Eduardo Sanchez was born in Cuba in 1968. It was at a young age he gained an interest in filmmaking. At Wheaton High School Ed made school movie projects such as Shrimp Fried Vice and Pride (in the name of Love) all of which starred his friends and family, as well as Ed himself. After High School Ed studied at Montgomery College where he continued to make movies like Star Trek Demented. He later got accepted to the University of Central Florida where he made Gabriel’s Dream, a film which he thought was going to be his big break, but that didn’t come for almost another decade. In 1997 he and a close friend Daniel Myrick got together and started production on the most successful movie (budget to gross) ever, the The Blair Witch Project (1999). It was a world-wide hit and has become one of the most spoofed films of all time.
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READABLE INTERVIEW IS A SUMMARIZED VERSION OF THE AUDIO AND VIDEO.
How Did You Get Started In Hollywood?
Film was kind of like a childhood love. My dad would take me to the movies a lot, and he was a big movie fan. He loved going to the movies and watching them on TV. My parents were from Cuba, and we immigrated from there in 1972. My dad didn’t speak English, and back then, movies with subtitles were not common. So he would watch movies that were understandable without knowing the language.
My dad cultivated this love for movies and the experience of watching them. Then I saw Star Wars in 1977 when I was around eight or nine years old, and it blew my mind. It was not just a movie; it was a cultural event. People around me were talking about Star Wars, and it sparked my interest in how movies were made and the special effects. I started reading magazines about filmmaking, especially science fiction movies.
I remember making little storyboards for my own movies, like an alien or UFO abduction movie. I learned about storyboarding from Star Wars and how they planned the effects shots. However, I didn’t actually shoot anything until high school, when I took a TV production class. That’s when I realized there were actual careers in filmmaking, not just being a director like Steven Spielberg or George Lucas. The teacher opened my eyes to the possibilities, and from that moment on, I identified myself as a filmmaker. I loved every aspect of filmmaking, from editing to directing, and even a bit of acting. It was a career that someone said I could do, and there was no looking back. That’s how I initially became interested in films.
If You Were To Make A Star Wars Film, What Would It Look Like?
It’s a lot of responsibility. The whole Star Wars thing is kind of a double-edged sword. If you’re given too much responsibility, it seems like there’s no way to win. Look at the situation with JJ Abrams or even Solo, trying to bring to life a young Han Solo. It’s a tough thing because we all grew up watching Star Wars, and it’s hard to please everybody. I thought the films were good, and I have my own opinions about them. I love every Star Wars film, even if I judge them differently. Some are better than others, obviously, but I do love all of them.
However, doing something huge like continuing the Skywalker story would be tough. I would try to work on something with a lesser-known character, maybe a Star Wars horror film. I love the idea of Stormtroopers and Rebels, a small squad stuck on a planet, being hunted down by creatures, and having to join forces to survive. It would be cool to explore that kind of story. Maybe it could involve a character from the
original trilogy, someone who is related in some way. The success of The Mandalorian and Rogue One shows that there’s a strong interest in stories related to the original but not following the same characters we grew up with. For me, the further it goes away from the Skywalker Saga, the better. I prefer having its own adventure and story. Seeing Luke in The Mandalorian was cool, but I would rather have it be its own standalone journey. If I were to be involved, I might start with directing some of the TV shows and then gradually move into creating my own series. However, it’s a challenging task because the Star Wars fandom has become quite difficult to please.
What were The Blair Witch Project’s Origins?
I co-wrote the movie with Dan Myrick, and we co-directed it. We were at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, just hanging out on weekends. We were poor film students, so we couldn’t do much. We went to a free screening of one of The Nightmare on Elm Street movies, Freddy’s Dead, with Roseanne Arnold and Tom Arnold. It was a weird movie, not really scary, but I liked it. It got us thinking about why there weren’t more scary horror movies that genuinely scared people. We started talking about the movies that scared us as kids and rented some VHS tapes from that time period. We discovered a sub-genre of mock documentaries from the late ’70s and ’80s. These were like fake documentaries that presented themselves as real.
