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TWV Presents...

Pagans in the Media

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Views: 1,836,954

Year: 2008 ...

The Media Witch's Look Back at 2007: Part One, TV

Year: 2007 ...

Witch Cinema 23: The Number 23

Witch Cinema 24: The Golden Compass: Magic, Daemons and Polar Bears!

Year: 2006 ...

Witch Cinema 21: The Wicker Man, 2006... What a Waste!

Witch Cinema 22: DVDs for Giving and Gazing

Year: 2005 ...

Witch Cinema 20: Come Over to the Dark Side…

Year: 2004 ...

Witch Cinema 19

Witch Cinema 18

Witch Cinema 17 - 2003 Wrap-Up

Year: 2003 ...

Witch Cinema 13

Witch Cinema 12

Return of the King - Peg's Review

Witch Cinema 14

Witch Cinema 15

Year: 2002 ...

Buffy: Season Finale 2002

Witch Cinema: Richard Harris

Witch Cinema 10

Witch Cinema 06

Witch Cinema 11

Witch Cinema 08

Witch Cinema 07

Witch Cinema 09

Year: 2001 ...

The Mists of Avalon: Peg's Review

The Mists of Avalon: A Preview

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Peg's Review

The Fellowship of the Ring - Peg's Review

Witch Cinema 03

Witch Cinema 01

Witch Cinema 02

Le Bijou Sorci?re! - 6/4/01 WHITE

Year: 2000 ...

Blair Witch - The WitchVox Review

Solstice Cinema: or, What to Watch on Chilly Nights of Winter

Blair Witch - Interview with Joe Berlinger

Blair Witch II - Peg's Trip to the Webfest

Blair Witch II - How Peg Became Involved

Year: 1999 ...

Blair Witch Project - a pre-review

Blair Witch Project - an Interview with the Directors

Blair Witch Project - Movie REVIEW

Judging Amy -- A WitchVox Review

Judging Amy -- Comments Pg 1

BWP Comments 1

BWP Comments 2

BWP Comments 6

Judging Amy -- Comments Pg 2

BWP Comments 3

BWP Comments 5

BWP Comments 7

Judging Amy -- Comments Pg 3

BWP Comments 4

Year: 1998 ...

Practical Magic: Curses and Hauntings and Love Spells, Oh My!

Charmed - Initial Thoughts

48 HOURS: *Not* Burning the Midnight Oil Doing Homework...

X-Files Epidode that Infuriated Witches (02/08/98)

The Clearwater - Madonna Shrine

World's Largest Cauldron comes to Salem Mass

Politics - CELLUCCI Slams Witches!!!

Year: 1997 ...

Xena, Warrior Princess

The Crucible (Peg's Review)

Witch City (The saga of Salem)

X-Files Epidode that Infuriated Witches

Sonys The Craft

NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.

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Article ID: 3052

VoxAcct: 3

Section: media

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 7,015

Times Read: 16,450

Blair Witch - Interview with Joe Berlinger

Author: Peg Aloi [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: November 6th. 2000
Times Viewed: 16,450

Meanwhile, Back in Burkittsville...

Interview with Joe Berlinger,
Director and Co-Writer,
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2

WVOX: Let's talk about the title. I don't remember seeing an actual Book of Shadows anywhere in the film.

JB: Calling it "Book of Shadows" was my way of confronting people's stereotypes, because people think of that as a witch thing -- without really understanding what it is. That is not to say that there will be an expectation that this will be witchy and negative. But in fact the Book of Shadows, this book of spells and incantations and secret musings and so forth, as it is used in Wicca is quite harmless. This is my way of playing with peoples' expectations, and the cultural hysteria that the first movie wrought. Everyone came away from the first Blair Witch movie thinking the witch was somehow responsible for what happened, even though there are plenty of other interpretations. In this film, I wanted to make one of the interpretations that the origin of evil may be human instead of supernatural. I am challenging these established stereotypes. Just because I call it "Book of Shadows, " does that mean it's a negative movie about witchcraft? No, it is potentially about human evil.

This is a core concept in the film. To me, evil is quite human. This isn't knocking the first movie, or the way it tried to represent evil, because it worked on a whole different level. But as a guy who has spent a lot of time running through the woods looking into the eyes of a killer (and for legal reasons I can't say more than that), this is about that pure form of evil.

