After laboring as a production jack-of-all-trades, writer/director Daniel Myrick struck independent film gold on his first try as one of the co-creators of the phenomenally popular no-budget horror movie The Blair Witch Project (1999).
Born and raised in Florida, Myrick opted to stay in his home state after graduating from the University of Central Florida School of Film in 1994. Along with collaborating with future Blair Witch cohorts Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale on a trilogy of short films, Myrick supported himself by working as an editor and cinematographer on a number of Florida-based music videos and commercials. After he wrote and directed the promo for the Florida Film Festival in 1997, Myrick's work caught the eye of independent film guru John Pierson, helping to set the stage for the eventual 1999 debut of Myrick and Sanchez's first feature as co-writers and directors.
Rather than make the average indie product, Myrick, Sanchez, and producer Hale hired three unknown actors and sent them into the Maryland woods with 16mm and video cameras, a few supplies, and skeletal instructions. Orchestrating scares out of minimal visual clues, a bogus witch legend, and the actors' improvised-yet-real reactions to Myrick and Sanchez's unexpected tricks, The Blair Witch Project's low-tech, "documentary" look created a sensation when it bowed at the Sundance Film Festival. Brilliantly marketed via a poker-faced website detailing the "true" history of the Blair Witch and the mysterious disappearance of the three student "filmmakers," The Blair Witch Project went on to become a summer 1999 blockbuster, breaking indie-film box-office records, and landing Myrick and Sanchez on the covers of Time and Newsweek. Turning their attention to developing a more traditional romantic comedy through their company Haxan Films, Myrick and Sanchez wisely bowed out of the horrific sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000), save for Myrick's executive producer credit.