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Charles B. Pierce, independent filmmaker, dies

DOVER, Tenn. - Charles B. Pierce, an independent filmmaker whose inexpensively made documentary-style drama "The Legend of Boggy Creek" decades later influenced the hit film "The Blair Witch Project," has died at age 71.

Pierce, who grew up in Arkansas and made his films mostly in that state, died Friday in a nursing home here, according to Wayne Anglin of Anglin Funeral Home at Dover. A cause of death could not be obtained.

Pierce was born in Hammond, Ind., but moved to southwest Arkansas with his family as a child, according to a daughter, Amanda "Amy" Squitiero. He grew up in Hampton, Ark., and as an adult lived in nearby Texarkana, where he ran an advertising agency. But it was his 1972 low-budget movie that gained him fame.

"He really did change the face of filmmaking," Arkansas film commissioner Christopher Crane told the Texarkana Gazette. "With his model, many filmmakers became successful with the drive-in creature feature, so to speak."

Daniel Myrick, the director of the 1999 box-office docudrama "The Blair Witch Project," cited Pierce's film as an influence in an interview with the Tulsa World.

"We just wanted to make a movie that tapped into the primal fear generated by the fact-or-fiction format, like 'Legend of Boggy Creek,' " he told the newspaper in 1999. "That was one of my favorites; it freaked me out when I was a little kid."

"Boggy Creek" was based on a local legend of a Sasquatch-like creature in Fouke, a town southwest of Texarkana, where retailers still capitalize on the fame of the Fouke Monster.

Squitiero said her father's autobiographical notes indicate "Legend of Boggy Creek" was made for $160,000 but ultimately made $25 million after it became a cult hit.

Director and producer Harry Thomason, whose credits include the TV sitcom "Designing Women," grew up next door to Pierce in Hampton.

"Charlie was one of the greatest storytellers in the world," Thomason said. "He had remarkable success when you think of it."

Pierce's additional directing credits include "Bootleggers," "The Town That Dreaded Sundown," "Winterhawk," "The Winds of Autumn," "Grayeagle," "The Norseman," "The Evictors" and "Sacred Ground." He was a screenwriter for the 1983 film "Sudden Impact," starring Clint Eastwood. - AP

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