The Blair Witch Project was credited with beginning the found footage movement that is now proliferating in Hollywood, and now the co-creator/co-director of Blair Witch,Eduardo Sanchez, is back with a twist on the format. Lovely Molly, opening Friday, is a narrative-style film in which the main character picks up a video camera and videotapes some segments herself. Gretchen Lodge plays Molly, a married woman who moves back to her childhood home, releasing old traumas that may be supernatural or psychological. I got a phone call from Sanchez from his Maryland area code to talk about his return to found footage, the Bigfoot movie he’s just wrapped, and the potential of another Blair Witch movie.
CraveOnline: The Blair Witch Project was such a success. What was filmmaking in the next decade like for you?
Eduardo Sanchez: It was challenging. Blair Witch was definitely a blessing. I’d never even come close to calling it a curse or anything like that but it did set up a few things in my life that were really great but in hindsight, not too great for my career. First of all, we made so much money off Blair Witch that there wasn’t a need to make another movie until we absolutely had to make another movie. I sometimes feel that maybe we should’ve definitely jumped in and made more films right away, but at the same time I was 30 years old, I had lived like a college student throughout my 20s trying to make this ridiculous dream come true and I now found myself with some money. Definitely more money than I ever thought I was going to ever make. A decent amount of money, I was able to buy a house and buy a car and actually start my life. So I got married, my wife and I started having kids and I got wrapped up in that. I was like, “Well, the career will be there when I come back.” But unfortunately as far as the studios are concerned, you know how it is. You’re only as good as your last film and when your last film was many years ago, people start doubting you. So I kind of had to do my own thing. We’ve been doing our own thing since and we’ve been pretty successful, not incredibly successful but at least we’re still making films. We just finished our fourth film after Blair Witch, a Bigfoot movie that we shot in Austin. We have high hopes for it and our thing is as long as we keep getting an at bat, we’ll have a chance to hit another home run or single or triple or double, something. We know we’ll never do another Blair Witch. That was just something that just happened but we like making films together, my partners and I, and we hope to be doing it for a long time.
You did still make three films since Blair Witch.
Yeah, and it is an accomplishment just on its own. It’s difficult making a film, especially outside the studio system. Even in the studio system it’s difficult to make a film so just making films in general, a lot of young filmmakers send me their film and they’re like, “Yeah, man, we didn’t get into any festivals, we didn’t do this, we didn’t do that.” Look, man. You guys finished the damn film. You guys are ahead of 99% of everybody out there. Making a film, especially a feature film is an incredibly difficult thing. You’ve got to tip your hat to anybody who can finish one period. And if they can make it even half decent, it’s almost a miracle.
Why did you want to incorporate the video footage into Lovely Molly?
It was something that I wanted to do. I love the idea of found footage, first person movies like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity but I never liked the limitation that that style puts on the film, puts on the creativity of the film. Basically you have to find a reason for the characters in the movie to be working a video camera the entire time. They’re being chased by something and they have to be rolling video. I think it works for certain movies. I just finished a found footage movie, my first one since Blair Witch, called Exists in Austin. I just wrapped last week. It’s a found footage movie but it’s a Bigfoot movie. You kind of have to expect it for what it is. It’s a Bigfoot movie so I think it works really well in that style. With Lovely Molly, I wanted to pull no punches. I wanted to make as serious a film as I could but I liked the found footage kind of creepiness. I wondered if there’s a way to put those together, to use the technique that we developed on Blair Witch and use it in a conventional film with conventional filmmaking techniques. It was kind of an experiment. It was my challenge to see if I could take this to the next level and make it work. So it was more for me like an experiment to see if I could pull it off and I’m pretty happy with the results.
Did it inform the way you then shot Exists?
You know what, I was going to do Exists in the exact same way. I was going to have a character with a video camera. I was going to have that style of people videotaping themselves but also have the regular footage. Then as I got closer and closer to making the movie, the limitations I had put on myself for Lovely Molly I didn’t have in the Bigfoot movie. It’s more of a monster movie, it’s more of a chase movie and I thought this could really work as a complete found footage movie. So we quickly adapted the script to the found footage style and I’m really happy we did it, man, because it kind of opened the door for a bunch of things that I wouldn’t have done if I had made a normal movie. I like that technique. I think I’ll go back to it eventually. I like the idea of having the flexibility of a normal film but be able to tap into the intimacy of the found footage style.
