Released in 1999, “The Blair Witch Project” was an improvised, low-budget indie film that captured 19 hours of film that was edited to 90 minutes. Despite being largely improvised, following a rough outline, the movie still follows the basic structure of the 15 Minute Movie Method.
Despite being largely improvised around a rough outline, “The Blair Witch Project” still follows the traditional arc of story telling. The first segment of the story begins with three film students planning a trip to film a documentary about the Blair Witch legend. This segment ends when they arrive at the town.
Segment 1 — Identifies the main characters and their goals.
The second story segment begins when they start interviewing locals about the supposed Blair Witch. They learn about a hermit named Rustin Parr who kidnapped and killed children and hear from an eccentric woman who claims she encountered the Blair Witch as a young girl. This segment ends when they finish interviewing the locals and head off into the woods, marking the end of Act I.
Segment 2 — The main characters learn more about an outside world and make that first step.
The third segment of the story begins when they journey into the woods where a local warns them that the woods are haunted. They find a place called Coffin Rock, where nine men were supposedly ritually murdered. This segment ends when they decide to camp out for the night.
Segment 3 — The main characters appear to be in control.
The fourth story segment begins the next morning when they head out to an old cemetery where they see twigs and branches twisted into strange shapes. They accidentally disturb these shapes and wind up camping out again.
Segment 4 — The main characters achieve their goal, but it’s a False Victory.
The fifth story segment begins when they wake up the next morning and find strange symbols around their campsite. They try to find a way out but realize they’re lost. They’re forced to camp out again that night.
Segment 5 — The villain starts to take control as the main characters go on the defensive.
The sixth story segment begins when they hear strange sounds and flee in panic from their campsite. When they return, they find their tents have been rifled through. Completely lost, they have no choice but to camp out again.
Segment 6 — The main characters reach their lowest point and the villain takes control.
The seventh story segment begins the next morning when one of their friends is missing. They search for him but can’t find him and camp out again that night when they hear his screams in the darkness.
Segment 7 — The villain achieves his (or her) goal while the main characters move closer to a confrontation.
The eighth story segment begins when the two remaining characters wake and find fragments of blood and teeth laying around. That night, they hear their friend’s screams closer and they rush to find an empty house. They rush in and one by one, they get picked off.
Segment 8 — The main characters either win or lose by confronting the villain.
Even though “The Blair Witch Project” was largely improvised, it still follows the basic story segments. That shouldn’t be surprising because this story structure is how all good stories work in the same way that all skyscrapers use the same steel structure used to build around.
When designing your story, use the guides of these eight distinct story segments to guide your story. Your creativity lies in working within this structure, not in fighting against it.