There was a show called In Search Of, which was a documentary series about paranormal stuff like Bigfoot, UFOs, and the Loch Ness Monster. Some of those episodes were genuinely scary, even when we watched them as young adults. That got us thinking about whether a similar approach would work for a modern audience. We wondered if we could create something that presents itself as fact but is actually fake. We went down that rabbit hole and came up with the idea of a documentary team investigating a paranormal legend in the woods. They would disappear, and their footage would be found years later. The audience would experience the events through the camera, almost like a protagonist. We called it POV Cinema, even before the term “found footage” was popularized. The camera would be the eyes of both the audience and the character, taking them through the woods, into a creepy house with pentagrams and evidence of sacrifices. There would be a scene in the cellar. We sat on the idea for a while,
working on other projects, until we reunited in 1996. It wasn’t even called Blair Witch at that time; it was called the Woods movie. We got Greg Hale on board as our producer, and together, we developed the project further. We started casting, and after about a year of preparation, we shot the film in October 1997. The editing process took us through 1998, and the movie was released in 1999. We got into Sundance and sold the movie there. The rest is history
Could The Blair Witch Project Marketing Get Pulled Off Today?
Hmm, that’s a good question. I mean, it’s definitely more targeted now, you know, like they know exactly what kind of person goes to see Fast and Furious movies or Star Wars or older audiences, whatever. They know where that audience is, and they knew it back in the day too, but now because of the internet, everything is kind of channeled through the internet, even information gathering and audience research. It’s mostly done through the internet, so you can target audiences better.
But the audience now is bombarded with more things, and they’re more savvy. People are more savvy in seeing what advertising really is. Not that we weren’t savvy back then, but it was mostly TV and radio. The web was very small, and advertising wasn’t really working much. In the late ’90s, subscription services like AOL were the king, and there wasn’t much marketing for movies on the internet. Before Google, YouTube, and Facebook,
we did Blair Witch before all that. It was a very limited audience. We were on the cusp of television and being able to market a movie on television for the first time. The internet was just starting, and our advantage was that we could throw out information and have it out there without a way to invalidate or validate that information. We built a website for Blair Witch, and people didn’t realize it was marketing. Even when they found out it was fake, they still stayed engaged with the website and the community. Nowadays, people know they’re being marketed to all the time, so you have to find a new way to entertain them. Funny commercials work because they entertain people while getting the message across.
Parents Thoughts On The Blair Witch Project?
Yes, Dad saw Blair Witch, and I think it was released worldwide. Certain markets may have translated it, while others didn’t. There might be a Spanish version of Blair Witch somewhere, but I’m not sure which version he watched. My dad watches a lot of movies with subtitles, so he’s used to that. However, it’s not really my dad’s kind of movie. My mom, on the other hand, had a comment about the excessive cursing in the movie. Despite that, they were excited about the movie’s success and knew how much I had sacrificed to pursue my lifelong dream.
They supported me financially and emotionally throughout film school and my projects. While my mom suggested making Christian or kids’ movies, both of them aren’t fans of horror movies. However, my dad enjoyed a movie I made called Exists, which had action in it. Action movies are his favorite genre, unlike horror, where I ended up specializing.
Directing Horror VS Other Things?
It’s pretty much the same as it’s always been, with the exception of technology advancements. When we shot Blair Witch, it was done in a non-conventional way because we wanted it to look like a documentary. In high school, I was inspired by Miami Vice, so my films were mostly Miami Vice rip-offs. They were more like exercises to learn filmmaking techniques rather than actual films. In college, I was more interested in comedy and action. I never considered myself a horror filmmaker until Blair Witch, which labeled me as one. I had to study the genre and familiarize myself with it.
Horror movies weren’t my favorite genre, probably because my dad didn’t like them either. I gravitated towards the movies my dad would take me to, and later on, I mostly watched movies with a friend who didn’t like horror either.
I did watch some horror classics like Jaws, Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, and The Shining, but I wasn’t obsessed with the genre. Back then, you could only watch movies in theaters or wait for them to be on TV, which sometimes took years. Now, with rentals and VHS tapes, the options are much wider. As a filmmaker, I continue to learn and collaborate with talented people in the industry. Transitioning between genres wasn’t difficult, and the fast-paced nature of indie filmmaking prepared me for the pace of television shows.
