The Bag Witch Project: Part Two

Gencon 1999…

…happened to coincide with the first weekend of general release for a little horror film called The Blair Witch Project. In a ploy to draw attention to our booth at the con, we had shot a short parody called “The Bag Witch Project” and put up a big poster for it next to the stacks of sound effects CDs we were selling. The ploy worked. From a distance, the poster looked genuine enough that people stopped by to inquire whether we were connected with the film. Other people asked if we somehow had VHS copies of the Blair Witch film to sell. The small video monitor we’d brought along looped scenes from the parody and we planned to screen the film in its entirety twice a day.

What we said then:

We put up our big “Bag Witch Project” poster in the booth, it gets some attention and some laughs, and we tell everyone who asks that we’re showing it at 1 and 4. So 1 PM rolls around on Day One, and we inaugurate the World Premiere of “The Bag Witch Project.” Ten people show up, they laugh, we all have a good time, no one gets hurt. After the show, Gemma Tarlach from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel comes up and says “‘Bag Witch?’ What’s this ‘Bag Witch?'” We tell her and she leaves. We figure out of several hundred booths at the ‘con, ours might merit a small mention in her article… The 4 PM show goes well, with about twelve people in attendance.

We asked our neighbors in the other booths if they minded the fact that convention attendees were standing in the aisle blocking passage…no, they said, not at all, it makes people stop and look at our stuff if they can’t get through!

Meanwhile, we spent some of our downtime walking around GenCon in our “Bag Witch” costumes, taping extra scenes. We figured it might be fun to cut this footage in later, to tie the office footage to the convention in a more authentic way, just for the fun of it.

Then all hell breaks loose.

The next day, another screening and this time, security people came over and told us, hey, jamming the aisles like this is a fire hazard, you can’t do that. So we abandoned the booth screening concept. But then we had a chat with some friends from Chaosium, who knew the the guys who ran the anime room, a large auditorium in the hotel that showed anime, trailers, and various other stuff 24 hours a day throughout the convention. A plan was hatched to screen the movie on Saturday.

Friday morning the GenCon article appears on the Journal-Sentinel. We’re mentioned in the lede above The Phantom Menace (not, however, above Pokemon) as “one of the biggest crowd magnets of the convention” with “convention-goers doubled over with laughter.” Four paragraphs out of twenty-four are devoted to “The Bag Witch Project.”

Chris goes off to stare at Lou Ferrigno before the 1 PM show and when he comes back there are TWENTY-FIVE people SITTING IN THE AISLE in front of our booth, watching “The Bag Witch Project.” Imagine! You’re in the dealer room of a ‘con and you come across twenty-five people who have decided they need to SIT IN THE AISLE and watch a movie playing on a crappy little video monitor. For FORTY MINUTES. What the hell is going on here?

So we’re quite the buzz at the ‘con. So much so that the nice folks from Andon come around to tell us to please keep the aisles clear. So much so that the nice folks at Chaosium ask us to show “Bag Witch” at their showcase in the Anime Room that night. Okay, we say. We hear it’s a cozy little room, seats about fifty. So we cancel the second booth show that day and tell people to “catch us at the Anime Room, but you might want to get there early (8:45 for the 9 PM show) because we hear it’s kind of small.”

The place was packed. The audience laughed, and applauded and cheered like crazy as the credits rolled. Somehow we had a minor hit on our hands.

We get to the Anime Room. It actually seats TWO HUNDRED and fifty people. And it’s full. People have been lining up for “Bag Witch” since 8:30. It’s standing room only. We’re terrified.

All of which is instantly forgotten during the riot that is the Anime Room show and the tumult of applause that follows.

Now we are famous. Friends from other booths tell us that EVERYBODY is talking about “Bag Witch.” One guy who will attend all five shows during the ‘con tells us his dad works for Hostess and, based on ONE GAG involving Twinkies, tells us that he’ll send us a case of same. People stop us in the convention hall by yelling “Hey, Bag Witch!”… which short-circuits our pickup shooting on one occasion. Our flyers are repeatedly stolen from posting areas. The questions about video release are starting to fly.

People now asked if we had copies of OUR film to sell. Wha???

What becomes a legend most? We decide to have one more show in the Wisconsin Room at the Holiday Inn. Most of the audience is led over from the booth by Joe and Steve, who lead the procession while holding aloft the 24″ x 36″ “Bag Witch” poster. This altogether calmer screening culminates in an impromptu Q&A session and the giveaway of the Procession Poster. The last day of the ‘con is marked by repeated, and repeated, and repeated, questions about “Bag Witch.” The question sessions get longer and longer, people are coming by to ask us about subtle references in the film, and a high school kid tries to steal one of our props! We have arrived! Thanks to all the GenCon attendees who made “Bag Witch” the freaky sensation it was!

The convention over, we went back and forth about whether to actually try to sell tapes of the movie, and finally decided, what the hell. We cut in the new convention footage, trimmed out some 15 minutes of the really bad ad libs, and designed a VHS cover. We ended up selling quite a few tapes of the original Bag Witch movie.

And then it was time to figure out what to do for next year.

End of Part Two.

Steve watching all hell break loose

Steve watching all hell break loose

Next: The Curse of the Bag Witch.


About toxicbag

Toxic Bag Productions, Inc. provides sound effects and music for independent films, animated shorts, theatrical productions, dance performances, podcasts and video games. They work out of their studio on the north side of Chicago.

Posted on August 13, 2009, in Confessions of a Guerilla Filmmaker and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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