Growing up on Longboat Key wouldn’t inspire a dark side in many, but for Dan Myrick, director of The Blair Witch Project, a childhood on the Suncoast led to a life of Hollywood horror. Myrick was among the most anticipated guests of this year’s inaugural Skyway Film Festival and was welcome to all questions of his Sarasota heritage, current projects and success. In a room of eager fans and inspired filmmakers, Myrick described his love for investigative mysteries and mockumentary style as a child. The creek in his backyard served as a setting for a Bigfoot hoax where he attempted to fool all of his friends. He described a certain mischief that fostered his creative genius for what became the The Blair Witch Project.
Prior to the Q&A session, Myrick sat down for in-depth interview with SRQ, where he discussed how the area fostered his artistic growth. “I have always had a love for art,” he says. His mother was an artist, and his father was an engineer, so creativity is in his blood. It wasn’t until he received a book about moviemaking that he realized there was an entire industry behind film, and he started working with his own camera when he was 13. After experimenting with film for a few years, he applied to the inaugural film class at the University of Central Florida. That’s where he met the people and gained the skills to make The Blair Witch Project a success. Now a Los Angeles resident, he still comes back to visit when he can because, after all, Sarasota has “the best beaches in the world.”
When asked about his impact in the found footage genre, Myrick was all modesty. If not for his film team, “someone else would have done it,” and his team was just lucky to have made the call. Unfortunately, he said, the found footage genre has taken a turn for the worst. Because it is economically favorable, anyone with a camera can give it a try. During production of The Blair Witch Project, found footage was “intended to be a story device,” he says. Once he and fellow director Eduardo Sanhez started reviewing the recordings, they realized the found footage was a film in itself. “We weren’t sure if it was going to work,” he says, but they made it up as they went along. “It certainly was a tough sell for a lot of people, but it caught on.” Since The Blair Witch Project, more people have tried to give the genre a shot, and because of the cheap production, there are a lot of negative outcomes. But Myrick still appreciates the genre and thinks there has been a lot of success with found footage films as well. As for The Blair Witch Project, he is just grateful that breaking the rules paid off.
Since the success of his film, Myrick has branched into fields beyond horror. He has a love for sci-fi and is currently working on a comedy to be pitched to HBO. Of course, his thriller roots are never far. He just finished shooting his next release, Under The Bed, a creepy thriller based on true events. When asked what comes after film for Myrick, he admitted he could see himself retiring back to the Sarasota area. “I kind of miss the smell of the shrimp boats and the mangroves,” he says, “I heard Stephen King has a place in the area and wouldn’t mind enjoying a Mai Tai with him on the beach.”