WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.
Twenty-one years ago, Gregg Hale helped scare the shit out of an entire generation.
The Blair Witch Project, the little movie about a documentary film crew lost in the woods he co-produced, both confused and traumatized filmgoers upon release in 1999. Using the then-novel found-footage approach, it blurred the lines of fact and fiction so successfully a portion of the audience left the theater legitimately wondering if they had just watched a snuff film.
It grossed $250 million at box office, far out-earning its meager budget, and remains one of the most profitable independent movies ever made.
Hale—who grew up in Kentucky but moved to Portland in 2009—has continued writing, directing and producing movies, primarily in the horror genre and including a few Blair Witch sequels, for his production company, Haxan Films. Right now, though, he finds himself competing with something far more frightening than anything he could put onscreen: reality.
"If we mention an idea that feels at all like a virus or a plague or something like that, it's like, 'Nope, not interested,'" Hale says. "At least right now, in the horror genre, there's no interest in mirroring reality, which a lots of times is what horror does. But a pandemic is so close to a horror scenario anyway, people don't want an imagined version of it."
It's not just COVID-19 that's changing the sort of movies studios are willing to invest in—Hale says he had to completely rewrite a project that had a group of police officers at its center.
In this conversation with WW Arts & Culture editor Matthew Singer, Hale discusses the other ways in which the coronavirus has upended the independent film world, and how he's trying to salvage Halloween for his kids.
See more Distant Voices interviews here.