It’s no easy task making a belated sequel to “The Blair Witch Project,” the mother of all found footage horror movies. But, according to the makers of the new “Blair Witch,” it’s not easy making any found footage film. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett have done found footage before, in their shorts for the “V/H/S” omnibus series. Since then they’ve collaborated on a horror-comedy (“You’re Next”) and a highly stylized thriller that’s also funny (“The Guest”). Returning to the genre, and making a film that both respects the original and tries to be its own thing, was a challenge they were up for. Wingard and Barrett talk to us about how they approached updating the series to the age of ubiquitous gizmos, how to make actors look scared and their film’s terrifying tunnel scene.
If you’re making a “Blair Witch” movie in 2016, one thing you have to show is how much technology and how we record video has changed since 1999.
Adam Wingard: Every year that goes around everyone asks, “Do you think found footage is going to go away? Is it a fad?” I don’t think it will ever go away. As technology advances, there’s going to be new and inspirational ways of creating found footage stories. Fifteen years ago Skype didn’t exist, and now it does. That’s a new facet that’s being explored in the found footage subgenre.
So what kinds of things did you talk about tech-wise?
Wingard: The first thing [Simon Barrett and I] did was discuss what types of cameras we wanted and what kinds of things we hadn’t seen before. When you’re doing a film that, for us, is a bigger budget, your first instinct is, “How do we get a helicopter shot? How do we expand the scope of this?” That’s where the idea of having a drone came in. That’s something we’ve never seen before in a found footage film.
Simon, tell me about the art of writing a found footage film, which needs to feel real and raw but also needs a structure. How specific would you be in your writing?
Simon Barrett: The way they made the first film feel like authentic found footage is they more or less had the actors go into the woods and improvise all their dialogue. Adam and I knew from the start that we wanted to do a much more technical, fast-paced thrill ride of a film. We didn’t want to imitate what the first one does, because the first one does it perfectly. Our challenge was about being respectful to the first film’s legacy while expanding upon its mythology. I was trying to write dialogue that had a natural quality to it. The actors were encouraged to improvise, but usually it was based on something that was written.