Heather Donahue Casts A Spell

Donahue says she modeled her character— the strong-minded, verging on pigheaded, leader of the trio— on a director she once worked with. "A lot of people know someone like that. It's a study of an amateur in production, a portrait of a student filmmaker, male orfemale. I've done student films, and I know these people. I know what they're like— they think they know exactlyhow it's going to go down, but when it comes time to compromise or work out an alternate way of doing things, they become completely frazzled. They can't listen to anyone because they're so afraid of failure. It's really pretty funny in retrospect, but when you're dealing with that person at the time it's not so hilarious."

Donahue, who admits to being "a big overpreparer," says she did "tons" of research. "I was reading up on witchcraft, documentary filmmaking, cinematography, and also on survival. They made it sound like I was going to be skinning and roasting squirrels for food, so I'd prepared myself for the absolute worst. I bought all these books— I had The Army Survival Book, I had How To Stay Alive in the Woods, I was learning how to start a fire with a drop of water and a needle. As it turned out, it was definitely not as bad as I'd anticipated. All that preparation also went into building the character."

The filmmakers were no less obsessive. "They sent us all these elaborate, completely fictional brochures about Blair County— the hunting season, the annual zucchini festival, full- color pictures of this smiling blond girl holding an armful of zucchinis. They really went out of their way to create a whole world, down to every last detail."

This attention to detail has already created a cult around the film. Donahue says she's thrilled by the reception, but adds, deadpan, "I do worry a little bit about some of the fans who might go out into the woods and take a gag too far. I hope people take all necessary safety precautions in trying to scare the shit out of their friends."

Though hyperbolic Blair Witchfans have been swearing they'll "never go camping again," the film has apparently had the opposite effect on Donahue. "You're not going to believe this, but this movie has actually made me a very avid camper. I can't wait to get my next movie so I can buy myself a four-wheel drive and go off-roading. I was Little Miss Urban— I'd been camping only once before. This film got me into a whole outdoorsy, fitness mode, which I was definitely not in before. I mean, I ran a marathonlast year."

Related Articles:

Season of the Witch: The Blair Witch Directors On the Method to Their Madness

Web Witchcraft: An Indie Movie's Slick Cyberhype

Screaming & Kicking

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