WVOX: You are referring to your work on Paradise Lost and Revelations?

JB: There are two sides to my work with the West Memphis Three case. First there is the fact of this terrible injustice, these three innocent guys in prison. Then there is the other side, where I think, God, what did we go immerse ourselves in for eight years? The murders of the three little boys is still unsolved, and it is the most horrible, the most evil thing anyone could even imagine. I think we mustn't forget this part of the story --these horrible murders. To someone like myself who has spent a tremendous amount of time talking with killers and innocent people, evil is very human. I do not blame supernatural forces for anything. I think people are responsible for their own actions.

I also think one could interpret the first Blair Witch movie that way, that the "evil"was simply human delusion. But I think what is evil in life is the pedophilic priest who preys on the trust of children, or the serial killing truck driver who opens the door all polite and smiling, yes ma'am, or the murderer who seems sincere and genuinely concerned about the victim to draw attention away from himself; you can draw your own conclusions there as to who I mean. Real evil isn't always where we think it is. Evil to me is quite human, quite banal -- not supernatural.

That is why calling the film "Book of Shadows" is ironic, it is in order to challenge peoples' stereotypes, the whole idea of witches being evil. It is also about the other meaning of that title; all of the characters may lead a shadow existence. It refers to their shadow selves, the dark side of their personalities that they are not even aware of.

The movie can, therefore, be interpreted as being about repressed memory. You can dismiss all those gory images as repetitive gory images, but it is really about repressed memory and the ways we convince ourselves of what is real or what isn't.

WVOX: One of my favorite scenes in the film is where Erica (the Wiccan) and Stephen (the grad student) are sitting at the table talking, and then they go into this whole sex thing, and then Erica rips open his chest drawing blood and suddenly they are both sitting at their opposite ends of the table, as if nothing had happened, but they look at each other as if they both shared that same vision or flashback. What is really happening there?

JB: They were both having a flashback to the night of the orgy where they were having wild animalistic sex, and then it turned into a horror moment, in fact most of those moments of flashback are purposefully drawn straight from certain horror films. Critics who want to dismiss it would say these visions seem like rip-offs of other horror movies -- but that's the whole point. The idea is that potentially these hallucinations are collective delusions the characters are having. They are so overloaded with these images from films, since they are all so obsessed with the first Blair Witch movie and whether it was real or not, that they think in terms of clichˇs from horror films, and those scenes become more real to them somehow because they are drawn from fiction -- in other words, the characters are thinking in clichˇs because they have seen too many horror movies.. The dogs on the bridge, that is from The Omen, the tapes played backwards, that is a reference to The Exorcist, as is the counterclockwise motion... of course, that is also a witchcraft notion, widdershins. The spinning girl is from Evil Dead 2, the ghoulish eating of the owl suggests Night of the Living Dead. I used these classic scenes from horror movies on purpose to show the level of their obsession, not just with The Blair Witch Project, but that they are just so overloaded with media imagery they start hallucinating in movie moments.

WVOX: You are someone who has spent a fair amount of time around real-life witches and pagans and Goths; how did that influence your characterization of Erica and Kim?

JB: I don't think because I have spent time with these people I wanted to force them into the movie. I went to Burkittsville and did some research and tried to discern who were the kinds of people most affected by the first movie, for good and bad reasons, and tried to create archetypes, so we have a goth, a Wiccan, the two academics, and the tour leader. I don't even consider Damien (interviewer's note: Damien Echols, a young man currently on Death Row who was accused of involvement in so-called "cult killings.") all that "goth" in the classic sense of the word, although people seem to put that label on him. I found a lot of goths were attracted to the first Blair Witch movie, because of its Hollywood outsider status, which made it so these people could relate to that kind of a movie. Plus you have the occult orientation, people connecting to certain aspects of that. An awful lot of people in black were running through the graveyard in Burkittsville. Although Wiccans, in general, seemed upset by the first film. I was surprised that in the webfest you said the opposite about the film, that you really liked it and didn't have a problem with that.

WVOX: Yes, well, I think protesting that movie or getting upset over the portrayal of the old witch in the woods who eats children as being somehow connected to what modern witches and Wiccans do, it just seems to be a waste of time. That archetype has always been around. The Blair Witch Project just takes it further. And you seem to be suggesting in Book of Shadows that she may not exist at all.