Thoughts On The Blair Witch Project Overall?
I’m here talking to you today because of Blair Witch. I owe so much to the movie. It provided me with financial and career stability. It opened doors for me to direct other films and enter the television industry. I feel blessed to have been part of a collaborative effort involving filmmakers, actors, and everyone who believed in us. The impact of Blair Witch is incredible, although it’s not comparable to something as massive as Star Wars. Being able to have a movie that people still talk about after 25 years is beyond what I could have imagined as a kid. Blair Witch was a serendipitous project where everything went right.
It turned into something special and is still loved today. I owe everything to Blair Witch, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my story and discuss my work, even after all these years. I appreciate the interest and the podcasts I’ve been a part of, as it allows me to talk about Blair Witch and my other projects. I can’t fully comprehend what Blair Witch has become, but I embrace the journey and take pride in what we achieved. It continues to bring me joy and pride, and I consider myself lucky to have been part of it.
What Is One Challenge You Have Faced In Hollywood?
With every project I undertake, especially the films I develop, there’s always a risk involved. Taking risks is essential, particularly when you’re writing your own material. Otherwise, it may not be worth the effort. While I also work as a director for hire, often in television, there’s still a sense of risk when entering a new show or working with new people. You’re constantly faced with the uncertainty of whether you’ll do well, if people will like you, or if you’ll make a positive contribution to the project. In my position, each project feels like a new workplace, and as one of the bosses, it can be challenging.
However, I’m proud of the work I’ve done in television and the fact that I’ve been asked back for subsequent projects. On the film side, every film I’ve made has been a risk, as they were independently financed without the backing of major studios. Some paid off, while others didn’t, but overall, I’ve taken pride in taking those risks. Perhaps the biggest risk I took was staying out of LA. Many advised me to move there after the success of Blair Witch, but I chose to remain where I was.
While I still travel to LA for meetings and industry-related matters, I live half an hour away from where I grew up and where Blair Witch was filmed. It’s unique and difficult to have a film career outside of LA, but I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to continue making a living in the industry without relocating.
You were to make ONE More Movie. What Would The Project look like?
I mean, there’s a crazy one. It’s a crazy one because I have this huge Bigfoot movie that I’ve been wanting to do for many years. I have the script, and it’s a great script, but it’s really expensive. Nobody wants to make an expensive Bigfoot movie these days. I want to do a movie about Cuba eventually. We had a TV show at Stars that was going to be set in Cuba, but it got canceled. I would love to do something in Cuba about the island’s history of persecution and exploitation. The people there have been downtrodden throughout their entire history. It’s an island under constant turmoil, but the spirit of the people is strong. Canadians go to Cuba a lot, and I hear many stories from them. I love Canada and have thought about moving to Vancouver.
Canadians travel more and are more aware of the world. Cuban people have a spirit and enthusiasm for life, despite their circumstances. I’d like to make a historical movie about the brutal slave trade in Cuba. It lasted longer and was even more brutal than in the United States. There was a TV series called Roots that I watched with my parents, and it had a profound impact on me.
While I’m not African-American, I feel that stories about the slave trade should be told by those closer to that experience. Switching the setting to Cuba has intrigued me. I’m far from making it happen, as I’m a lazy writer. If I had to start now with a script, I would do my Bigfoot script, which is also a period piece. That’s the long answer to your question.
Advice For Listeners?
I’m not a scholar or a philosopher, but when I look back at my life, there were many times when I was cruel to certain people. I was a bit of a bully at times, especially in school and during my 20s when I had an ego as a filmmaker. Despite being a nice guy overall, there were moments when I lost myself. However, I’ve learned that nice people don’t finish last. In the film industry and in life, being kind and cool is beneficial. There are examples of egomaniacs in the entertainment industry who succeed because they can make money, but there have been instances of abuse as well.
I’ve realized that being cool and a nice person is helpful and better overall. When I meet someone or hear about an actor who is cool and does good things, I understand why they succeed. It’s tough to have a career in Hollywood, and many people come and go.
Treating people with love, kindness, and wisdom is essential. Being positive and a rock like Robin Williams is important to me.