Is it the rustle of leaves in the forest or money? Another reboot of BLAIR WITCH is not to the liking of the original creators

Who truly stands behind the success of “Blair Witch Project”? The original creators from 1999 have spoken out regarding the reboot, motivated by financial claims.

Jakub Piwoński

27 April 2024

blair witch

It has been announced that another Blair Witch Project is in the works. The film is intended to be the first fruit of the formally established collaboration between Blumhouse and Lionsgate. The problem is that, on this occasion, the creators of the original 1999 film have spoken out, motivated—naturally—by financial claims. It’s a shame they had to stir up this hornet’s nest.

It’s very likely that another reboot is in the works. I say another because it’s worth recalling that a revival already occurred in 2016, when Adam Wingard took the helm of a completely new film, albeit one that softly continued the themes of the original. Audiences didn’t appreciate that project at the time, although Wingard achieved his goal—he subsequently moved on to bigger things and can now enjoy the financial success of his last two MonsterVerse films.

But enough about that. Blair Witch was revived in 2016 but also much earlier. The infamous sequel from 2000 is well remembered by fans, although they’d probably prefer to forget it. Neither of these films came close to the box office success of the original production, which, thanks to a famous marketing campaign, became permanently etched in cinema history. Let’s remember—made on a shoestring budget of around $35,000, the film raked in a staggering $249 million worldwide. All because of a little bit of deception.

Blair Witch Project

Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, this film paved the way for the found footage genre. The stylistic use of found tapes was known before (consider Cannibal Holocaust), but never before and perhaps never since has the underlying method—convincing viewers that what they’re seeing is real footage—been so effectively sold. I still remember an article I came across in a computer gaming magazine, where instead of the usual film production description, readers could acquaint themselves with the tragic fate of the victims of a certain terrible witch. Their profiles were, of course, fabricated to enhance the authenticity of the horror.

Even though I watched the film knowing it was all cleverly staged, an inner voice full of unease kept me wondering if the actors were truly alive and well. I’ve never experienced anything like that in a movie theater. I’m sure many felt similarly, although I have no doubt there are those who completely miss the point of this film’s cult status. Somehow, the film’s concept justifies its obscurity—either you buy into it or you don’t. Either you find fear in those rustling trees or you don’t. I found it.

Who deserves credit for this film’s success? It seems it’s the marketing experts who convinced us we were witnessing genuine horror. Combined with the convincing way the film was shot, it made for an extraordinarily distinctive project, paving the way for imitators. However, the actors from that endeavor see it differently. Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams, the faces of Blair Witch Project, recently hinted in a social media post that they feel very, very undervalued.


While we, the original creators, respect Lionsgate’s right to profit from intellectual property as they see fit, we feel obligated to highlight that the original cast—Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Mike Williams—significantly contributed to the film’s success. They are literally the faces of what became a franchise; their likenesses, voices, and real names are inseparable from “Blair Witch Project.” Their unique contributions not only added authenticity to the project but still resonate with audiences worldwide.

I won’t quote the entire letter addressed to Lionsgate, but it expresses much bitterness over the fact that while a new Blair Witch is in the works, they weren’t even informed. Dirty laundry has been aired as a result. Allegedly, the actors have been deceived from the beginning, not receiving royalties or compensation commensurate with the film’s success. They also want to be involved in creating new films, even as consultants.

I have no doubt this whole affair is about making a few bucks with media approval, because everyone will sympathize with the actors. Once again, producers will be seen as the greedy force squeezing artists like lemons and letting them fade into obscurity. Everyone will buy into that story. Except me.

Let’s clarify the slight manipulation currently underway. The actors didn’t enter into any agreement with Lionsgate, whom they now blame for not paying them enough back then. Blair Witch Project was produced by the modest studio Haxan Films. I’m not sure how licenses were handled thereafter, but computer games, books, and comics emerged. Back then, no one was talking about royalties or profit sharing from promotions. And yet Blair Witch was already expanding.


It’s only when the big fish openly announced plans to turn Blair Witch Project into a money-making machine, and the actors had already set up their social media accounts, that complaints suddenly surfaced. The truth is that contracts should have been drawn up at that time to satisfy both parties. The actors, of course, never imagined that their semi-amateur film would achieve such success. Hence, they now try to compensate for that lack of foresight by creating a stir around themselves. It’s cheap, although I’m curious about Lionsgate’s reaction. I sense they’re quietly chuckling, reading the demands of the original stars, knowing full well they don’t need them at all to head back into the woods with a camera and make millions.

The question remains: Can success based on surprise be replicated at all?

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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