JB: Throughout the history of motion pictures witches have been seen as evil. I wanted to create a witch character so obsessed with the movie that she sees she has a chance to set the record straight, and to make it clear that Elly Kedward was persecuted. I think people have a lot of emotional baggage associated with the first film, both positive and negative baggage, and that includes witches and how they are looking at the sequel and how it will deal with witchcraft. There is also that same sort of baggage associated with my earlier work with Bruce, these documentaries dealing with real people.

WVOX: Do you want to address a comment that was made in another interview, where you mentioned that a couple of the characters in Blair Witch 2 were somehow loosely-based on Damien? You and I had a brief conversation previously where I had said my first response, as someone who is rather active with the West Memphis Three case and who had read that comment, was that this film (BW2) is full of parallels and connections. But after two or three days of letting the film resonate and sink in I realized I was letting my own emotions, as well as my imagination, get the better of me. I told you it was easy to "see Damien behind every door, " as I put it then. That's when you told me it was very possible to read way too much into it. I have to agree with that, now, in the clear light of day. But I think some people familiar with the case may see those connections, too, whether they are intentional or not.

JB: Well, first of all that initial comment from that magazine was a bit out of context. The writer himself is the one who drew the connections and asked me about it, although it was made to seem as if I brought it up. I don't think this issue is so much whether there are all these connections as it is that this relates to who I am as a filmmaker. I was trying to say something in this film about the nature of documentaries, and some of our most well-known work deals with the plight of these young men in jail who most people think are innocent, including myself. The thing is, if we ever get on the cover of Entertainment Weekly like the first Blair Witch movie did, then many more people will be curious to know about those other films and to find out about the West Memphis Three. I see that as a very positive thing.

I would say that 90% of the press covering this film have never even seen Paradise Lost and the same certainly goes for what the typical audience will be like. Now that my involvement with those documentary films and the case is being promoted at this time, it means new people will read about it and hundreds of thousand of people could be looking into the West Memphis Three case, which is exactly what needs to happen.

WVOX: The characters in the film, then, would seem to be archetypes or composites as opposed to being specifically modelled on anyone. They are typical teens or twenty-something's who get in over their heads, people who get caught in something very dark and disturbing. But isn't it also true that we never really know the truth of what happened and that the media sensationalizes it, just as happened in West Memphis?

JB: In part I am trying to suggest that this film is a commentary on some very prevalent trends in society. As far as the main theme of this movie and why these kids may turn out to be killers in the end, there is a whole specific set of objectives here. The danger of blurring the line between fiction and reality is so extreme in our society that, metaphorically, we risk turning kids into killers who don't remember their actions because they are unable to determine what is real in life. The more that line gets blurred, the more people walk out of Blair Witch thinking this is real and the witch did it. I think we will see ourselves going through that end consequence, of not even being able to determine what's real and what's not. That is where we're all headed as a society and that is what I wanted to explore and comment on in Book of Shadows. It has nothing to do with the West Memphis Three case. I chose to portray these kids as potential killers for completely different reasons that have nothing to do with drawing any parallels or connections to the West Memphis case. These are five different people, each representing some sort of archetypal quality; they are on a tour of the Blair Witch Project site and they get caught up in it. My own interpretation of what happens, and you don't necessarily have to embrace this, is that these young people become delusional and get caught up in their own hysteria, and that is why people end up dead, and why no one can remember what happened. This film is a parable about the dangers of not being more discerning about the media we consume.

But at the same time, it is important to say that I have worked on filming the West Memphis Three case for eight years. It has been very emotionally draining at times. And it is very much a part of who I am now, personally and professionally. We have come under fire for not being objective at times even though we are only trying to portray the truth of what happened and what is happening.

WVOX: There are a few visual similarities in the camera shots and the sort of look and feel to this film to your earlier documentary work in Brother's Keeper and Paradise Lost and Revelations. This film has a much more sleek Hollywood look, obviously, than The Blair Witch Project; could you talk about your intentions there?

