Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lost Footage movies

Most of you probably know this, but bear with me.

In 1999 a movie came out that changed the film industry. And it wasn't a major studio and had actors in it that nobody knew. And it cost around $25,000 to make but with some cleaning up and fixing, it cost around $60,000.

It made around $240 million dollars world-wide.

And it created a whole new genre along with a nickname; "lost footage movie". 

The Blair Witch Project was about 3 young people who were looking for an urban legend called the Blair Witch who lived near a small town called Blair in Maryland. With a film and video camera, they hiked into the woods and were never seen again.

The movie is made up of footage that the three students were shooting, and it was found some time later. What we see is what they saw (or heard) during their search. Thus the term, "lost footage".

The movie worked for several reasons; one of them being that it was such a bare movie, camera was shaky and you never really saw anything. It was a great example of not showing blood and gore, rather it left whatever happened to the 3 kids to your imagination.

And your imagination can come up with some horrible things.

The makers of Blair Witch made a sequel, this time with a structured screenplay, but it didn't have the impact of the original.

So what does Hollywood do when a movie that almost all of the studios passed on makes $240 million? They copy it.

There were a handful of imitations but none with the freshness and originality of the Blair movie.

Then another movie came out with similar themes; it was called Paranormal Activity and again, revolutionized the "lost footage genre". 

It had a camera trained on a bedroom where two people slept with their door open. We watched nothing happen for the first part, but then we see things like lights going on and off in the hallway, bumps in the night and other strange things.

Then we see the wife wake up and leave and then the husband leaves. And then... well, you have to see it.

And Paranormal Activity, which cost $15,000 made almost $200 million.

It spawned 2 sequels, none as original as the first. It also signaled producers that the lost footage genre was alive and well. There have been a handful of them that made it to the big screen and probably a few handfuls of copy-cats that never made it to anywhere.

Last night I watched an interesting one; The Last Exorcism, which started off good, and actually had good actors (something that isn't always considered in lost footage movies) and had some really good suspense.

But it fizzled out with an ending taken from Rosemary's Baby, except not as good.

Which leaves me.

I had a screenplay based on a jetliner being retired and flown to the junkyard. I called it Deadhead, the term used by airlines and others to describe flying back to their base and not working. But I didn't like it. It needed something else.

And it came to me watching a Resident Evil movie (I love Mila Jovovich, a fellow Ukrainian). There was also something else that I remembered, a movie called The Ghost of Flight 401, based loosely on a true story of a jetliner that crashed and supposedly the ghost of the pilot was seen on other jetliners of that airline.

Whenever I get these epiphanies I take them with caution as they could become horrible ideas when I wake up the next day. But this one lingered.

I would have to make some major changes in the original screenplay but it wasn't really that hard. I asked several of my film friends, directors, writers and producers. They all liked the change.

Doesn't mean that they're right, after all, they are my friends. But they are also brutally honest to a fault.

I always find it odd how I can write warm, cuddly family movies for Hallmark and then turn around and write supernatural and sci-fi movies (refer to my credits on My first movie was a supernatural that maybe lacked a bit of supernatural but was high on the creepy meter. Maybe it's not odd at all.

So as of now, I'm at page 35 and having a lot of fun. "Having fun" in a writer's world means that it seems to be finding legs, that you can see what the next page is going to be. And that's a blessing because if you have to struggle, it's got a good chance of falling by the wayside.

So is it a copy? Am I just copying something someone else did before me?

I guess it's "yes". But there's not much in this film business that hasn't been done. Mine is a little different as this ghost is on the airplane and the 8 people on board have no way to get out, nor land.

Blair Witch was fresh for it's time, but the idea's been done before. Everything has been done, it's just how it's done.

One question though; How many silent movies do you think will be done since The Artist won a ton of oscars? That's at least a whole other blog. Tell me what you think; yes or no.

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