John Responds (Blair Witch and Haxan Films)
Posted by John Pierson - May 7th, 1998

First of all, for those of you who don't know, I grew up in Maryland where I learned state history and geography. Yet when Dan Myrick of Haxan Films sent me a demo tape called "The Blair Witch Project" about a year ago, I was so swept up in the creepy story of the supernatural and three missing film students that it never once occurred to me that there is no Blair County in Western Maryland. The eerie and compelling quality of the original sample made me suspend my disbelief and overlook certain implausibilities in the backstory.

That's why we decided to become accomplices to Dan and his partners Ed Sanchez and Gregg Hale even after learning that their project was an invented fiction. Having provided seed money to Yvonne Welbon for her documentary "Sisters in Cinema" and set-up the link between IFC and Steve Yeager for the completion of his terrific John Waters opus "Divine Trash", we want feature films to grow out of segments on the show. Like many film mavens, I am fascinated by the faux documentary form (e.g. "Dadetown" or "Hard Core Logo", if you can find them.) And since we now make a television show, "Blair Witch" seemed like a perfect opportunity to mix in a little "X-Files", with a pinch of "Dateline", and season with a good old series cliffhanger to end our 1997 season. So far so good.

But once we promised to reveal what was in the muddy bag in the 1998 season premiere, I did spend considerable time mulling over the moral issues. I'm pretty comfortable with the balance we struck. The segment apparently had huge entertainment value. Yet most astute viewers (as evidenced by the many postings on this site) spotted more than a few discrepancies, inconsistencies, implausibilities, and just plain behavioral idiocies on the part of the "missing" filmmakers. (Although I'm still not sure what was wrong with the tears, and the twig men freaked me out no matter what non-native materials they were made of.) In order to believe the season premiere, you would really have to want to believe. That's why I went on camera to encourage all of you to weigh in with your opinions.

So in the end "Split Screen" played with the form in what I am convinced was a responsible manner, stirred up a hornets nest of feedback, and most importantly, enabled Haxan Films to shoot over a third of their feature. And by the way, to you punsters out there, Dan, Ed and Greg are smart, gifted filmmakers - not hacks-in-film. They're just really bad at getting up their website.


PS If I ruled the television world, a segment like Pocket Cinema would change people's lives and Blair Witch mania would fade away. But we don't want "Split Screen" to be a tree that falls in the cable forest that no one hears.

For further info on Haxan Films and thew Blair Witch Project, check out

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