Category Archives: Interview with Eduardo Sanchez
Conducted by John Mountain
Eduardo Sanchez is the co-writer/director of The Blair Witch Project. I became friends with him on Facebook, where I asked him for this interview. The interview took place on November 20, 2011 at 1 P.M. It is a telephone interview.
According to the Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia it says you were born in Cuba in 1968. Is that correct?
That’s right, yes.
How old were you when you came to live in the United States?
Well, we went to Spain. We immigrated to Spain and then I came here when I was five years old.
What led to your interest in horror films and to becoming a filmmaker?
Well, you know what I wasn’t really into the horror movies that much. I’ve been a fan of all genres, really. I liked horror movies, but I wasn’t really a horror guy. Basically I decided to do Blair Witch because it was the cheapest and best idea we had at the time. That was basically how I became a horror guy, and I like horror movies. I like making horror movies and eventually I would like to break out into other things, you know?
What were some of the films that were an influence on your work?
Well, horror-wise The Exorcist, Amityville Horror, The Shining; basically films from the late seventies and early eighties. Then, when we decided to do Blair Witch really the biggest thing that influenced us for Blair Witch was that show In Search of…that Leonard Nimoy hosted in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. That whole sort of pseudo-documentary thing was really fascinating to Dan and me. We were always just so scared by In Search of…and that’s how we kind of came up with the idea for Blair Witch; that something we could play off as being real like what In Search of…did. So, it worked well for us.
You guys did a fantastic job with that. I remember In Search of…I used to watch that show all the time. I loved it. I can understand where you’re coming from.
Yeah, it still works to this day, you know something about that way it looks and Leonard Nimoy’s voice it’s just a very creepy show, you know?
So, how did you guys come up with the idea for The Blair Witch Project? Did it just basically stem off of In Search of…? How did you come up with the idea to use a witch?
Well, the witch was, you know the first idea was to use a legend, some kind of mythology that lent itself to somebody going out and researching it, you know, like something weird was happening in this area. So we knew that it was going to be some kind of mythology. Basically for us it was like “Well, it’s not New England but it’s near, it’s sort of in the middle of the East Coast, sort of close to New England sort of that way of the Salem Witch Trials kind of thing, so we were like “So what about…what if it’s a witch? So that was kind of the idea of like the mythology. But the actual idea for the movie came from just, you know, us just not liking the horror movies that came out in the early ‘90’s; not having been scared in a long time, so we were like “How do we capitalize? How do we make something scary and that’s how we came up with Blair Witch from the idea of making something that appeared to be real. So that’s how we came up with the idea
Now, The Blair Witch Project is on several lists as one of the best horror films of all time and Roger Ebert even said that it was one of the most influential films of the 20th century. What are your thoughts on that?
I mean, um, I don’t know. You know, look, I’m proud of the film and I’m proud of the collaborators that I worked with on the film and I just feel lucky to be a part of it. You know I think that the film kind of triggered something and it was very much a spark that ignited something we never imagined was going to happen. It was something very strange that just kind of got into the zeitgeist of really the world because I’ve had people come up to me from half-way around the world and tell me their Blair Witch story. So, it’s a very popular film and even if people didn’t see it they know about the Blair Witch. I don’t know why that was or why that happened; it was just a combination of several different things. But, like I said I’m proud of it and wherever it ends up in the history of cinema, whatever little corner I can occupy I’m happy occupying it.
My favorite scene in the film is when Heather gives her apology speech to the camera. That is such an intense scene and it is so well acted. I know that most of the film was either improvised or ad-libbed but did you or Daniel either one give her any special direction for that scene?
Yeah, well you know basically for that scene is “You’re dying. You’re lost and you’re going to die, so you have to kind of..” It was more of a confessional, just like saying goodbye to everybody; to apologize to people and then say goodbye to the world so it’s like, I think Heather kind of took that and just ran with it and gave a very powerful and very real performance. But we basically just said “Point the camera at yourself and say goodbye to the world, goodbye to your family and goodbye to everybody you know.
I did, I loved that scene. Did you still keep in contact with Daniel (Myrick) or any of the three actors from the film?
Yeah, yeah, we keep in touch. Heather (Donahue) and I keep in touch through Facebook and Dan and I talk pretty frequently. Then Mike (Williams) and Josh (Leonard) we’re friends and we talk every once in a while. I talked to Mike a few weeks ago. We’re friends and we’ve done other things together. So we keep in touch mostly through Facebook these days. We were supposed to do a reunion in December that fell apart. We were kind of talking about what we were going to do there. But yeah, I definitely keep in touch with everybody.
After the Blair Witch Project you went on to direct Altered and Seventh Moon. Can you share any insight on those films?
