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Local producers team with 'Blair Witch' director for a three-project deal

Left to right, producers William Surgeon, Anthony Pernicka and Joe Restaino are making a movie called 'Skyman' with Dan Myrick, the director of the 1999 hit 'The Blair Witch Project.' On Friday night, all four will attend a screening of 'The Blair Witch Project' at Tampa Theater and parts of 'Skyman' will be shot around the city this weekend. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
Published Aug. 23, 2018

Fans of The Blair Witch Project can talk with director Dan Myrick on Friday after a screening of the classic horror movie at Tampa Theatre.

During a Q&A, Myrick will of course talk about the 1999 film that launched his career and popularized the found-footage style, but he'll also have current news to discuss.

He has signed a three-project deal with local producers. The first is already in production: Skyman, about a man who believes aliens that abducted him as a child are summoning him for a reunion, which he wants to document on film.

One producer is Tampa's Joe Restaino, whose credits include Kevin Smith's upcoming horror movie Killroy Was Here, filmed in Sarasota.

The other is iHorror.com, a St. Petersburg-based online publication dedicated to covering all things horror. The website staff is involved in on-set production, but their primary contribution will be to bring Myrick back to his roots using a viral marketing campaign to sell a docu-style fictional film.

Horror conventions, video games, movies and TV shows pay iHorror for ad space and to make announcements on its social media channels, reaching more than 4 million Facebook followers.

"This is the perfect marriage," said Myrick, 54 and a Seattle resident. "Their strength is the online space, they are tech savvy and they have a long marketing reach. This just made sense."

Prior to the release of Blair Witch, Myrick and his production team created a website that added authenticity to the movie about three filmmakers who become victims while making a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch. Fake crime scene photos and news reports about the missing documentarians were posted on the website.

With many initially believing it was a true story, the movie made on a $40,000 budget grossed more than $250 million worldwide.

When Anthony Pernicka, 36, who like Myrick studied film at the University of Central Florida, founded iHorror six years ago, he too had viral marketing in mind.

"I figured when I got to the point that I have my own movie to release, I don't want to rely on other people to market for me," Pernicka said. "I figured let me create my own thing and have my own audience."

The online publication now employs 23 writers throughout the United States and England, and Pernicka has three other movie credits, including as director of the short film Monstrum, set for a 2019 release. But this is his biggest project.

Tampa producer Restaino, 39, put iHorror and Myrick together. He was already on board Skyman when he learned iHorror was local.

"It's synergy," he said.

Around 40 percent of Skyman, which has a budget around $1 million, has been shot. Locally, the production will film B-roll in Tampa on Friday and a few scenes in Sarasota on Saturday.

It is slated for a 2019 release.

Next up as part of the three-project deal will be a 10-episode horror series with the working title Southern Gothic. Each episode will be a standalone story with a Southern twist, and Myrick will direct at least one. Production has not been scheduled, and a third project is yet to be chosen.

Since Blair Witch, Myrick has directed five movies, including Solstice, about a woman haunted by the presence of her twin sister who committed suicide. It premiered on Lifetime. He did not direct the Blair Witch sequels.

Still, Myrick admits, Blair Witch will likely continue to overshadow his other work.

"I'm not complaining too loudly about that," he said. "I think most independent filmmakers would like to be in my position to have one movie that left a mark."

But he has high hopes for Skyman.

"I love the story," he said. "It's very much in the spirit of Blair Witch."

Contact Paul Guzzo at pguzzo@tampabay.com. Follow
@PGuzzoTimes.

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