JB: I had a very mixed reaction to the first film, not in the usual critical sense, but mixed in he sense of who I am as a filmmaker. I consider myself both a storyteller and a journalist. The storyteller in me loved The Blair Witch Project: the found footage conceit, the suggestion you are watching a snuff film, the witchcraft story in the woods, that to me is brilliant storytelling, as is using that found footage to help the audience suspend their disbelief. As a journalist, however, I was disturbed by the movie because it crossed the line -- by selling the movie via the internet as a real documentary. It's one thing to use that storytelling approach within the context of a movie to say something is real that isn't -- in other words, a dramatic tool for the suspension of disbelief. But, once outside the theater, to tell people something is real when it isn't, well that to me is just one more chapter in this decades-long evolution in our society of the blurring of the line between fiction and reality -- that's something I wanted to comment on in this sequel because there is a great danger in not knowing what is real. We are a nation that burns down L.A. because of twenty-seconds of Rodney King video -- without asking ourselves what happened before and after the twenty seconds. We elect politicians based on soundbytes. We have television news divisions that are so interested in ratings they do things that would have Edward R. Murrow turning over in his grave. People thought The Blair Witch Project was real and went to Burkittsville, Maryland, accosting the local citizens. The more the locals would truthfully deny the existence of a Blair Witch legend, the more the tourists would get rowdy and insist that the locals were participating in a massive cover-up. That to me is a very troubling phenomenon -- we so readily accept the veracity of video. In fact, the more amateur the video, the more we believe it is real. That's disturbing.

WVOX: So your work in documentary film has prepared you, perhaps better than a fiction filmmaker, to comment on that kind of thing in the sequel?

JB: Believe me I did not wake up one day and say, "Oh, if only I could write and direct the next Blair Witch movie!" It fell into my lap and the studio offered me this movie when I was talking to them about something else. They gave me three scripts that directly continued the story where the first one left off. In one version, Heather's friend who went into the woods to look for her, the same thing happened to her; then a TV news crew, same thing. I didn't think that was the way to go with the sequel.

This was an ubiquitous cultural phenomenon. You had to have been cut off from the media entirely to not have heard about it. Either you saw Heather, Mike and Josh on the cover of Newsweek, or you heard about this little indie film that broke box office records even though it only cost $30, 000 to make. In the same way every American has some reference to the JFK assassination, we have a reference to The Blair Witch ProjectFor those who thought it was a good movie, I thought it would be too much to ask audiences to suspend their disbelief to go back into that same territory, the fake documentary approach. It would have felt very derivative and very unexciting to me creatively as well , to ask the audience to participate in that way, it would get in the way of telling the story effectively.

But more importantly, because this was such a unique cultural phenomenon, and because the media helped create this hysteria that existed. I thought this was an amazing opportunity in sequel history to do something where I could comment upon the first movie. In many ways it is an anti-sequel, because it comments on the story as opposed to continuing the story. No characters from the first film appear in the second, except maybe the main star known as the Blair Witch. As a franchise sequel to a supernatural phenomenon, this is kind of a bold move.

WVOX: Do you think there is a chance a lot of people are going to dismiss this as a very Hollywood sort of sequel, simply because its style is so different from the first one?

JB: What could have been a purely crass commercial enterprise, the studio had the courage to put in the hands of someone like me, with a documentary background in investigating true crime stories. You could read this as a commercial movie that is a thriller or you could read this as a meditation on subjects with deeper meaning. I have always been troubled by the fact that fiction storytellers tend to wallow in the clichˇs of bad documentary making to communicate reality; from Woody Allen whipping the camera around in Husbands and Wives, or cop shows or whatever, for some reason bad documentary filmmaking has become our cultural shorthand for reality and, by using the cliches of bad documentary making, that's one more aspect of the danger where we will never know what is real.

Documentary making is not about how you shoot; it's about what you have to say. There are quite beautifully shot and well crafted documentaries that are not about the physicality of production technique. I would say that most of these filmmakers, people like Barbara Kopple, Michael Moore, Errol Morris, or Bruce Sinofsky and myself, who would never want to create a movie that way. Documentary making is about creating cinematic portraits that also inspire social analysis or commentary. For me to have participated in the Blair Witch hoax, and for me to have carried on this tradition of fake documentary making, would have been incredibly dishonest to my roots. I'm not saying the first guys were dishonest, because what they did really worked in terms of storytelling and they were not documentary makers, but for me to do it as a real documentary maker would have been derivative and also dishonest to my roots.

