‘Blair Witch’ Cast Ask Lionsgate for Remains, Discussion

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Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams, stars of the groundbreaking horror film ‘The Blair Witch Project’, released a public letter to Lionsgate Saturday asking for more robust compensation for their work on the 1999 blockbuster, as well as “meaningful consultation” on any future “Blair Witch” projects using their names or likenesses.

The statement comes 10 days after Lionsgate and Blumhouse announced they plan to revive the franchise with a new film that would, in the words of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chairman Adam Fogelson, “provide a new vision for ‘Blair Witch’ that will reintroduce this horror classic. for a new generation.” Lionsgate did not produce or distribute the original 1999 film. It acquired the property through its 2003 acquisition of Canadian independent film distributor Artisan Entertainment.

The Lionsgate-Blumhouse announcement prompted a strongly worded response through social media from Leonard, who said no one had contacted him or his co-stars about the project in advance. “Right now, it’s 25 years of disrespect from the people who pocket the lion’s share of the profits from OUR work, and it feels both annoying and classless,” Leonard wrote.

Leonard said the actors — who shot and improvised the independent film over about a week on a shoestring budget, using their real names for their characters — each earned $300,000 from a buyout of their ownership points for the film, which ultimately amounted to $ 248 gross. million worldwide. In 2002, the actors indicted Artisan Entertainment for the use of their names and likenesses in the studio’s 2000 sequel, “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2.”

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In their latest statement, Leonard, Williams and Donahue (who now goes by Rei Hance) call on Lionsgate to provide them with retroactive and future residual payments “equal to the amount that would have been appropriated through SAG-AFTRA if we had done so. proper union or legal representation when the film was made.

They also request “meaningful consultation regarding any future ‘Blair Witch’ reboot, sequel, prequel, toy, game, ride, escape room, etc., where one could reasonably assume that the names and/or likenesses of Heather, Michael and Josh be associated for promotional purposes in the public sphere.”

Lionsgate first attempted to revive the franchise with the 2016 sequel, “Blair Witch,” which grossed $45 million worldwide. The company also operates a Blair Witch-themed Escape Room in Las Vegas.

Finally, the actors are requesting that Lionsgate create a $60,000 “Blair Witch Grant,” which would be given to “an unknown/aspiring genre filmmaker to help make their first feature film.”

A Lionsgate spokesperson had no comment.

Separately, ‘The Blair Witch Project’ directors Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick, producers Gregg Hale and Robin Cowie and co-producer Michael Monello released a joint statement in support of the actors.

“While we, the original filmmakers, respect Lionsgate’s right to monetize its intellectual property as it sees fit, we must highlight the important contributions of the original cast – Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Mike Williams,” they said in the declaration. “As the literal faces of what has become a franchise, their likenesses, voices and real names are inextricably linked to ‘The Blair Witch Project.’ Their unique contributions not only defined the authenticity of the film, but also continue to resonate with audiences around the world.”

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Full statements from the cast and filmmakers are below.

OUR QUESTIONS FOR LIONSGATE (From Heather, Michael & Josh, stars of “The Blair Witch Project”):

1. Retroactive + future remaining payments to Heather, Michael and Josh for acting services provided in the original BWP, equal to the amount that would have been allocated through SAG-AFTRA, had we had proper union or legal representation when the film was created .

2. Meaningful consultation regarding a future Blair Witch reboot, sequel, prequel, toy, game, ride, escape room, etc…, where it is reasonable to assume that the names and/or likenesses of Heather, Michael and Josh will be used for promotional purposes will be associated in the public sphere.

Note: Our film has been rebooted twice now, both times being a disappointment from a fan/box office/critical perspective. None of these films were made with significant creative input from the original team. As the insiders who created The Blair Witch and have been listening to what fans like and want for 25 years, we are your greatest, yet untapped secret weapon!

3. “The Blair Witch Grant”: A grant of 60,000 (the budget of our original film), paid out annually by Lionsgate, to an unknown/aspiring genre filmmaker to help make their first feature film. This is a GRANT, not a development fund, and therefore Lionsgate will not own any of the underlying rights to the project.

A PUBLIC STATEMENT FROM THE DIRECTORS AND PRODUCERS OF “THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT”:

As we approach the 25th anniversary of The Blair Witch Project, our pride in the story world we created and the film we produced is reaffirmed by the recent announcement of a reboot from horror icons Jason Blum and James Wan.

While we, the original filmmakers, respect Lionsgate’s right to monetize its intellectual property as we see fit, we must highlight the important contributions of the original cast: Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Mike Williams. As the literal faces of what has become a franchise, their likenesses, voices and real names are inextricably linked to The Blair Witch Project. Their unique contributions not only defined the film’s authenticity, but also continue to resonate with audiences around the world.

We celebrate the legacy of our film, and we also believe the actors deserve to be celebrated for their continued association with the franchise.

Kind regards, Eduardo Sanchez, Dan Myrick, Gregg Hale, Robin Cowie and Michael Monello

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