Found Footage Festival Finds its Way to Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse
By Veronica Garcia
Lots of full frontal male nudity is the promise from Found Footage Festival co-founder Nick Prueher for filmgoers when the festival rolls into town for two showings (7:00p & 10:00p) Wednesday night (3/30/11) at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz (320 East 6th Street).
Prueher, and friend Joe Pickett, are the masterminds behind the Found Footage Festival founded in New York in 2004 that showcases everything from the obscure celebrity workout tape to bizarre home movies donated to Goodwill.
Prueher and Pickett started collecting tapes in 1991 after they found a McDonald’s training tape entitled, “Inside and Outside Custodial Duties.” This initial find spurred their hunger for seeking out more and more strange and stupid videos.
Pickett, a writer/director, and Prueher, a former researcher at the Late Show with David Letterman, have written for The Onion and Entertainment Weekly and directed the award-winning documentary, "Dirty Country," now available on DVD.
The Austin screening includes self-hypnosis videos about how to be a better lover, businessman, and bowler; a 1986 home movie taken during a debauchery-filled weekend in Florida; a collection of ventriloquism how-to videos that will forever haunt you and a compilation of exercise videos featuring Cher, Lyle Alzado and the American Gladiators.
The festival also features a screening of “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” – a short documentary filmed in the parking lot before a Judas Priest show in Maryland in 1986.
INsite Magazine spoke to Prueher last week as he was driving through Mississippi on tour with the festival.
Veronica Garcia: Do you accept submissions or do you prefer to do the finding yourselves?
Nick Prueher: I think we’re more attached to the videos we find. But as we’ve done the shows more and more people either bring them to us or send them in. We’re always thrilled when people submit because they’ve kind of done our work for us. We still go through them and edit them as we see fit, but it’s fun when we get submissions because we never know what’s on the tapes. We still enjoy going to thrift stores and looking through videos.
VG: Have you found anything that was just too extreme or outrageous to show?
NP: If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know that we clearly don’t have any standards about what gets on. We’ve shown some pretty extreme stuff. But the whole purpose is that it has to make you laugh. That’s the whole criteria for us. Full frontal male nudity – you’ll see plenty of that in our show.
There are some things that for whatever reason have been more disturbing than they were funny, so we’ve said no. It has less to do with how extreme the footage is and more to do with if it makes us laugh or not.
VG: Following up on the previous question, can you describe it in great detail?
NP: Well, OK, I can, but I don’t know whether you’ll be able to print it. There’s one footage that we’ve never shown. It’s a fan video that a girl made for the guitar player Steve Vai. She made a video where she’s trying to impress him and show how much she loves him and she starts staring kind of eerily into the camera. And then, to prove how much she loves him, she proceeds to make noises with an orifice other than her mouth. That’s probably the best way to describe it. It shows very graphically this unique skill that she has and it’s funny, kind of goofy, but the woman’s just clearly disturbed. She’s got some screws loose. So, for us it was a little more disturbing than it was funny. That’s why it didn’t make the cut.
VG: Where did you find it?
NP: It was given to us. I guess it’s one that’s been circulating among touring bands. It’s kind of in the same tradition of being passed around by bands like “Heavy Metal Parking Lot.”
VG: Why do you think people are fascinated with found footage?
NP: For us, it’s sort of the thrill of the hunt. It’s about panning for gold and trying to find those gems that you can’t believe people overlooked. It’s about being able to do a show and tell of these videos that we found.
For others, I think part of it is nostalgia. A lot of these tapes come from the ’80s and ’90s, so people can sort of look back and laugh at that time period. I think part of it is that there’s something uncomfortably familiar about the footage. It might be an exercise video that your mom used to watch after school or something like that and now you’re in a room and you can laugh at it. Or it’s like a training video you had to watch at your crummy first job and take seriously, and then now you’re in the theater and you’re given permission to laugh at it. There’s something cathartic about that.
VG: Do you think there will ever be a time when you can say you’ve seen it all, or found it all?
NP: We worried about that. Last year we kind of got to the point where we were like, well we’ve seen every bit of found footage, we’re sure to see the same exercise videos at every thrift store. Then, while we were in Chicago, we found a tape called “Rent-a-Friend.” The concept was that this guy on screen would be your virtual friend for an hour. He’s just sitting in a chair asking you questions about your life. You’re supposed to answer to your TV. Then he talks about himself. It’s such a stupid idea for a video. Maybe there are very lonely people out there that it would have worked for, but it’s just sad to think about. The guy starts talking about himself and tells you more than you wanted to know. You kind of watch him unravel before your eyes.
When you find footage like that it kind of renews your faith that there are still videos out there waiting to be discovered that we haven’t found yet.
VG: Which is your favorite clip?
NP: It changes from time to time. Certainly some of the first things we found I have a soft spot for those. There’s a video we found from the beginning called “Jack Rebney” we called it “The World’s Angriest RV Salesman.” It was outtakes from an RV commercial that we cut together with our favorite parts. That became a big hit. A filmmaker from Austin made a documentary about him called “Winnebago Man.” We convinced Rebney to appear with us at a show in San Fransisco. That was a real career highlight. He was one of the guys we really wanted to meet. That was a lot of fun.
VG: Why/how did you choose the Alamo Drafthouse to showcase the festival?
NP: I wouldn’t say we chose the Drafthouse, I’d say we settled for it. No, I’m just kidding. It’s one of our favorite venues. It’s the perfect place. It’s the right kind of crowd. We’re excited. We usually play the Alamo South Lamar, but this time we got moved to the Ritz. We’re going to be right there in the thick of things.
VG: Why should Austinites come to the festival?
NP: It’s footage you can’t see anywhere else, including all the other weirdo stuff at the Alamo. It’s an entertaining night at the movies. This is the biggest show we’ve ever done. There’s probably about 75 videos that we’ve cut together. Plus, like I mentioned before: full frontal male nudity. If that doesn’t sell some tickets, I don’t know what will.
For tickets to Wednesday's Found Footage Festival, visit this link.