Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Found Footage

I stopped watching horror movies because the flood of "found footage" filmed at creepy locations makes up more than half of the offerings.

Initially a great idea . . . little cost, quick turnaround, no special effects and big salaried actors were actually a detriment to found footage believability. 

The Blair Witch Project grossed $248 million making it the most successful indie film of all time. The initial investment was $35,000. 

The "script" was a 35 page outline with improvised dialogue. The actors were hired from an ad reading: 

An improvised feature film, shot in wooded location, it is going to be hell and most of you reading this probably shouldn't come.

The concept was partially influenced by the producer's experience in military training where soldiers would be harassed at night by the "enemy". 

Filming lasted eight days. 

The biggest obstacles were Heather's inexperience operating a camera which was resolved in a two day crash course . . .

the cost of gaining approval from a power bar manufacturer to show the product in the shopping cart . . . 

and having to do some re-editing when focus groups reported really hating Heather (who is still pretty shrill even with the re-editing.) 

The three main actors were paid $1,000 a day but post release ended up making about $300K.

Because the handheld footage is purposely low quality and jumpy, on average one moviegoer per screening felt nauseated and had to leave the theater. 

Being the first of this genre, several sources, like IMDb reported that the three actors were dead.  

Only Josh is still a full-time actor. Heather grows medical marijuana and Mike moves furniture on television stages. 

I started watching horror movies again because having a window running some form of entertainment while doing computer activities is the benefit of living in this decade. 

The problem with watching any other movie genre is some attention is required. Horror movies are the exception and because the bar isn't set very high a 50% like-ability rating may be a decent production. 

Even with the dip in the watching standard threshold, only a fourth of rated horror movies make it to that level. 

Back to the Blair Witch Project. Burkittsville, Maryland is a small, one mile square town and has 180 residents. The residents weren't notified about filming and didn't pay much attention until after the release. 

Multiple sets of wooden welcome signs and replacements were stolen. Artisan Entertainment bought the town four metal signs that have since rusted, or were also stolen. Debby Burgoyne, the mayor, once woke up to find a fan of the movie standing in her living room who had assumed there was a tour.

The scenes in the woods were filmed in Seneca State Park, about 35 miles away from Burkittsville. 

The Griggs House in the movie's conclusion has been demolished but was located in Granite, Maryland about 50 miles away from Burkittsville.

For years, my sister and I thought being a movie scout would be a fantastic job. I don't have a clue what it would actually require and maybe it would be as horrible as taking drive-thru orders but nosing around out of the way places seems appealing. (We once went into an abandoned bomb shelter on a Hawaii military base. You can read the story in the about me section if you want more info . . . unless you are connected to the Military Police.)  

However, with the flooded found footage market it isn't surprising that security and regulations on accessing creepy, abandoned places has changed. Every location and area is different (of course) but evidently the rule is if filming in public is no more intrusive than what a tourist would do then have at it. 

Beyond that, insurance requirements and a bonanza of policies are limiting what young people with handheld cameras can legally access. 

The restrictions actually created a sub-specialty in film location where scouts try to find similar areas so parts of a film can be shot on location and parts can be filmed at areas with less restrictions. 

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