ANNAPOLIS – Burkittsville, the home of moviedom’s Blair Witch, wants Maryland towns to be able to approve the use of their name by a filmmaker, the town’s mayor told state lawmakers Friday.
The small town of Burkittsville, featured in the surprise hit “The Blair Witch Project,” was flooded with tourists after the movie’s release. The mayor is concerned a planned sequel could have the same affect.
“It’s just not the quiet community we once had,” said Mayor Joyce Brown of the 194-person town.
Town signs were stolen, kids with baseball bats were found patrolling the woods in search of the witch and people’s yards were trampled.
And with at least one, maybe two, more Blair Witch movies due out, Brown asked state lawmakers to consider granting towns the right to decline movie appearances.
Towns control whether filmmakers shoot within their borders, said Michael Styer, director of the Maryland Film Office. However, it’s uncertain whether a town could prevent filmmakers from using its name and shooting elsewhere – a common practice – he said.
At the Western Maryland Delegation meeting, Brown also tried to learn if the town could be compensated for costs associated with the newfound publicity. For example, the Frederick County’s Sheriff’s Department and Maryland State Police were called in to help with the influx of people.
Town choice, however, is more important than compensation, Brown said. There are no businesses in Burkittsville to really benefit from the tourist throngs.
“I wouldn’t want to see other communities faced with the same changing community without choices,” she said.
Spokesmen for Haxan Films and Artisan Entertainment, which represent the Blair Witch filmmakers, declined to discuss the idea and said they weren’t aware of the problems in Burkittsville.
This was the first time Brown’s concerns had been brought up, said Delegate Sue Hecht, D-Frederick. However, she said she does understand the problem presented by “witch seekers.”
After a visit, Hecht’s brother detoured on his way back to Ohio to visit Burkittsville. He bought a vial of dirt from an opportunistic capitalist as a souvenir, she said.
Hecht plans on talking to the Attorney General and the Maryland Film Office to see what, if anything, the Legislature can do to help.
“People obviously live in Burkittsville,” she said, “because they enjoy the quaint and quiet.” -30- CNS-2-11-00