AFM: Why the Found-Footage Genre Is Here to Stay

Dora Madison Burge in "Exists," a Big Foot-themed found footage film from "Blair Witch" director Eduardo Sanchez
Dora Madison Burge in "Exists," a Big Foot-themed found footage film from "Blair Witch" director Eduardo Sanchez
 International Film Trust

The found-footage film has been declared dead more than once, but at AFM, the low-budget horror genre is in good health, with a stream of new projects continuing to find buzz and buyers worldwide.

Case in point: Exists, the Big Foot-themed chiller from The Blair Witch Project co-director Eduardo Sanchez -- the grandfather of the found-footage movement -- which International Film Trust sold to eOne in the U.K. and looks set to close worldwide by the end of the market.

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Sanchez may be a found-footage pioneer, but he, like most of the industry, largely abandoned the genre after Blair Witch spawned a horde of copycat titles, none of which set box offices alight.

"The genre really didn't jell for Hollywood until maybe Cloverfield, nine years later," Sanchez tells The Hollywood Reporter. "But now you are seeing a new generation of found-footage directors who are taking what [Blair Witch co-director] Daniel Myrick and I began and taking it to a whole new level."

Sanchez contributed an episode to found-footage omnibus feature V/H/S 2, which Memento Film International has had little problem selling worldwide. Other buzzy indie FF titles include [Rec4] Apocalypse, the concluding chapter in the hit Spanish franchise, which Filmax unveiled to buyers at this market, and Afflicted, the found-footage-with-vampires movie that premiered at Toronto's Midnight Madness section and immediately sold to CBS Films for the U.S.

"This is still the only genre where you can have a $4 million film and go and do $50 million at the box office," says Marc Schipper, chief operating officer at Exclusive Media, which is shopping found-footage title Project Blue Book at AFM, explaining the inherent appeal of the genre.

The studios have certainly embraced it. Paramount continues to ride the Paranormal gravy train, with the latest, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, a Latin-themed spinoff of the tentpole found-footage franchise ($718 million worldwide gross and counting) set to bow Jan. 3 and Paranormal Activity 5 slotted for an Oct. 24 release.

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Paramount is also pushing ahead with Almanac, a found-footage meets time-travel title, for which rising talents Jonny Weston and Sofia Black-D'Elia are in negotiations to star. Warner Bros. tornado disaster found-footage pic Into the Storm, from Steven Quale (Final Destination 5), will rip through theaters Aug. 8. And DreamWorks, after winning a bidding war for the found-footage sci-fi project Glimmer, penned by Carter Blanchard, is looking to begin shooting this summer, with Shameless star Jeremy Allen White attached. 


"I definitely think found footage is here to stay this time," says Sanchez. "I think it will change into something different, maybe a mix of found footage with conventional filmmaking, but that's where the next big thing is going to come from."

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