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Cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of cheese

Leave it to a pessimist to see the calling card of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in one of the greatest financial film successes of the decade, but sometimes you just have to call them as you see them....
September 1, 1999

Leave it to a pessimist to see the calling card of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in one of the greatest financial film successes of the decade, but sometimes you just have to call them as you see them.

The herald of doom in question: The Blair Witch Project. Reportedly made for less than US$50,000, it netted almost $30 million on its first weekend of mass-market release. (For anyone who’s counting, that’s a 60,000% return on investment in two days. Let’s see Vegas top that.)

Although anytime a filmmaker hits a home run it calls for ticker tape, balloons and the obligatory release of doves, in this case I think it may have been the signal to break out the birds of prey.

It has been reported in the Hollywood press (the ones that refer to the town in question as H’wood), that every major studio is now tripping over themselves to find the next mockumentary witch flick, or dolphin epic, or what have you.

Hey, they’re dirt cheap, and audiences love them. We’d be fools not to hop on the old bandwagon. Maybe we can do the next one for $20k?!? Call Biff, we’ll do lunch.

There’s the rub. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that whenever H’wood gets its hands on something good, they ram it into the ground and stomp on its grave until every last dollar has been squeezed out.

Evidently, pseudo-docs are to be the next victim. By the first of the year we’ll be inundated. You won’t be able to go near a theater without hearing phrases like: `the true story of…’ or `based on the tale of…’.

And, of course, they’ll all stink. This is the same crowd who brought you Ernest Goes To Camp, remember. The first one always works fine, but the rest tank. (It’s about the motivation…) A couple of them won’t be half bad maybe, but then Sharon Stone will get involved, and well… you know.

Audiences will grow bored and become leery of the `doc’ style, and the genre may be tarnished by association – dulling the positive creative and financial wave factual has been riding.

So, please, for the sake of the genre, should a H’wood producer show up at your door, feel free to beat them away with a stick. Or, at the very least, tie them to a chair and explain what it takes to be a doc producer. Explain why you chose this career path when you could have been doing car commercials instead.

And then make them stand in the corner.

Brendan Christie

Associate Editor

About The Author
Meagan Kashty is an associate editor of realscreen, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Meagan is an award-winning business journalist. Prior to joining the realscreen team, Meagan was online editor of Canadian Grocer, named Magazine of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Business Media Awards. She can be reached at mkashty@brunico.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @MegKashty

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