Film buffs, aspiring actors and filmmakers from the Claremont community came together Sept. 14 for the inaugural meeting of the Claremont Film Institute. The institute, which plans to hold monthly meetings, also hopes to provide creative support and equipment for local students to create their own films and film festivals. The meeting featured Kevin Foxe, the Executive Producer of the cult classic film, The Blair Witch Project, and Bridget O’Neill, an actress and YouTube personality who created one of the first interactive videos on the web. The event focused on the progression of entertainment and how film is no longer confined to the Hollywood machine.
The institute was organized by Vince Turner, a local film buff and entrepreneur who created the annual 5 Second Film Festival, which showcases a number of student-produced films at the Claremont Laemmle Theatre. He organized the institute as a forum where artists could collaborate and utilize each other’s resources to create films and other mixed media projects.
Both speakers discussed their contributions to moving media toward a new era. Foxe’s The Blair Witch Project was a pioneer of new production, eliminating use of expensive film equipment in order to create a more realistic, convincing horror film. Foxe said his goal was to achieve the phenomenon Steven Spielberg had once predicted about the evolution of filmmaking: to be the “little kid with a camera who is going to make a blockbuster.”
“The film wasn’t even good per se, but the ending left you hanging,” Foxe said. “I don’t know even what happens. It’s up to the viewer”.
The film cost only $35,000 to make and earned $248 million worldwide. Foxe said that he hoped to evoke a “campfire” story that would become a modern legend. The Blair Witch Project’s newfound footage style became a sensation and sparked the creation of films like Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity and Project X.
However, it was the online involvement in The Blair Witch Project that set a true precedent in filmmaking history. Starting as a means of contact for the film crew, the online bulletin board soon transformed into an apparatus for input from non-crew members wishing to comment on the story. Eventually, the board became an online fan community with over one million followers before the film was released. Producers left “Easter egg” links on the site, leading viewers to short clips and hints about the story. This created a new premise of viewer interaction by allowing fans to respond to and go deeper into the film. The impact of this development is profound. Today, hardly a new release can be found that does not have an online presence for promotion and discussion via either Facebook or a website.
Foxe hopes to build upon fan involvement in his upcoming feature, Ghostworld 3D, by creating an app that allows fans to leave ghosts to “haunt” rooms. Finding ghosts can turn into a geocache-like game, where phones can scan for ghosts left in various locations and even battle them. Foxe’s main objective of this project is “to have the audience go into the theater with something, and leave with something new.”
Just as Foxe was a catalyst for new production, O’Neill helped promote a new form of distribution. On her YouTube channel, lilylulay, O’Neill created one of the first interactive videos with a comedic dating game style show called, “Cupid’s Arrow.”
In addition to her work on YouTube, O’Neill also has starred in “Inside Xbox,” a show exclusively shown on Xbox LIVE, and various mixed media productions. O’Neill said that she uses various creative outlets to reach out to new audiences, hoping “to inspire others to create their own story.”