It took about 10 years, but now that found footage has really become a thing, are you sort of like, “Come on!”
[Laughs] Sometimes I am, man. It depends which movie it is. I think there are certain things that I think work better as found footage than others. That’s why I think I made the switch from a regular movie on the Bigfoot movie to found footage because I was like, “You know, I’m never going to find as perfect a story to write about, to make found footage as I have right now with Exists.” For me every time we see Bigfoot it’s found footage. That’s the only time we’ve ever seen Bigfoot so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to do that. Look, there have been some great found footage movies since Blair Witch. I really like Paranormal Activity, I like Rec, I like Cloverfield.
But now it’s Project X and Chronicle, other genres too.
Yeah, I thought Chronicle worked. I liked it up until the end. I think in the end they kind of lost control of it but it worked. Audiences loved it. I haven’t seen Project X but the thing about the found footage genre is that you really can make any kind of movie. If you think about it, Spinal Tap did it before us. There were other examples of that technique being used before us so I think it definitely can be used. It just has to be done right, just like every other kind of movie. You can’t just point a camera at something and say, “Oh, it’s found footage” and make it shaky and expect it to work. There is a technique to it and it’s the reason why some of them work and some of them don’t work. My thing is with all filmmaking, as long as you don’t get lazy I think I can be a fan of it. Even if I don’t like the subject matter, I didn’t see Project X but I heard it was kind of a rough morality. At least that’s what a lot of the critics said, that it was tough to watch morally for some reason. So I have no opinion of that but I think the idea of doing a found footage movie about a party and about that subject, I think it could completely work. It’s all about the execution. The only thing I’m kind of, not angry but I get a little frustrated by the fact that they make so much money, and I don’t see any of that money. I’ve said it before, it’s probably a little bit how George Romero feels every time a zombie movie makes a bunch of money. But it’s the way it is so to me the fact that most of those movies mention Blair Witch in one way or another, to me it keeps my legacy alive. I’m proud to be part of it.
Gretchen Lodge is really lovely, and the nudity is classy and beautiful even when it’s raw and violent. How did you approach that aspect of it?
Well, it was a little bit me and a little bit luck and mostly just Gretchen’s a beautiful woman and incredibly talented actress that I happened to find in New York. In fact I think that was my biggest accomplishment on the movie is that I realized Gretchen was talented and could do the role. I cast her, that was my biggest accomplishment I think. The way I approached it was I’ve never done a movie like this, I’ve never done this kind of nudity. Even though my movies are harsh or even Lovely Molly is pretty harsh, I’m actually a pretty shy person, at least when it comes to that. Especially with women that I don’t know very well, and even women that I do know very well. So there was a level for me of discomfort. Not discomfort but I had to get used to the idea of I’m going to make this movie and there’s going to be this raw sexuality and it had to be that way. Molly couldn’t be shown in a bra having sex. It had to be raw. It was just that kind of thing. So I knew we were going to have to find an actress to go along with me that really was going to have to deliver and be fearless. There was something about Gretchen when we first saw her that there’s just something fearless about her. There’s just something that I really admired about her. I can’t even put my finger on it. I don't know if it’s the way she walked in the room or the way she was looking at me or the way she did the scene, but I knew she was an incredibly talented actress but I didn’t realize how ballsy she was honestly until we got on the set, until I really started talking to her. She didn’t flinch at all about anything. In fact there were some scenes in the end where there was some discussion, would Molly be nude? She was like, “Yeah, she should totally be nude. There’s no way she’s going to put on a T-shirt after [SPOILERS REMOVED].” I think she trusted me which is another thing I’m proud of. She did trust me enough that I wasn’t going to exploit her.
Is another Blair Witch still on the table?
