In 1999, two independent directors,Daniel Myrick, and Eduardo Sánchez ,with a sub million dollar budget released their film, The Blair Witch Project. The film was released to various praise and anticipation. Under normal circumstances, this film would have probably not been successful, but the two directors made a great decision to employ methods of transmedia storytelling. According to Henry Jenkins, transmedia storytelling is, “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience”. The directors of this film mastered this idea and also took advantage of the rising trend of the internet.
The film is a found footage film that documents to travels of three filmmakers on a quest to find the fabled blair witch. Some time before the film’s release, a website was launched called www.blairwitch.com. This website contained mythology of the supposed blair witch, photos of the characters in the film and even police reports about their disappearance. Everything that someone would want to know about this story was on the website. What makes this work as transmedia storytelling is the use of negative capability, which is a narrative evoking mystery or doubt. The mystery comes from the fake police reports and bios of the characters, leading the viewer to believe that the occurrences of the film were real. The website brings a fictional story to life in our world and also adds back story to it. The way the filmmakers are explained, it could be anyone, which is what makes it so realistic. Henry Jenkins also says that “transmedia stories are based not on individual characters or specific plots but rather complex fictional worlds which can sustain multiple interrelated characters and their stories”. This is Blair Witch in a nutshell, but the fictional world the directors created is heavily based and can be seen as the world we are all living in today.
Janet H. Murray writes that “when the writer expands the story to include multiple possibilities the reader assumes a more active role”. The readers and viewers of this film take many different roles but not in a voluntary way. If a viewer went to the website before watching the film, he/she went in with some slight insight and engulfed him/herself in the world of Blair Witch, more or less believing that is was true. Many discussion boards and blog posts are still arguing today whether Blair Witch was real or not. Whether it be true or not, these elemtns of transmedia storytelling allow this film to gross far more than its budget and is the main reason the film is still relevant today.
Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Confessions of an AcaFan. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2014.
Murray, Janet Horowitz. “Harbingers of the Holodeck.” Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: Free, 1997. 27-64. Print.