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81 Minutes

“The Blair Witch Project” leads UCF filmmakers down an unexpected trail to fame.

For the five grads who humbly started Haxan Films, the years of blood, sweat and tears that brought mind-boggling success can be measured in an 81-minute surprise blockbuster psychological thriller. “The Blair Witch Project” grossed more than $248 million in box offices worldwide, on a final budget of less than $200,000. The backstory for Michael Monello, ’92; Robin Cowie, ’93; Daniel Myrick, ’93; Eduardo Sánchez, ’94; and Gregg Hale, ’95; is summed up in Dan and Ed’s blog entries below. SCARY SUCCESS

Sept. 18, 1996: “Now I’m working on a film called ‘Blair Witch Tapes’ that Dan and I came up with a few years ago. Gregg Hale is producing it, and we hope to shoot with a pretty good budget by the end of the year.” Sept. 1, 1997: “Didn’t get the Disney thing, running out of money. … I’ve charged so much for Blair already, and I’m trying to keep my sanity as my credit card balances go up and up.” Oct. 31, 1997: “The film footage looks pretty good. We’ve seen the first six rolls (they’re only going to end up shooting maybe 12 rolls), and they look good.” Sept. 23, 1998: “They cut off our water yesterday. Terrible. Money is tight. Last week they turned off our electricity, the week before it was our phone.” Oct. 1, 1998: “Well it’s off. We sent the Blair tape out today. It’s now up to the gods. The film looks good. As I stand back a little and really watch it, it feels good.” Jan. 20, 1999: “We’re all packing and everything, getting ready for Sundance. Anyway, please keep your fingers crossed for us at Sundance.”

UCF alumni shocked the film world with their faux found-footage movie.

Feb. 1, 1999: “WE SOLD THE FILM! WE SOLD THE FILM! The first call came in around 3 a.m., I guess. It was all happening way too fast.” May 18, 1999: “This was definitely one of the most memorable days of my humble existence. We were posing for pictures at the Variety pavilion [in Cannes] with the likes of Roger Ebert, Spike Lee, Ron Howard and John Sayles. I was thinking to myself, ‘What … are we doing here?’ ”

July 14, 1999: “The premiere last night was a trip, but tonight was more special. Paying customers to see our film. Sold-out shows. We broke some kind of record for advanced sales.” July 17, 1999: “It was just this one moment in time that I will remember forever. Forever. The first time I witnessed tickets being bought to my film. Fourteen years of work had not gone to waste. A miracle.”

Aug. 10, 1999: “Dan and I are on the cover of Time magazine. I avoid the news presence on the Web … because it scares me that this film is getting so big. The cover of Time is just ridiculous. Ridiculous.” Epilogue: Haxan Films is scheduled to release “Exists,” their fifth film, this spring. F

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Pegasus Magazine Spring 2013  

The 50th Anniversary of UCF issue

Pegasus Magazine Spring 2013  

The 50th Anniversary of UCF issue