Blair Witch Project
edited: Tuesday, April 17, 2001
By H David Blalock
Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2001
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Low Budget Equals Big Bucks
Recently there has been increased interest in low budget filmmaking. Foremost in this currently is "Blair Witch Project", made for under $40,000, which to date has grossed more than $50,000,000 at the box office. A few years ago, "Clerks", made for about $35,000, performed nearly as well. What is it about certain low budget films that nets such profits?
It certainly isn't sterling cinematography, Oscar-winning acting, dazzling special effects, or involved and intelligent dialogue. None of that is evident in either of these films. "Clerks" and "Blair Witch Project" are amateurish, poorly written, even worse acted, overall terrible films --- if criticized according to the standards to which other movies are subjected. These films wouldn't even make it out of the can if they were produced by one of the larger houses.
And yet, they made millions at the box office. Why?
People are beginning to look at the movies as an extension of the reality of their lives. No longer are movies simply escapism. They are now become role models, objects of emulation, envy, emotion. What we as civilized human beings will not do out of fear of retribution, we can experience vicariously through movies: violence, sex, hallucination, war. To American society, the motion picture is critical to the emotional well-being of its urban population. It provides an outlet for the baser instincts. And when one of these outlets, these movies, touches something deep within us, no matter how well or badly produced it may be, it becomes a success through the simplest of advertising methods.
Word of mouth recommendation.
Advertising agencies recognize that, if a product is to sell well, it must be properly presented. Bright colors, catchy slogans, low prices, improvement to existing product --- these are just a few tricks of the trade. Filmmaking is no different. The best motion picture could be a box office disaster without proper handling.
Case in point: "Blair Witch Project". Some have posited that the internet was the key to the success of this picture. They maintain that, without the web exposure, "Blair Witch Project" would not have walked away with such a large share of the audience. This is argumentative. "Clerks" did as well in a non-Web environment, without the pre-release hype. It has already become a cult classic. "Blair Witch Project" will not likely receive the same attention. It remains the audience's reaction to a film that determines its success, regardless of critics, opinions or advertising executives, marketing ploys.
If a movie sucks, it'll bomb. Most of the critics, darlings were dogs to the public. And the public pays the bills.