Found Footage Festival's Nick Prueher on how-to-masturbate videos and the death of VHS
There's a lot of weird shit captured for posterity on videotape. Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett have been collecting it for 21 years, and touring the world sharing it under the name Found Footage Festival for the past eight. During that time, they've become de facto VHS historians, amassing an incredible library of bad ideas caught on cheap tape and turning it all into a hell of an entertaining show. Even after more than two decades of collecting and six volumes of material -- all available on DVD, so you can enjoy classic like Winnebago Man again and again in the comfort of your home -- Prueher and Pickett are still eagerly collecting odd tapes and culling through them for unforgettable moments.
Nick Prueher (left) and Joe Pickett have some strange videos to show you.
Before they bring "Found Footage Fest Vol. 6" to the Denver FilmCenter/Colfax tomorrow, August 11, we sat down with Prueher to get an idea of what the new show holds, whether they'll ever run out of new material and how many bad tapes they have to sit through to find one great moment.
Westword: Is it getting harder to find good new stuff for the show?
Nick Prueher: That's a good question. In a way it is, because you start finding the same videos in different places. It's harder to find the unique one that we haven't seen. Also, we found out from thrift store owners -- we talk to them and find out what the latest scene is in the thrift store world -- and the people at Goodwill told us they're not even accepting VHS donations anymore, because nobody's buying them. That scared us to death. This is going to sound more high-falutin' than it is, but if nobody's finding these things, we're really worried they're just going to be lost forever. That whole part of our VHS history will be gone. It kind of lit a fire under us to do a really ambitious tour this year. We're doing all fifty states on tour this year, and that's why we did Europe and England too this year, because we're worried this stuff has a shelf life and it is getting harder to find it. But because of that, when we do find something that's just incredible and unique, it makes it all the more special.
If they stop being available in thrift stores, you'll have to dig even deeper -- garage sales, or start one of those Storage Wars-type TV shows to search out and discover new tapes.
Somebody in Europe actually suggested we -- you know how sometimes there's those big clothing drop boxes, or boxes for shoes, where you just donate them? -- set up one of those for VHS tapes and just go collect them somehow, almost like an art project or something.
Maybe you can set that up while you're on this fifty-state tour
That'd be great! We actually wanted to create a video store in New York, [where] you can't actually check anything out, you just have to watch it in the store, but have our entire collection of 5,000 plus tapes curated in the categories we have them in. Like, "unusually specific" is one category, and you've got videos in there like "Identifying Machine Made Marbles" and things like that. Or "questionable celebrity career moves" and you have "Linda Blair's How to Get Revenge." So it'd be like the video store we would like to see, with little viewing stations. You'd pay a couple bucks and watch an hour's worth of footage. That would be the dream.
Almost like a VHS museum? Pay five bucks to get in and wander around, you can check out three tapes at a time and you can take them to a station to watch them?
Yeah, exactly! Free admission with a donation, that would be awesome.
There you go, get people to donate their old tapes, unload their crap and give you new material at the same time.
We'll give it a good home. The good news is we have like probably a thousand videos we haven't even gone through yet, that are just kind of piled in our offices and storage lockers. So if the apocalypse hits tomorrow, we'll have enough to last us. It does worry us that VHS tapes are dwindling a bit.
Based on your experience over the years, how many of those are going to have golden clips out of those thousand tapes?
We'll probably have to watch thirty videos before we find one that fits the bill. I don't know what that ratio is, but yeah, thirty videos, one of them's good. It ends up being a lot of watching. These videos are usually an hour long so you have to watch thirty hours to get a few good minutes. It can be pretty mind numbing, pretty painful. I feel like we are pop culture masochists in a way. We've almost come to enjoy torturing ourselves with it. It's almost like an endurance thing. We're willing to suffer for other people's entertainment. We're very Christlike in that way.
It's very noble.
Thank you. We're doing God's work.