Fifteen years after The Blair Witch Project yielded box-office gold, its lessons resonate as loudly as a scream in a moonlit forest.
In 1999 a movie without any big budget special effects scared the living daylights out of everyone. The Blair Witch Project was about a group of friends who went into the woods to shoot a documentary, never to be heard from again. The film was supposed to be the found footage of the long-vanished crew. The Blair Witch Project was shot for somewhere between $20,000 and $500,000. It was grainy, poorly lit, and lacked any of the polish typical of the blockbusters of the day. And it was one of the highest grossing films of the year.
If you’re looking to get your company known online without breaking the bank, you could do worse than to take a few tips from the creators of this nearly fifteen-year-old horror classic.
Embrace the power of raw If Blair Witch had had standard Hollywood production values, we never would have believed the found-footage story. The filmmakers turned their low budget into an asset, making low production values central to the movie's aesthetic. It was supposed to be amateur footage, and it certainly looked it. Because it was.
The same idea works online. Take BlendTec owner Tom Dickson. His Will It Blend? videos feature him feeding objects ranging from golf balls to iPhones into a blender and letting us watch as they get monumentally chopped up. By making the clips rough and raw, he convinces us that the results are entirely due to the power of the blades.
Ask yourself whether you can find a way to demonstrate the authentic power of your ideas, products, or services without relying on flash and panache.
Hype Springs Eternal The team behind The Blair Witch Project didn’t just release their movie and hope for the best, however. They spent a great deal of energy building the mystique in advance. They released snippets of journals and brief clips, as well as spreading rumors about the “unsolved case.”
When keeping it raw, it’s up to you to get people talking. Comment on other blogs in your industry and make sure everything you say builds curiosity. Bring a strong, provocative point of view to every interaction you have with members of your target audience.
Give It Breathing Room The Blair Witch Project had no script, but it did have a 68-page outline. The actors were encouraged to use that document as a guide and then improvise like crazy when it came to the details. The result was a final product that seemed real. In this case, real meant utterly terrifying.
The lesson? Don't try to micromanage every part of the creation of a piece of unpolished content as if it were a million-dollar TV ad. Instead, scope out the framework of what you’re going for and then give your team the freedom to work within those boundaries. The combination of clear direction and creative improvisation will deliver just the right kind of magic that will cause your online content to spread fast. Scary fast.
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