So, ironically, I think Book of Shadows, as surreally and phantastically as it is photographed, I think it comes much closer to the documentary tradition than if I had ripped off someone's idea and continued to perpetrate the hoax, and to shoot in that manner was something I could not do. Even though BOS is shot cinematically it has a lot to say beneath the surface. For example, do violent images cause us to act violently? It is a meditation on the nature of obsession and fanaticism, and on how the media shapes and creates events and shapes our perceptions of those events. And finally, Book of Shadows is a meditation on the dangers of blurring the lines between fiction and reality. To therefore create a movie that is cinematically rich that has these issues in it is more true to my documentary roots than being derivative -- that is, using someone else's faux documentary technique, then selling it to the public as real.

Anytime anyone looks at our earlier work, one of the themes in our films is how media shapes an event. That is a consistent through line. The media people you see in Paradise Lost were incredibly lazy and found it easier to tell the story of the devil worshipping teens who killed three 8-year olds than to look further for the truth. They were convicted before the trial even started. And in Brother's Keeper, Delbert probably did kill his brother, but for reasons that most of us in the late 20th century cannot relate to. But the media decided he was innocent, and told him that over and over to the point where he started to believe it himself.

I think that is the danger -- making connections between what is real and what isn't. The media tries to do that, and more and more misinformation gets spread. We can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality and there are dangerous consequences that can result from this inability to distinguish between the two.

WVOX: Okay, speaking of real versus fake, I want to ask you about something that happened during the shoot. During the webfest, someone asked Erica if anything odd happened during filming. She said that after shooting the scene where she does the invocation of the goddess of the underworld, she couldn't sleep for two days. Since I helped you write that invocation, I felt kinda bad about that!(Sorry, Erica) If I had known the entire context of the scene, and that she was the first one to die, I might have, say, chosen another goddess. But maybe Persephone did in fact make this that much more effective.

JB: She had told me that it was very intense, and it was definitely the most emotional I had ever seen her get in any of the scenes. She really needed to be by herself afterwards and we really needed to take a big break. At the time I just thought she was emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed. Then she told me she had trouble sleeping. But I don't think there was anything that manifested itself in any creepy, supernatural way.

WVOX: You had said you don't think evil comes from without, but from within; did the actors work with that idea?

JB: I think they did on the whole. That attitude towards good and evil, does it come from within or without, I believe the mind can create it, that it is not as witches or magicians that we can do things but as humans. I feel I am spiritual, but I do not have traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs. That doesn't mean I have pagan beliefs either, or that I think of myself as a witch. I believe it all comes from within and that we can manifest anything, we all have that power.

WVOX: There have been several sources in the media that have quoted Erica as saying she studied videos of satanic rituals to study for her role as a Wicca. I think our readers would love to know more about that. I also understand that is not completely accurate.

Partially it's Erica not fully understanding the role she was playing. But it was also a journalistic shortcut to a sexy quote. She studied satanic videos on Anton LaVey specifically for that orgy sequence, which has nothing to do with witchcraft or Wicca as she practices it elsewhere in the film. That part where you see her sitting on that fridge, which is supposed to be an altar, with the skull between her legs, that part of the ritual is straight out of a video with Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan. I had the whole cast watch the satanic ritual videos to get into the headspace emotionally for what I consider a satanic ritual to be, a ritual of sex and destruction.

That is why I also had them watch The Shining and Rosemary's Baby; they are my two favorite horror movies, because they can be interpreted as supernatural horror or, to my interpretation, as being portraits of psychological states, where the horror is actually human in origin, which is what I was going for in this movie. You could say the hotel was haunted and caused Jack Nicholson to see these things and do these things, or you could say he was off balance to begin with. Same thing with Rosemary's Baby, you could say it was either about discovering this group of satan worshippers were at the heart of it all or it was Rosemary's psychological state.

Now, does it mean because I had the cast watch them that I think all witches and warlocks sacrifice children the way they did in Rosemary's Baby? No. They watched these videos because I was having them do a satanic ritual. People assume when someone calls themselves a Wiccan that they can't also be many other things. They can be moms and working women, they can be into macramˇ, into sculpting, they are not just Wiccans.

