In college, Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett would sit in their living rooms and joke about VHS tapes they brought home from the thrift store. Typical, right? But a few choice gigs ("Mystery Science Theater 3000," "The Colbert Report," The Onion) later, their love of found footage has grown into an anticipated annual collage of the best and the worst the VHS years had to offer: the vulnerable underbelly of human self-importance that is the Found Footage Festival.
To create an installment of the festival, now on volume seven, Prueher and Pickett respectfully watch all the videos in full before splicing them incongruously and giving live commentary as they play to an audience, exposing the films’ true strangeness and hilarity. Past samples have included workout videos for the elderly, instructional flirting videos and clips of sad, earnest clowns ignoring the fourth wall. They eschew the truly indigestible, but not much is off-limits.
"Occasionally, we will get walkouts, where people didn't know what to expect," says Prueher. "But we've tried to head that off at the pass this year by opening the show with a police training film called Sudden Birth, which is exactly what it sounds like. If people see that footage and stick around, we know they're in for the long haul."
This time around, the team has dug deeper, even interviewing people featured in the decades-old tapes—a tactic that may do more to obscure the videos’ intended meaning than clarify it.
"It's kind of like the buddy system in swimming," Prueher says. "It'd be dangerous to do this alone, so we always do it together to help get each other through this painful process. It's the job we were born to do, as sad as that might make our parents.
“We’re doing God’s work,” he adds.
Festival attendees are invited to bring any relevant and adoptable VHS footage, as Prueher promises to give it a good home. Daily samples and teasers can be found at foundfootagefest.com.