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Article ID: 2416
Age Group: Adult
Posted: July 11th. 1999
Blair Witch Project - an Interview with the Directors
by Peg Aloi
I was thrilled at the opportunity to meet these young men whose tiny-budget film is suddenly the talk of the international film industry. Far from being starry-eyed with all the Hollywood hyping of their film, I found Ed and Dan to be very down-to-earth, as well as very articulate and polite. And it turns out I was the first witch to interview them!
Peg: So tell me; am I the first witch you've talked to on your press tour? (We also spend some time looking at the Blair Witch logo, the little stick figure, which I compare to the Vitruvian Man of da Vinci that appears on the Witches' Voice website: both figures fit perfectly into a pentacle!
Ed: Yeah, I think so.
Dan: Yeah, we've talked to a few; in fact we even shot one. (I gasp in mock horror)
Ed: (smiling) Yeah, we shot one...no we haven't been interviewed by a witch yet. It should be very interesting.
Peg: Well, we'll see...The first thing I need to tell you guys is that, in addition to being a film critic I also work with this non-profit religious organization The Witches' Voice. Part of my response to the film has to do with my responsibility of allaying the fears or concerns of modern witches who may think there are negative stereotypes about witches in this film...
Peg: But as far as I'm concerned, the archetype of the witch in the woods, whether she's a healing herbalist or she sucks children's bllod or whatever, that archetype has been with us since Day One, and it's always gonna be there, And I think this film very beautifully deals with that archetyope without ever necessarily letting us see it, or hear it, and it plays on that very primal fear that accompanies that archetype, so that is something that really interests me. I'm not out to slam you guys for dealing with the archetype itself.
Ed: That's fine.
Dan: We never meant to say anything bad about witches in general. The whole thing was based on finding a reason for the kids to be out there filming; why are they doing this documentary? And when it comes down to it, logically, we wanted to find something that was a triggering mechanism. And the injustice of the Salem Witch Trials, things that have been happening for hundreds of years to witches, to people who just believe in different things than just the basic Christian or whatever system of religion is the main system at that time. That was a really good triggering mechanism. This woman named Elly Kedyard was basically just this completely innocent woman who tried to help these children, and they basically accused her of being a witch, and they drove her out of her home..
Peg: Oh, so your take on it is that she was actualy the nice old lady who got shafted.
Dan: Oh, yeah, and in the Sci Fi Channel special ("Curse of the Blair Witch") she is very much seen in a positive light.
Peg: Oh, see I had not heard too much about any of that, I had just looked at the mythology section of the official film website.
Dan: Where The Blair Witch Project is the literal interpretation of the name of their documentary, The Blair Witch Legend is nothing more than local paranoia of these events that have taken place, like you know, The Devil's Triangle. Is it really the devil out there doing it? Well, no they're just calling it "The Devil's Triangle" (that last bit said in a spooky voice). "The Blair Witch"...(same spooky voice)
Ed: It has nothing to do with witches at all, really, except in the way, like I said, that it's a triggering mechanism of this huge injustice of this woman who was killed. And whatever power there is, whether she had some kind of power, or whether there's something in the woods that has power, or whether some higher being saw this injustice and said "I'm going to curse you all for doing this..."
Peg: We like to call it instant karma.
Ed: Yeah, exactly. The witch, the Wiccan priest that we interviewed for the Sci Fi Channel special, when you watch it you're gonna see this guy Lucan Johnson who's this real Wiccan priest, I guess, right? (He turns to Dan for corroboration of this term)
Dan: No, he's a witch...but he's a priest in the...(he is groping for the word)
Peg: A Wiccan High Priest?
Dan: Yes, exactly.
Ed: Yeah, he's a Wiccan Priest and he's really into it and he's the coolest guy on earth, and he was like, yeah, I would love to do this, and he basically just talks about his theory on why the Salem Witch Trials happened, and why Elly Kedyard was banished...
Peg: I can't wait to see that special.
Ed: It's cool, you'll love it.
Peg: I'm actually, ironically enough, going to be camping in the woods when your film is released, and when the special airs; I'm going to try and get someone to tape it for me, since i don't think we will be able to get it out there at the campsite...
Ed: We've been getting some good reviews on it so far, very positive. It's not done yet but there have been some critic screenings of what is finished.
Peg: Well, I have to ask because the pagan community wants to know: Why The Blair Witch Project? Why Not The Blair Ghost Project? Or The Blair Banshee Project or The Blair Vampire Project? It's a question I have to ask because it's like, well here's this old archetype over here, but then there's also people alive today who call themselves witches, so people are like, "Aw, why does it have to be a witch every time?"
Dan: It's like Ed was saying, we needed a reason for them top be out in the woods, and have a mythology that they explored, and being in that part ofthe country, the Northeast, there's a lot of witch folklore out there. We're trying to keep it real, you know? We're not saying, well okay we have something against witches so let's do a witch movie. It's more like, what would logically be out there? So it could be a number of different things, and we picked the Blair Witch mythology as being this injustice that took place way long ago, and now supposedly there's this thing...It's really just a set-up to get three kids in the woods so we can fuck with them.
Peg: So you had the kids lost in the woods idea before you had the mythology of the witch.
Ed: Oh, yeah, it was just an excuse to get them out there.
Dan: Yeah, at first it was a cult, then we had a whole bunch of other ideas.
Peg: I see.
Dan: It's really just a way to get them out there, and there's some supernatural element that's working out there, you know...
