The Blair Witch Product

by Jim Crispi

Editor’s Note: Jim Crispi is a good friend, extraordinary D.P. and accomplished inventor who has built a web ite for inventors. That’s why his article is addressed to inventors. Visit his site and if you need a great D.P. or a surprisingly good V.O. narrator, give Jim a call.

The roaring success of this summer’s “no-budget” movie The Blair Witch Project should be an inspiration to all inventors and filmmakers.

A couple of young film students have outfoxed the major studios, blowing the mega-budget extravaganza summer films out of the water. They accomplished this with essentially no budget, $30,000-$50,000 (merely the lunch budget for the majors) with no script, with unknowns acting, directing and producing at the helm. And to top it off they used very little film. They used videotape!

Does this sound like a winning marketing plan in the Hollywood Film game?
This is a reaffirmation of David and Goliath, of The Little Engine That Could and other hopefuls.

The big Goliaths of studios have been shaken awake. Their ears are up. Their paradigms have been shattered. Viewers are lining up in droves.

How did these kids, completely out of the ‘loop’, achieve this inordinate success?


Let’s break down the scene:

Cons:

  • No money.
  • No connections.
  • No distribution.
  • No script.
  • Unknown actors.
  • Unknown director/producer.

Pros:

  • Dreams.
  • Enthusiasm.
  • Drive.
  • Ingenuity.

Sounds like a plan. Hey! Why not…Right? Score: A+ for guts and ingenuity.

As inventors, imagine this:

You walk into a dark theater with no previous knowledge or expectations of what this Blair Witch movie thing is like or what it is about. You see only a small square in the center of the screen in which fuzzy images swish around showing blurry feet, treetops, cropping off the “actors” heads all in grainy washed out color and black and white jumpy pictures. People are talking off camera into a tin can-sounding microphone.

How long would you have stayed in the theater before you jumped up and demanded your money back? I gave myself maybe 30 minutes. Max. I read today that many distributors did just that at screenings.

OK, so they had an idea (invention). They realized that the odds were totally against them to achieve success in the traditional methods (manufacturing & distribution). They had the drive but had to take their dream into the reality of being totally outgunned in the conventional arenas (retail outlets) using the conventional approach (packaging, distribution).

The Blair Witch creators suffered through multiple rejections by the main stream distributors but they realized the enormous untapped marketing potential of the Internet. Here was a way to reach millions of people. For next to nothing!

For pennies, they would attempt to accomplish what the Hollywood brokers (major retailers for us) spend millions and millions of dollars on! They used Guerilla Marketing 101. Almost everyone has access to the internet. They would bring the concept of the Blair Witch Project documentary right into the minds of millions of people out there in their homes and offices.

It’s been tagged a “Mockumentary”.

Cool. They promoted and marketed their product to create a demand for this shaky, blurry, vision that they had.

Market it properly and viewers won’t run out of the theaters and demand their money back! Now they could be convinced to run into the theaters to hand over their money. Sell them on the concept beforehand. This was part of their ingenious marketing strategy using the relatively cost free internet to market and create a demand. They didn’t/couldn’t use the expensive conventional venue of television ads.

As inventors, we can learn an enormous amount from the strategy of these youngs folks. You and I are sitting here in front of the monitor. We’re looking into the same looking glass that they did. What do we see?

For inventors, the internet is a powerful, convenient tool to reduce the obstacles of packaging costs, distribution, bar coding and all of the other speed bumps of product development that can too easily keep us from our success. We too can use the enormous power of the internet to reach out into the world to advertise, market and announce our inventions. To create a demand. And for pennies!


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