September 12: The Found Footage Festival
Posted on 9.1.12
Story by LENA R. BRODSKY | Photos by JOSHUA HERTZ & THE FOUND FOOTAGE FESTIVAL
As the old adage goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The video compilations by Nick Prueher (left in photo) and Joe Pickett (right) certainly embody this saying, especially if “treasure” means “laughter.” They have turned a bounty of abandoned VHS collections and home videos from the ’80s and ’90s that they found in dumpsters, at thrift stores, and in yard sales into a source of entertainment and comedy for today's viewer.
Nick and Joe are the creators of The Found Footage Festival, which will be stopping in Asheville for one night only at The Grey Eagle on Wednesday, September 12. The event is sponsored by Orbit DVD, a West Asheville independent video store that stocks 14,000 different titles.
Nick and Joe scour thousands of videos from around the country and select the funniest and most bizarre clips to feature at The Found Footage Festival. The pair interject explanations and comedic comments between clips. In Nick’s words, the Found Footage Festival is “a celebration of the VHS era.” The image above of shiny, lycra-clad buttocks isthe star attraction in a 1986 fitness video called "Bunnetics: The Buttocks Workout."
The Festival, which debuted in 2004 in New York, is now a nation-wide tour. This year, Nick and Joe host an event in 120 cities, hitting all 50 states and parts of Europe.
Nick states that he’s always surprised by how popular the concept has become since it was originally intended for sharing between friends.
“Joe and I have been friends since sixth grade,” Nick says. “We’ve been collecting [videos] almost that long.”
Now the two spend their year touring. Joe, a writer/director, and Nick, a former researcher at the Late Show with David Letterman, have written for The Onion and Entertainment Weekly. Their award-winning documentary The Dirty Country is now available on DVD.
While traveling, they comb through the forsaken videos at local thrift shops and garage sales, finding new old material. During their “time off,” they watch the collected videos.
“Right now we have about 6,000 tapes between our two apartments, storage lockers, and our office,” Nick says. “Very few of the videos are good; there are usually about 30 tapes before one usable piece.”
After they have separated the good from the bad, they donate the less desirable tapes back to thrift stores. Perhaps for other VHS enthusiasts to discover.
For the 90-minute show, audience members take a look at exercise videos, home videos, “how-to” videos, and generally anything that isn’t considered a movie. The photo here of a ferret getting a bath comes from a 1996 pet care video called "Ferret Fun & Fundamentals."
“The litmus test for us is if it is unintentionally funny,” Nick explains, referring to the sincerity of the actors.
One of the strangest and hilarious clips in this year’s show certainly fits the bill for inadvertent humor. Nick describes the VHS, “It is from a public access TV show from LA from 1999, called ‘Dancing with Frank,’” he says. “Basically, Frank is balding, overweight, hairy, and shirtless. He’s wearing an American flag speedo and dancing to classic songs. His audience is a semi-circle of people who don’t want to be there. It’s one of the most perplexing videos.”
Part of what makes The Found Footage Festival so entertaining is that Nick and Joe not only find these funny videos, but that they research them so they can tell their audience more information.
For instance, the two couldn’t easily find information about the “Dancing with Frank” video, so they hired a private investigator to find the star himself. They did an exclusive interview with him and are now able to share with their audience everything behind the baffling video.
For this year’s Found Footage Festival in Asheville, Nick and Joe encourage people to bring their own found videos to donate for consideration in the show. This will mark their fifth visit to Asheville. Come prepared to laugh and perhaps even cry a little by the strange time that was the “VHS era.”
The Found Footage Festival takes place at the Grey Eagle on September12 at 8:00 p.m. The Grey Eagle is located at 185 Clingman Avenue. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door or in advance at foundfootagefest.com (with a service charge of $1). View the trailer online.