As far as Erica is concerned, just because one aspect of her character is a Wiccan can't absolutely negate the possibility of her being a killer who forgets what she did, these are all aspects of being human characters. It's not because she's Wiccan that she does these things. It's because she is human. I believe that religious beliefs are just one more aspect of the roles we play, of the many things that make up our personalities.

The same goes for the other characters. In the opening sequence in the hospital, where the tube is being shoved down Jeff's throat, that is directly taken from my all-time favorite documentary.

WVOX: Titicut Follies? A lot of critics at the screening were talking about that.

JB: It made me go into documentary-making; it is one of ht most incredible pieces of cinema ever made, in a time where people were not so media savvy that they would allow someone like Fred Wiseman in their hospital to film these atrocities. Of course today everyone is media savvy, so we have so blurred that line between fiction and reality. I had Jeff watch Titicut Follies?, and I had each character watch stuff specific to them. I had the entire cast watch stuff for everyone's scenes together.

Also, Erica will tell you I had her read a lot of books by, I forget the name of the publisher, it begins with an "L" I think...

WVOX: Llewellyn?

JB: Yeah, that's it. Llewellyn books. I ordered ten of those books from I got all these books on Wicca, with titles like Teen Witch, something-something for the solitary practitioner--

WVOX: Cunningham's book, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Yes, those books are the beginner's basics.

JB: So she read all these books but for some reason people want to latch onto the satanic rituals video. I also set her up with a local witch in Baltimore.

WVOX: Yeah, Entertainment Weekly said they got in a fight or something--?

JB: They kept missing the appointment, and they had to reschedule it and then missed it again. Witches are also human beings that can have obnoxious character traits. This woman did not appreciate the fact that they kept missing the appointment and she got angry and that made Erica uncomfortable. No one wants to talk about the fact that I researched this religion and ordered these books. I also took the trouble of calling an expert that I know named Peg Aloi to ask for her advice on a few things...

WVOX: Expert? Yeah, right. Sounds like I managed to give that poor actress insomnia. Now, about that that satanic ritual in the film. In your view, why does that happen at that particular point in time?

JB: I think it is open to interpretation. Either they got swept up into the psychological hysteria, or, if you want to interpret it as the Blair Witch is alive and well, then she lured these people into her trap. A lot of people will view this and think that she, the Blair Witch, messed with those tapes and made them look as if they did things they didn't do. If people want to make connections to Paradise Lost, why not look at the story of innocent teenagers who were accused of a crime they didn't commit because a witch came along and fucked with the tapes? (interviewer's note: I have to admit this is not much more absurd than what really did happen)

Most people will probably interpret it in one of several ways, given the way they saw the first film. Either the witch caused them to be delusional and they did not do anything, but the witch fucked with the tapes and so others see them as guilty; or, the witch whipped them into a state and caused them to do these killings, and then fucked with the tapes to make them see what happened even though they don't remember. So in that way, some might see them as somehow innocent because the witch caused them to do things, or because the witch made the tapes look like they did these things. But I have a feeling it will be blamed on this thing people think of as the Blair Witch.

WVOX: Did any other unusual things occur while filming, or that the actors found disturbing?

JB: Not really. It was physically demanding because it was a tight shooting schedule, but I don' t think anything creepy happened. I think several nights of all- night shooting in the woods, not enough to eat, people were tired, we spent a lot of nights working from 6 pm to 6 am, so tempers got a little short, nothing you would not expect.

A lot of people have asked me questions like that, like they want there to have been something bad that occurred during shooting. But really it was just people wanting to make a great movie and working really hard. All the while knowing in the background there is this world-wide microscope waiting to rip the movie apart.

Bruce and I have spent a lot of time in the real world pursuing the answers to real evil, and making Paradise Lost and Revelations was much more physically demanding than Book of Shadows, because it was so much more emotionally and psychologically draining. What happened to these little boys is an enigma. I know Damien is innocent, but I don't know what happened to the three little boys. I was sleeping with a gun under my pillow at times because we got threatening phone calls from people telling us to stop working on the movie. But to go from Bruce and I trouping around the woods in Arkansas, to being on a movie set with a crew of 95 people with my own trailer, this was a giant vacation in comparison. It was hard work, in fact I have never worked so hard in my life, but making those documentaries was more physically, intellectually and emotionally demanding.

