Found Footage Festival's Nick Prueher on how-to-masturbate videos and the death of VHS
Do you want to tease some stuff from the new show that people can look forward to?
There's one we actually found in Colorado last year. I think we found it in a town outside of Boulder. It was this workout video [with] these very fake looking blonde girls with fake boobs on the cover. We're like, "Okay, we're picking this one up..." It's kind of a unique thing, because it's not sexy enough to get off to, and it's not even close to being a real workout. It's neither sexy nor a workout, and it's called the "Sexy Treadmill Workout" It's exactly what it sounds like, it's topless women on a treadmill for an hour. Different angles, different speeds. It's from 1988, so it's vintage. Amazing find.
I don't know how printable this is, but, there's one we found that we just felt was too remarkable. You know, you think you've seen it all, then you find this tape. We were doing a show in Vancouver and a guy came up to us afterward and said that he heard this government office was getting rid of all its VHS tapes, this government office in British Columbia. So he drove down there and just kind of rescued anything that looked interesting. The one he gave us, the one that caught our eye, was called Hand Made Love. We didn't know what it was, it looked very official. What it turned out to be was an instructional video about masturbation. The target audience for it was developmentally disabled men. It shows you, in very graphic detail, the whole process of how that works, being very clear to say "never masturbate in public," etc. etc.
It's a very noble cause, because who wants to teach somebody how to do that? But the thing that makes is so unsettling is it has snuff-film production values. There's no tripod, so it's handheld and it's in some guy's depressing looking apartment in Vancouver and he's staring directly into the camera and saying, like, 'I'm going to take my underwear off now." It's just one of those videos that stays with you. Then we did some research on this company and it turns out they did a sister video for women called "Fingertips". We tracked down "Fingertips" as well, so we do a little one-two punch of "Hand Made Love" and "Fingertips" in the show.
That sounds pretty amazing.
It's pretty incredible, I have to admit. One of the big breakouts of the show is this video we found called the Magical Rainbow Sponge and it's a crafting video. We find a ton of these crafting videos and they're all boring. This is the one exception we've found in 21 years of collecting. It's a woman named Dee, and she's just really enthusiastic about craft sponging -- putting paint on a sponge and making wiggles and designs with it. She's almost oprgasmic while she's doing this, just screaming in ecstasy with each stroke of her rainbow sponge and making all these noises. We cut together all the little noises she makes while she's doing the sponge painting. We open the show with that one.
After doing this for so long, have you gained any insight into why people do these videos? What's the impulse to make these weird things in the first place?
I think it was kind of a gold rush. In the '80s and '90s, VHS was so cheap to produce, it was kind of a novel format. For the first time you had the ability to have a video in your home you could control. It was sort of like the gold rush. Everybody went there in search of fame and fortune and was trying out [unintelligible] stuff. You ended up with a lot of goofy ideas. There's a video in the new show called Instant Adoring Boyfriend, which is a very handsome British gentleman who's saying all the things that a woman would want to hear. It's a very sexist video, but that was an idea. There was video fireplaces and VCR board games, and how-to make craft sponges videos. I think it was just so affordable and just sort of the Wild West, like let's just try out a lot of ideas and see what sells. That's why you ended up with a lot of weird, esoteric things.
One thing that we've just come to realize in watching this, is America is full of people with a ton of ambition, regardless of whether they have any talent whatsoever. That, to me, if anything about the show is uniquely American, I think it's that.
Anything else you want to mention?
We'll be searching around at various charity shops in Denver while we're in town, and if anybody has found anything, please bring it to the show. We'd love it if anybody had some donations for us.