As part of Sydney Underground Film Festival (SUFF), Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher are hailing VHS and digging up some seriously interested old video tapes.
They've buried their way through thrift stores across America to present the best in VHS material for Sydney. Here, Nick Prueher tells us more.
This is the first time Found Footage will be in Australia! What does it mean for you guys to be bringing it here?
Oh my god, we are thrilled to be bringing the show to Australia for the first time! We’ve been doing this show for 14 years now and Australia has been at the top of our list for a long time. It seems like a hotbed for weird comedy and weird people. We may never go home.
What are you looking forward to about visiting Australia?
In all of our years collecting videos, I think we’ve only found one Australian VHS tape. It’s an instructional video for a hair removal product called Nads. We thought the word Nads was funny so we’ve shown that one before. But for the most part, Australia is an untapped resource for new VHS finds. We can’t wait to comb the thrift shops in Sydney.
Found Footage is all about hailing the classic video format that is VHS. Why create a festival with a focus on this?
The VHS era was like lightning in a bottle. All of a sudden you had this really cheap format that anyone could use, so all these mom-and-pop production companies starting popping up, just throwing ideas at the wall to see what stuck. 'The Video Fireplace', 'Rent-A-Friend', 'How to Seduce Women Through Hypnosis' – they all found an audience in the '80s and '90s on VHS. Since no one really knew what they were doing, we ended up with a wide variety of esoteric footage that you can’t believe was actually committed to videotape. There’s also a certain naiveté that we find endearing. The Found Footage Festival is a celebration of this golden age that time forgot.
How long did it take for you to build up this collection of gems?
Joe and I have been friends since we were 10 and we’ve been collecting VHS tapes at charity shops since 1991. It all started with a McDonald’s training video I found in the break room while working there in high school. It was for McDonald’s custodians and it featured an overly perky crew trainer who told the trainee that if he cleaned extra well, he could one day see “Mc C.” We got obsessed with this video and would have friends over for viewing parties, developing a running commentary of jokes and observations throughout. And that got us to thinking, I wonder how many other ridiculous videos are out there right under our noses. We’ve been on the hunt ever since.
This will be part of the Sydney Underground Film Festival, of course. What do you know about this event, and what are you most looking forward to about being a part of it?
The line-up to this year’s Sydney Underground Film Festival looks incredible and we’re proud to be a part of it. As it happens, a short film we produced called 'The Dundee Project' is playing there too. It’s the first film in 20 years by Mark Borchardt, the star of the documentary, 'American Movie' and it’s incredible. Mark goes up to small town UFO festival in Wisconsin and interviews some of the revellers, including my personal favourite, UFO Bob. It’s funny but also kind of reflective and profound. But I think the only thing you need to know about SUFF is that they have a genre filter on their website called 'Batshit Crazy'.
What was each of your favourite VHSs from when they were big?
We don’t show any movies on VHS at the show – it’s all weird special interest stuff like exercise videos and training tapes and home movies – but I remember loving the 'Dorf on Golf' series as a kid. Not sure if that made it to your side of the world but Dorf was the comedian Tim Conway kneeling into a pair of shoes to make him look like a little person. He gave golf tips and fell over a lot and got back up. That’s all it took to make me laugh when I was 9. Joe says his favourite was his 'Yo! MTV Raps' tape. He taped a bunch of rap music videos off TV and nearly wore out the tape.
Aside from the ones you'll be presenting as part of this event, do either of you still have VHSs at home?
Oh yeah, we still have a good amount of videos from when we were kids. Those are mostly movies that never got DVD releases, like Mel Brooks’ 'Silent Movie' and Penn & Teller’s 'Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends'. I’ll never part with those.
What are you hoping audiences walk away from your event thinking and feeling?
Mostly, I hope they walk out of the theatre thinking, 'what the hell was that?'