have a little bit more money, to have more resources and honestly I think that if we had had a little bit more money and just different resources on Blair Witch, it would’ve been, I think, a completely different film. So for me, this movie was a monster movie very much modeled after the best monster movie ever, which is to me in my opinion Jaws. Jaws was the perfect blend of hiding what is in the water and then slowly revealing it. Then at the end, showing just enough that you’re satisfied you saw the shark, it looked cool, it looked real, it scared me and that was a fun ride. As far as the creature was concerned, I wanted to follow that model and not overdose the audience with the creature but give them enough to see what we had done.
Nuke: Was it 100% scripted, versus the experiment of The Blair Witch Project?
Eduardo Sanchez: It was definitely scripted. Jamie Nash wrote the script. You definitely want it to feel real, but at the same time, you want to hit the story beats. So we scripted the whole movie but then I gave the actors a lot of leeway with the dialogue. I would always tell them, ‘Forget the lines and let’s just do the scene.’ It had to feel relaxed. It had to feel natural. It had to feel like it’s really happening so I definitely gave ‘em a lot of freedom to go off the words of the page.
Nuke: I have a theory that douchebags are the heroes of found footage movies, because there’s always some douchebag that insists on keeping the cameras running. What are your thoughts on my theory?
Eduardo Sanchez: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s one of the things that we struggled with the most on Blair Witch was the idea of why would they keep filming? It’s kind of the main point of found footage movies is that somebody’s got to keep filming or else you don’t have a movie. You kind of have to accept that. With Blair Witch it was important because it was kind of the first of its kind that really used that technique to the fullest. Now I think it’s so accepted. It’s just a technique of making a movie, so there’s definitely got to be a character you have to introduce early on. You have to introduce his addiction to videotaping. For us, it’s the main character Brian whose whole identity is basically he videotapes. His brother is kind of the star of his movies, this life that he kind of lives through the video camera. For me it made a lot of sense that this guy would be just videotaping everything, but at a certain point, no matter how much motivation you give a character, it really doesn’t make any sense that you would keep videotaping. Like we said, you don’t have a movie if you don’t have that character.
Nuke: Has it become our culture that people do film everything they do now, to the detriment of their personalities?
Eduardo Sanchez: Oh, absolutely. I was talking about that with a friend of mine. Especially young kids are just videotaping these things that they don’t even think about the consequences. Not just taping other people, but they’re taping themselves doing all these stupid things. That’s the same thing as these people that commit crimes and videotape them. Do you understand what you’re doing? There is this desire and this epidemic I guess you could call it, a social wave of people just wanting to document everything. Obviously Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is a world where you don’t exist or you’re not doing anything unless you publicize it and you can show other people. You go on vacation sometimes and see people walking through Disney or Universal videotaping anything. It’s like, you might not be experiencing things the way that you want to experience them when you’re trying to document everything. So found footage movies have probably become more realistic just based on the urge that seems to be everywhere now to just videotape and document every phase of your life.
2014 SXSW Film Festival Audience Award Winner – Midnighters
Publicity Materials: http://lionsgatepublicity.com/theatrical/exists/
Rating: R for language throughout, some violence, sexual content and drug use
U.S. Release Date: October 24, 2014 (In Theaters and On Demand)
Run time: 86 minutes
Cast: Dora Madison Burge, Samuel Davis, Roger Edwards, Chris Osborn, Brian Steele, Denise Williamson
Directed by: Eduardo Sanchez
Written by: Jamie Nash
Produced by: Robin Cowie, Jane Fleming, Mark Ordesky
Executive Producers: Reed Frerichs, Gregg Hale, George Waud, D. Todd Shepherd
Director of Photography: John W. Rutland
Production Designer: Andrew C. White
Edited by: J. Andrew Jenkins & Andrew Eckblad and Eduardo Sanchez
Music by: Nima Fakhrara
Casting by: Beth Sepko, CSA
For five friends, it was a chance for a summer getaway— a weekend of camping in the Texas Big Thicket. But visions of a carefree vacation are shattered with an accident on a dark and desolate country road. In the wake of the accident, a bloodcurdling force of nature is unleashed—something not exactly human, but not completely animal— an urban legend come to terrifying life…and seeking murderous revenge.