It’s definitely on the table. I don't know what table it is but it’s definitely on somebody’s table. We’ve been talking to Lionsgate on and off for about three years. I mean, we’ve been talking for longer than that but really having to roll up our sleeves and try to get something done mode, we’ve been talking to them for a while. We do have something in development. We just don’t know when it’s going to happen. It goes back and forth, we make a little progress, then they push it back. Both Dan[iel Myrick] and I are pretty busy, we’re doing other films, so I don't know when it’s going to happen. There could be an announcement next week, there could be an announcement next year and there might never, ever be an announcement. Clearly the people at Lionsgate that we’ve talked to, we definitely want to make another Blair Witch movie. It’s just a matter of trying to figure out exactly what to do.
Would it be a continuation or would they just reboot it completely?
No, as far as what I’ve been talking to them [about], it is not a reboot. It’s a continuation. We’ve been very open with them saying, “Look, we’re open to anything. We would love to make another movie. We just want to make the right movie.” They feel the same way. They definitely don’t want to screw anything up. So it’s just a matter right now of figuring out where it will all land and take it from there. We’re all pretty excited about it. It would be great to make another Blair Witch movie, get the gang back together and do something and we have a lot of really cool ideas. So eventually, my partners and I are all still very optimistic that it’ll happen. I just don’t know when it’ll happen.
With the Bigfoot movie, has Bigfoot ever been taken seriously in a film?
No, man. When I was a kid, Bigfoot was this really scary thing. It scared the crap out of me. It’s one of the things that Dan and I used when we were thinking up the idea for Blair Witch. We love the idea of this mythological being, being in the woods. But now it’s become a punch line. This is the third Bigfoot movie that I’ve developed. Each of the scripts have almost sold. There are people who love Bigfoot in Hollywood, but when it comes time to pull the trigger and actually put money into it, there’s this hesitancy. And I understand it. There is hesitancy because nobody’s really remade him. Even when we were kids, the only movie that really is a classic Bigfoot movie is The Legend of Boggy Creek.
Then there’s Harry and the Hendersons.
Yeah, in the ‘80s Harry and the Hendersons kind of ruined everything. I’ve said this a couple times already but we wrapped last week and cut a really quick trailer for the investors, just to show the investors that we hadn’t gone off to Mexico and spent all their money on cocaine and prostitutes. Basically, we’ve cut a really quick trailer together and it looks pretty damn good, man. It looks more like Aliens than anything else you’ve seen Bigfoot in. Who knows, you know? Who knows what the hell this finished movie will be like but it seems like we may have made the Bigfoot movie that at least I’ve been waiting for since I was 12 years old.
A found footage Aliens?
Yeah, it looks like a found footage version of Aliens. Obviously not in space, in the woods, but the creature looks amazing. There’s no CG. I’ve never been this excited about a movie. Even after we shot Blair Witch, we knew we had something cool but I’ve never felt this excited this quickly about something that I’ve shot. I’m just so looking forward to getting into post production so we can unleash it on the world.
And it’s a practical Bigfoot?
Yeah, we had Weta, the guys who did Lord of the Rings, design it. Then the guys who did Hellboy and a lot of Guillermo del Toro’s movies, Spectral Motion, Mike Elizalde, an Academy Award nominated special effects guy. They built the suit and then Brian Steele who they call Creature Boy. He’s one of the most famous suit guys in the world. He’s been in everything. He was the main Predator in the last Predators movie. He was Bigfoot. He’s been waiting his entire life to play Bigfoot so it was kind of a culmination of a lot of people’s childhood dreams, man. The only thing I was there for was I was hoping not to let everybody down. I understand why the studios don’t want to make a Bigfoot movie. There is a risk. Bigfoot is a punch line now. For me as a filmmaker Bigfoot didn’t used to be a punch line. The greatest thing for me is we had a lot of young people working on the movie, guys and women in their early 20s who Bigfoot to them is a beef jerky ad punch line. They saw the trailer and you could see it in their faces, their eyes just got wide. They were like, “Holy sh**, I never imagined that Bigfoot could look like that.” Well, that’s how I’m used to seeing Bigfoot when I was a little kid. That’s what I loved about Bigfoot.