WVOX: What would you like to say to any Wiccans or witches out there who see this film and come away from it feeling you have done them a disservice? I mean, there are bound to be a few, since this is such a complex film with a lot of subtle issues going on.

JB: The main thing to keep in mind is that this film is not about Wicca or Wiccan philosophy, even given the title. I think part of the problem with putting yourself in any category, where you call yourself a witch or a Wiccan or a Presbyterian or whatever, is how can they not also be known as lawyers and mothers and lovers and boyfriends? I mean, being a Wiccan is only one aspect of who you are. If you look at Erica's character, not everything she does is a function of her being Wiccan.

WVOX: It may be tempting to some to see her as cardboard, or as some sort of mouthpiece who is only saying what she says because the film needed to avoid getting witches angry about misrepresentation. But the thing is, I have met a number of people just like her, who have read the same books and dress that way and have the same sort of enthusiasm for defending their religion and for working positive magic. In that way she is very authentic. But I do think some people will be bothered by the orgy and the violence, because so few Wiccans appear in serious films and we are already persecuted, as Erica would say...

JB: You can see when she is being a "good" Wiccan, she is espousing philosophies, albeit very commercial philosophies, the law of three, her connection with the earth, she talks about how Elly Kedward was misrepresented, the misconceptions people have, how people think she is a devil worshipper, and she says how can I worship something I don't believe in, etc. She is a likeable, believable character who espouses the principles of Wicca and serves them to the best of her ability. But then, ultimately, like the other five, she gets caught up in a web of killing, but that has nothing to do with her being a witch.

I mean, because Stephen and Tristen are intellectuals writing a book; does that mean every intellectual writing a book is capable of murdering people in a satanic ritual orgy? Kim is a goth; do we ask the same question of goths? These parts of their personalities are very authentic, but it's not entirely who they are or what they are capable of. There are some evil Wiccans just like there are evil Catholics, or evil Jews.

WVOX: I like to use John Salvi III as a good example of a Catholic who thought he was doing the right thing for Catholics everywhere... For better or worse, we don't have a monopoly on the word witch or Wiccan, anyone can call themselves one no matter what they believe. Our lack of dogma is our freedom, but it also allows for some confusion.

JB: I think it's like the Paradise Lost thing we were discussing earlier. If people go into it looking for these connections or hidden meanings around every corner, before you know it you see way too many connections. Likewise if someone goes to this film looking for a perfect Wiccan who obeys Wiccan philosophy, there may be problems. Just because she is possibly a killer in this particular story doesn't mean I am saying anything negative about Wiccans in general. It all goes back to playing with peoples' expectations and the sorts of beliefs and stereotypes explored in the first film that people are still carrying around with them. And what the witch means to them.

It is also not clear how involved she is because she disappears though the last half of the movie. So we might assume, like the others do, oh, Erica must be "the witch" as in the Blair Witch. But she is the first one dead, so obviously she isn't responsible for the killings. One reason I wanted Jeff's character to be seen as someone with past mental problems is that I wanted to have an incendiary mix of people who, with the proper atmosphere and timing, would be capable of this evil. You mix these people together, with what each of them is bringing to the mix, and you have the potential for an explosive cocktail.

WVOX: I have read your director's statement about the film, and some of the very complex themes you are working with, many of which we have already talked about. But one thing still strikes me: if, as you say in your statement, Book of Shadows is meant to show that The Blair Witch Project was made popular through misinformation, is the sequel trying to offer some misinformation of its own?

JB: One of the major themes of this movie has to do with how media shapes our perceptions, and how we don't question what we see. The more amateur video we see, shows like Survivor or MTV's The Real World, where you put six beautiful people into a completely fake setting and ask people to believe it's real, this has dramatically altered our society. We call it an age of information, but I think this is an age of misinformation and disinformation. I was talking before about how we have become unable to distinguish reality from fantasy, and why that is dangerous. Americans have become so undiscerning and confused about what is real and what is fake, that it is possible for them to walk out of a theatre after seeing The Blair Witch Project and actually think that the witch is real and that those kids actually died. I think this is astounding and disturbing, and I wanted to explore that as creatively as I could.

Peg Aloi
Media Coordinator
The Witches' Voice
November 5th., 2000 c.e.

Email: [Staff Email]

Also See Peg's Review of this Film
Also See Peg's Interview with the Director of this Film


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