Yeah, it took me a while to get back into the horror thing after Blair Witch. So I didn’t make a film for like five or six years. So the script (for Altered) came to me called ‘Probed’ and I really loved it and it happened to be that the writer lived 45 minutes from where I lived on the East Coast which is pretty much kind of a weird coincidence and we did it in 2005. It’s a good movie. It’s a kind of science fiction/horror/alien movie. Then Seventh Moon we did in 2007. We shot it in Hong Kong and it came out a year later and it stars Amy Smart. It’s like a dark ride movie; one night of hell in the China countryside. Then I just finished another movie called Lovely Molly that’s going to come out in the spring, I think, that just played the Toronto Film Festival. To me it’s just a matter of doing the right projects and feeling compassionate about the material.
I saw the trailer for Lovely Molly and it looks downright creepy. It looks like you just knocked it out of the park with that one. I don’t mean to sound insulting, and no offense, but we all know that trailers can be very deceiving. What would you tell a hardcore horror film fan to convince them to see Lovely Molly?
The thing about Lovely Molly is that it has an unbelievable performance by the lead actress Gretchen Lodge and it’s a film that, you know, just read some of the reviews. It’s a film that gets under your skin. I’ve talked with a lot of people who have said that they keep thinking about it for days and it’s not exactly a fun film, but it’s definitely a film for a lot of people that will basically stay with that and it affects different people in different ways. It’s definitely not an easy film to watch. It’s got some really kind of crazy scenes and it’s very serious kind of film, a dramatic thriller. It’s my own film so I don’t like really talking this much about it, but it’s a fun ride and if you are a fan who likes something a little more psychological and not completely ‘in your face’ then you will love it and I think that even that people who like stuff ‘in your face’ will like it because there’s a lot of kind of shocking scenes that you haven’t seen in other films. So I think it’s a pretty original ride and that a lot of people are going to really dig it.
What is your opinion of the state of horror films today? Do you believe that films like Paranormal Activity, REC, The Last Exorcism or Apollo 18 would exist if The Blair Witch Project had not been made?
No, I don’t think so. Eventually somebody would have come up with the same idea that we had. But we didn’t really originate that idea. There was a movie called Cannibal Holocaust which is almost the exact same story as Blair Witch and Dan (Myrick) and I hadn’t seen that movie before we made Blair Witch. It was banned in the United States when we were kids and I didn’t hear about it until after Blair Witch played Sundance and somebody sent me a VHS copy of it. But, Blair Witch brought this kind of first-person reality cinema to the forefront and I think that somebody would have done it eventually but I think that Blair Witch popularized it. I think that these other films seem to have been inspired by Blair Witch.
I understand what you’re saying about Cannibal Holocaust. After Blair Witch I had heard the same thing I was finally able to get a hold of a DVD copy of it. I understand where there’s kind of the same idea as The Blair Witch Project. It’s kind of a disturbing film.
I mean it’s disturbing because they’re killing animals on film. Then there’s some questionable scenes, one of which where it looks like they used a human cadaver in the movie. I haven’t really looked into that much, but yeah, I know why it was banned in the United States. But it was a really an interesting film and actually the thing about Blair Witch was that the original idea for the movie was that it be a lot more like Cannibal Holocaust. Cannibal Holocaust was basically a documentary about some footage that they found, that these people found. Blair Witch was going to be like that. We basically were going to make a documentary about the footage and we realized we didn’t need the documentary and we just made it with just the footage of just the filmmakers in the woods. So I think that if Dan and I had saw Cannibal Holocaust I don’t think we would have done Blair Witch. It would have just been an exercise in futility at that point. But, you know sometimes ignorance breeds different kinds of creativity and we were pretty happy that nobody showed us that movie.
Eduardo, I really appreciate you taking the time for this interview
Yeah, no problem, man, anytime. You know I’m on Facebook and you’re on Face book so if you have any questions feel free to ask.
I sure will. In closing is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
You know, not really, man. I appreciate all the support and I’m happy to be a filmmaker. Check out Lovely Molly. It’s a different film from Altered or Seventh Moon or even Blair Witch. I think it’s my best film to date, so you know I’m pretty happy with it and I’m glad things seem to be moving forward me. I appreciate all the support and I hope to continue to keep making films.
I appreciate it and I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I will see you on Facebook.
You too, thank you.
- AFM 2011: Lovely Molly Finds a Home at Image Entertainment (dreadcentral.com)
- Eduardo Sanchez Offers Update And Details on ‘The Blair Witch Project 3′ (slashfilm.com)
- Tortoise Score Film by Blair Witch Director Eduardo Sánchez (pitchfork.com)
- TIFF 2011: Badass Teaser Trailer Debut – Lovely Molly (dreadcentral.com)