Company: Pathe Distribution
Issue: Pre-publicity campaign surrounding UK launch of The Blair Witch
Rivalling The Phantom Menace as the most hyped film of the year, The
Blair Witch Project was the first film to create a great deal of
pre-release notoriety by harnessing the power of the internet. It was
allegedly made for just pounds 35,000 by student filmmakers Daniel
Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez who also had the idea to build a web site to
post unused film footage, and fabricated a ’history’ of the Blair Witch
legend to help extend the mythology around the events in the film.
Even before the film opened in the US, it had inspired more than 20 fan
sites, an e-mail list and masses of reviews on web sites supposedly
coming from pirate copies of the film. Some ’fan’ sites have since been
traced back to friends and colleagues of Myrick and Sanchez. Despite the
questionable ethics, the film makers have to be admired for whipping up
a frenzy about the film through supposed third parties on the internet:
the campaign proved very effective and the film made pounds 18 million
on its US opening weekend alone.
As with so many US films, by the time it reached these shores many
people were already aware of the Blair Witch Project and its claim to be
the scariest film ever made. Pathe Distribution bought the UK rights,
and decided to follow the US lead in its internet-led publicity
The UK web site was masterminded by Ian George, marketing and publicity
director at Pathe Distribution.
’For the UK launch we decided we needed our own site to expand on the
mythology behind the film and be a commercial tool. We felt from day one
that we should not try and encapsulate what the US site had done, but
instead we sought to give the campaign a British spin,’ said George.
The idea was to take the myth that directors Sanchez and Myrick had
created around their script and use the web site to treat it like a real
event and ’blur the lines between fact and fiction’.
Setting up the site for its launch at the beginning of October involved
commissioning and shooting interviews with so-called ’witch experts’,
exploring the background of the film.
The UK site, www.blairwitch.co.uk, is presented as a rough diary with a
bits of paper sticking out as a thumb index allowing the user to
download the trailer and explore the Blair Witch myth.
To date, the UK site has attracted more than three million hits, and the
film has launched to crowded cinemas.