Blair Witch Cast Fights Studio For Retroactive Compensation And Future Movie Consultation

By Jacob VanGundy | Published

As one of the first found-footage horror movies to become a smash hit, The Blair Witch Project was one of the most important films of the 1990s. Now, that movie’s cast is requesting that Lionsgate compensate them as the franchise has continued to make the studio money. While these situations are usually fairly cut and dry, the unique way the movie was made puts the actors in a unique situation regarding their stake in the franchise.

The Blair Witch Project

blair witch

Made on a budget of under $1 million, The Blair Witch Project wasn’t shot like a traditional movie. The actors were given a camera, sent into the woods with minimal direction, and guided from set piece to set piece through clues left for them in film canisters. With no script and almost no direction, all of the dialogue and most of the action was improvised by the actors, giving them far more creative input than actors have in most films. 

The Actors Used Their Own Names

Another notable distinction from most films is that the characters in The Blair Witch Project share the names of their respective actors. Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leonard all used their own names during the movie, creating a unique situation where fictional characters exist with the same names and likenesses of the people who played them. As Lionsgate has continued to use those characters, they’ve also been using the names and likenesses of the actors. 

More Than Just Actors

The cast co-created the characters, and they potentially have a claim on how their names and likenesses are used. As such, the actors have released a public letter to the studio asking for compensation for the various Blair Witch spin-offs, sequels, and adaptations that have used their characters. The letter comes in response to Lionsgate announcing a new version of the movie is in the works. 

Lionsgate Has Made Plenty Off The Blair Witch Project

Since acquiring the rights to Blair Witch in 2003, Lionsgate has profited off of the original movie and its cast. They released a sequel to the original film in 2016 titled Blair Witch, which made $45 million on a $4 million budget and have been operating an escape room based on the franchise in Las Vegas. It’s these projects and the upcoming film, that the original cast feels they deserve residuals on. 

Not Just About The Money

The letter from actors of The Blair Witch Project isn’t just concerned with residuals, though. The actors also requested that they be brought in as consultants on future projects to help manage the characters bearing their names and faces. They also requested that Lionsgate start a grant to help aspiring filmmakers make their first films to honor the groundbreaking indie that started everything. 

They Have The Directors’ Support

The directors and producers of The Blair Witch Project have given the actors their public support. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, the film’s co-directors, along with all of the producers on the original film released a statement encouraging Lionsgate to make a deal with the cast. This statement pointed out the unique contributions made by the actors and called for them to be celebrated and compensated.

It remains to be seen whether Lionsgate will accept the request of the actors or not. With the reboot coming up it would generate positive publicity for the franchise and the company. Whether they fulfill the requests or not, there’s no denying that without Donahue, Williams, and Leonard the Bliar Witch universe as we know it wouldn’t exist.

Source: Variety