The summer's least likely blockbuster, The Blair Witch Project, is also the latest sign of one of today's most promising trends: the democratization of filmmaking. The picture, which reportedly cost just $50,000 to produce, wasn't simply made outside the studio system: It took such independence for granted. Its plot, after all, involves three ordinary people who set out to make a low-budget movie, with tools that most Americans could easily borrow or buy.
This matter-of-fact independence infects the picture's style. Here at last is a fictional film that actually feels homemade–something Hollywood has tried many times but never quite gotten right. As the film's directors have pointed out, one reason older fake documentaries seem so phony today is that so many people have used cameras now. A suspiciously well-timed cut seems, well, suspicious. Not so here. The Blair Witch Project is hardly the first film to be made about filmmaking, but it may be the first to assume that even as it takes us behind the scenes, the audience is on familiar ground.