Ed: And the whole with thing to me, was, like, very personal, because whenever I read something about the Salem Witch Trials or I see The Crucible, or anything about that, there's this sense of injustice in me that just hurts. Every time I see The Crucible on stage or one of the film versions, I'm always hoping that it ends differently, but it doesn't! (short, frustrated laugh) They go through with it. And to me that's just such an injustice. And so it was believeable to me that in the late 1700s, they found this woman doing some strange things that they couldn't understand with these kids, and instead of burning her at the stake or killing her or hanging her, they just banished her to the woods, tied her to a tree. So indirectly they're killing her but not directly. And I guess they tried to hide it and not tell too many people they did that. And to me, this injustice is far more ingrained in America, I think, than if we had done a story with a banshee or a ghost. Even with something like The Ghost of the Blair Witch, I mean we could have done it, but there had to be some kind of physical reason that this ghost existed. And really, if you look at the Blair Witch legend, it is probably a ghost, it's some kind of supernatural presence out there. That was just what started it all.
Peg: In terms of someone like Rustin Parr, who says "So and so told me to do it, " or he's hearing voices, or he's just a crazy person or whatever--
Peg: There's this idea that the evil that men do lives after them, the idea of an evil entity that remains in an area, you were working with that as well?
Ed: Yeah, to remind people of this injustice, to curse people, you know, to not forget what happened.
Peg: I like that.
Dan: But you know, to be totally honest with ourselves, I think there is some justification in witches or Wiccans who might take real offense to the interpretations that people I think are ultimately going to draw from this...
Peg: Yeah. The witch stereotypes.
Dan: And I think that you always run that risk, when you're taking a risk, but our intentions were not to say "witches are bad." Because really, if you look at the movie there is nothing in there overtly saying anything like that. There's the stick men, there's the piles of rocks, we don't know if they have any reference to witchcraft or not, they are just indigenous materials.
Peg: This film also has a very complex context, which quite frankly, the average pagan or non-pagan viewer, unless they go to the trouble to look at that context beforehand, or think about themselves and see what resonates in them, like what Ed's been talking about here, the injustice thing, they may not see it all. What better way to point out the injustice than to look at what could be the worst permutation of that injustice?
Ed and Dan: Yeah.
Peg: But I don't think a lot of people are going to get that.
Dan: No, I don't think so either, and I think you always have to ask yourself, as a responsible filmmaker or whatever, if there's a difference between what you mean to say and what is really being interpreted by what you say. Personally I think you need to be aware that you may piss some people off, but I think if you really look at what we are doing in the context of what the film is, there is a lot to Wiccan philosophy that I wish people would follow more closely! (laughs)
Peg: So mote it be!
Dan: One example is this guy who emailed me, from Burkittsville, a Burkittsville historian. He was all pissed off because he felt that we were undermining the true history of Burkittsville because of the Civil War veterans who had died there...and that's valid, I mean he has a valid concern. But then, this is a movie. It's just a movie, only a movie...
Peg: Yeah, keep repeating that...
Dan: I mean, let's be real. Try to look at the bright side, now more people will be aware of Burkittsville and that gives you an opportunity to point out what happened.
Peg: To educate people. Good point.
Dan: And so maybe it will happen that way with Wiccan philosophy, people will become educated.
Ed: And even on our website, I issue an open invitation, if anyone wants to put up a website that takes what happened to the Blair Witch and turns it into an educational thing for people who want to know more, like "Learn the real history of witchcraft" or "Here's what Wicca is all about" or whatever, I'd gladly link to them, I have no problem with that.
Peg: I would love it if you'd link to our site. (I hand them a card.)
We spend some time talking about their gruelling editing process (20 hours of raw footage whittled down to just under 90 minutes; they sculpted a narrative out of the actors' film! We talk about the actors, chosen from over two thousand who auditioned. About the happy accidents that occurred.
We have to stop talking after twenty minutes. I give them a gift.)
Peg: I made this for you guys. Not only do you get to talk to a witch, you get a witch thing.
Ed and Dan: Oh, cool!
Peg: You can hang this in your office. (It is a green leather pouch with herbs and gems inside)
Ed: Aw, great.
Dan: Is this a little spell or something?
Peg: It has protective herbs and some stones in it...
Dan: Oh, that's very cool.
Peg: There's aquamarine for creativity, and some herbs for balance and protection.
Ed: Well, thank you very much.
Dan: Yeah, thanks a lot. That is very cool.
Ed: Nice meeting you...and I will contact these people (meaning the Witches' Voice). Do you work with them?
Peg: Yeah, I'm like the media person...and Fritz and Wren run it, and they actually live down in Florida, in Clearwater.
Dan: Oh, really? (I have a feeling that is nowhere near where they live, wherever that is)
Ed: Is it kinda like a central thing for the Wiccan Community?
Peg: It's pretty much the main site in the world. I guess that sounds arrogant but it kinda is.
Ed: I just want to make sure it's something lots of people will see.
Peg: Go check it out, they get something like a million hits a month, or something like that...pretty amazing. And after next week we'll have something up on your film..but not a spoiler, we wouldn't do that.
Dan: No spoilers please!
Peg: Thanks, guys.
The Witches' Voice
July 11th., 1999 c.e.
Email: [Staff Email]
(Also See Peg's Pre-Review and Actual Film Review of Blair Witch)
AND 5 Pages of Thoughts from the Pagan Community
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