The Found Footage Festival, a renowned traveling film festival that comes to the Beachland Ballroom at 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, had rather humble beginnings. Organizers Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett started collecting weird and wacky VHS tapes in 1991, when Prueher found a training video for McDonald's managers at the McDonald's where he worked.
"I could not believe how insultingly dumb it was," says Prueher via phone. "I took it home and showed it to Joe, and we developed a whole cult around it, and we'd have viewing parties for it and even made a short film based on it. That was our entertainment."
It wasn't until 2004 that Prueher and Pickett put together an official program of some 12 videos that they showed at a New York bar. Since then, their collection has grown along with the festival. They now own over 5,000 videos, and for the first time they plan to visit all 50 states with this year's festival.
Highlights this year include the opening clip, an instructional video for how to use a Magical Rainbow Sponge with an overly enthusiastic female host.
"She's almost orgasmic about it," says Prueher. "I wish I could get as excited about anything in life. It's over the top. It's an enthusiastic way to start out the show."
The program will also include the obligatory exercise video. "We have the 'Thug Workout' put out by DMX label," says Prueher. "The host casually swears and says motherfucker this and motherfucker that."
After a show in Vancouver, a fan gave the guys a collection of VHS tapes, one of which was titled "Hand Made Love." It was an instructional video teaching disabled men how to masturbate. "We felt obligated to include it," says Prueher. "The production values are so low, and it looks amateur. When you're trying to do a serious video about masturbation, production values go a long way. The host looks like a serial killer. There's so many things wrong with it."
Prueher admits finding new material has becoming challenging. But he says that he and Pickett have about 1,000 videos in their collection that they have yet to watch.
"It's both the best of times and worst of times for a VHS collector," he says. "Anyone who had a collection has gotten rid of it. Everything out there is now out there. There's no new stuff, and the bad part is that thrift store don't accept them as donations, and that scares us, because that's our livelihood."
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