We print everything in non-Xeroxable red and everyone has signed some serious confidentiality agreements,” says Blair Witch 2 director Joe Berlinger. ”We’ve had people take photographs, and our security staff, uh, gently suggest that they go away.” Okay Joe, but what’s the sequel to one of the most profitable films ever about? ”I’d have to cut off my left arm if I violated the confidentiality clause.”
Well, here’s what we do know: Executive-produced by the original creative team and sporting an estimated $10 million budget—a nice bump up from the $35,000 of the original—Blair Witch 2 will pick up where the first left off. Which means, yes, there will be kids in the woods played by a new batch of unknowns. And yes, there will be witches and assorted eerie knickknacks. But the look and plot of the sequel are likely to be quite different from the film’s shaky-cam progenitor, including—thank sweet Jesus—the use of tripods.
The film’s vision evolved out of a collaboration between Artisan, the rising indie that made its name with The Blair Witch Project, and Berlinger, the documentary filmmaker behind the searing Brother’s Keeper and Paradise Lost. Artisan courted Berlinger last fall with three possible script ideas. He disliked them all and threatened to walk. ”They made the mistake of directly following in the footsteps of the first film,” he says. ”[The scripts] were doomed for failure, and I didn’t want to be the guy who killed the franchise.”
So Berlinger cooked up the top secret alternative, wrote the screenplay—which he compares to Rosemary’s Baby and Jacob’s Ladder—with Dick Beebe (House on Haunted Hill), and started shooting in those familiar Maryland woods in mid-March. ”My approach was modeled on my favorite childhood series, Planet of the Apes,” he says. ”Each Apes film stood on its own but borrowed from the mythology and basic story facts of the previous movies.” When will the film finish shooting? ”Can we say? I don’t know,” Berlinger says, rustling papers. ”Let me check…”