The 28th Annual Florida Film Festival, produced
by Enzian Theater and held this year from April 12 – 21 throughout Central
Florida, offers 184 feature and short films from 41 countries. The Festival
includes the American Independent Competition with 20 narrative features and
documentaries vying for jury awards and audience awards.
As always, Festival goers also can choose from a variety of
additional programming, such as celebrity guest events, special screenings, spotlight
films, sidebars, international showcase, Florida films, family films, midnight
movies, parties, avant garde films, and the popular film forums offered free to
Some upcoming highlights from this year’s Festival:
Night Film and Party, April 12. Held at Enzian Theater, the opening night
film Woman in Motion, is a first look
at the documentary by director Todd Thompson about Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols’s tremendous influence in
recruiting women and minorities to the field of space exploration. The film
also screens at Regal Winter Park Village at 8:00 p.m. for $25.00 a ticket.
Food Film Sidebar with the narrative feature Ramen Shop (directed bv Eric Khoo) and the documentary Chef’s Diaries: Scotland (directed by Laura Otalora).
Family Film Sidebar with two features for children making their Southeast premieres. Minuscule—Mandibles from Far Away, and animated adventure directed by Helene Giraud, and the live action feature film, The Witch Hunters directed by Rasko Miljkovic.
Festival Block Party sponsored by Winter Park Village. Saturday, April 13 from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Regal Winter Park Village in Winter Park. Free for all Festival ticket and pass holders. Meet at the Winter Park Village fountain for live entertainment and free drinks and appetizers from participating restaurants.
Sunday, April 14 from 8:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m., Enzian Theater will host “An Evening with The Blair Witch,” featuring a 35mm screening of the low-budget thriller and a Q&A session with members of the cast and crew.
Enzian Theater hosts three filmmaker forums: “Turning the Tables: Renegade Women of Early Cinema” on Wednesday, April 17, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.; “Sketches Insane: The Wild World of Independent Animation” on Thursday, April 18, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.; and “Filmmaker Forum” on Friday, April 19, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Night Retro Film: Monty Python’s Life
of Brian (directed by Terry Jones). This R-rated comedy classic from 1979
is in English and Latin with English subtitles. Sunday, April 21 at 8:30 p.m.
at Enzian Theater.
20-year anniversary of its release, the scary pseudo-documentary, The Blair Witch Project returns to the
Florida Film Festival where it was featured as the opening night film in 1999.
This time it appears in a 35mm version in the coveted special event spot as “An
Evening with the Blair Witch: A 20th Anniversary Celebration” on
Sunday, April 14 at 8:00 p.m. at Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida. As the
filmmakers are local and will be participating in a Q&A following the
screening, this event likely will sell out fast. Tickets are available now for this
program and all screenings at the Festival, which runs from April 12-21, 2019.
years ago when the story broke that five local University of Central Florida
film school graduates had sold their micro-budget horror film to Artisan
Entertainment at Sundance Film Festival, I was lucky enough to interview the
filmmakers in their studio and write articles for Orlando Sentinel, Sun-Sentinel,
The Hollywood Reporter, and Markee Magazine. As proof that you
should never throw anything away because someday you might need it, I dusted
the creepy black widow spider webs off one of my articles from 1999, and am
reprinting it below.
created by the premiere of the low-budget thriller, The Blair Witch Project,
purchased by Artisan Entertainment at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, was
no less exciting than the stir created during the actual filming of the pseudo-documentary.
During the month of October 1997, Haxan Films transformed the tranquil beauty
of Maryland’s Seneca Creek State Park into the haunted Black Hills Forest, the
site where three student filmmakers (played by Heather Donahue, Michael
Williams and Joshua Leonard) mysteriously disappear during filming of a
documentary about the mythical Blair Witch. Although the three students never
emerge from the forest, terrifying footage of their experiences is discovered a
directed and edited by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez and produced by Gregg
Hale and Robin Cowie, the four men—along with co-producer Michael Monello—comprise
Orlando-based Haxan Films. Sanchez grew up in Maryland, and with the assistance
of The Maryland Film Commission used the benign park for the eight-day shoot.
in their home office was more daunting than haunting, however. Eight days of
shooting produced 18 hours of raw footage, which took more than a year to edit
into an-87-minute film. Shot on video and 16mm film, in color and black and
white, the feature is a hybrid of looks created by method filmmaking, where
Haxan Films achieves amazing realism through the imperfections of the footage. Blurry
shots, seemingly unedited footage, improvised lines and unplanned expletives
allow the actors to film themselves experiencing terror in the haunted forest.
actors’ prime directive was to react to stimuli and roll camera on everything
that occurred,” Myrick says. To prepare for their ordeal, the actors were given
a two-day crash course in filmmaking.
unsuspecting actors didn’t know what awaited them as they wandered through the
woods, deprived of sleep, proper nourishment, and knowledge of the production
team’s plans, which included nightly harassments, haunted images, and a bloody
discovery wrapped in flannel. “Actually
it was just some extracted teeth with the roots attached that we got from a
dentist,” Cowie says. “You can’t really tell what it is—just that it’s nasty,
says although the production team spent countless hours walking through the
woods before the shoot, the tedious scouting was well worth it. Their in-depth
knowledge of the woods was crucial for the nightly hauntings staged by the
production team. “My favorite part was waking up the actors at 3:00 a.m. and
scaring them,” Sanchez says. To facilitate these supposed encounters between
the filmmakers and the Blair Witch, the production team moved quietly through
the woods—sometimes a mile or more—in the dark using red-lens headlamps.
Filming around Halloween added to the ambience.
filming, the actors moved to and from pre-determined locations, encountering
actors and non-actors with whom they improvised scenes. Direction was limited
to written notes passed to the actors as they interviewed people in town before
entering the haunted forest. In the woods, the actors relied on Global
Positioning System (GPS) handsets for navigation. The production team also used
GPS to track them. Notes, gear, and food were exchanged via baskets marked with
DayGlo orange bike flags.
who also serves as president of the development and production company
FILMstart, Inc, says although a few local actors were used for small roles,
many of the people interviewed in the film were local non-actors who agreed to
answer questions. “Heather went up to people and asked if they had heard of the
Blair Witch,” Cowie says. “For whatever reason, some of them said ‘yes’ and
related stories they had heard or television shows they had seen on the
possessed locals to share witch stories based on a myth conjured up by the
filmmakers? Myrick says it was one of
many lucky signs that appeared along the way. “On the second day of filming, we
were hiding in camouflage in the woods while the actors tried to negotiate
crossing a log across a river. Because they were effectively shooting on film,
they had sound gear, cameras and rolls of film on their backs. I knew that if
they fell into the water and soaked the camera and film, then our movie was
over. We couldn’t afford to buy any more stuff. I thought to myself, ‘If they
can just make it across the log, then we’re home free.’”
made it across the log.
Artisan Entertainment test markets the film to determine play dates and range
of distribution, Haxan Films is developing more projects, including
screenplays, a book detailing the production of The Blair Witch Project,
a film sequel, a television series and an interactive CD-ROM, all based on
Blair Witch mythology.
For more information about “An Evening with the Blair Witch” and Florida Film Festival, visit the official website.