It’s one of those brilliant ideas that makes you wish you’d thought of it first. For more than a decade now, Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher have been scouring garage sales, pawnshops and dumpsters, trying to find the weirdest VHS tapes on the planet. Then they gather up the best snippets, and show them to an incredulous, guffawing audience. Regional automotive commercials, stupid exercise tapes, unnecessary how-to videos, and embarrassing early celebrity appearances are all to be found at the Found Footage Festival, and nowhere else.
Curators Pickett and Prueher attend every show, holding microphones, introducing the clips, and often telling amazing stories about actually meeting the lunatics from the videos. It’s an amazing show, and it’s no surprise that it’s a big hit with CUFF audiences every time it comes here.
What is a surprise is that this year, we get a double dose. Yep, two (count ’em) different FFFs grace this year’s CUFF. On Thursday, April 25 at 7 p.m., we get to see Found Footage Festival Volume 9, the latest instalment in the beloved series. But then, at 9 p.m. on the Friday is Found Footage Festival After Dark; a collection of all the sickest, horniest, and plain old dirtiest clips from the entire run of the Festival’s existence. Did you first hear about the FFF from a friend, who tried to describe something utterly obscene/ludicrous from the show, that you missed out on? Here’s your chance to see it in a packed cinema!
Festival co-creator and -curator Nick Prueher was kind enough to answer a few questions for theYYScene.
“We’ve been coming to CUFF for almost as long as the Found Footage Festival has been a thing, so for our 15-year anniversary we decided to premiere our new program, Volume 9, in Calgary. It’s a brand-new collection of VHS footage we’ve found at thrift stores over the past year, including a Wisconsin beauty pageant from 1988 and home video taken at a hose factory in Toronto. It that doesn’t sell tickets, I don’t know what will!
“And After Dark is our dirty program, showcasing the most wonderfully outlandish footage we’ve found in 30 years of collecting. It’s a crowd pleaser, especially if you want to learn ‘How to Have Cybersex on the Internet.’ ”
(Hey! I remember that one!!)
Naturally, I had to ask about the weirdos that Joe and Nick actually got to meet while researching their show.
“I think the main reason we’re so fascinated with the videos in our collection is that they raise more questions than they answer, so we’re always curious to meet the folks behind the tapes and find out what the hell happened.
“Probably our most famous encounter came when we met Jack Rebney, a man we dubbed ‘The World’s Angriest RV Salesman.’ We cut together our favourite angry outtakes from a promotional video Jack was shooting in 1989 for Winnebago RVs, and it became a big hit in our first touring show and online. Joe and I tried to find Jack, but came up short, until a filmmaker intervened and hired a private investigator. Turns out, Jack was alive and well and living like a hermit somewhere in California, but when he found out we’d been showing his outtakes all around the world, he got angry, believe it or not!
“Still, we managed to convince him to appear with us at a show in San Francisco. He was very prickly, but when he saw how much joy this video brought to the audience, he softened up and actually gave us hugs at the end of the night. So if we can be hugged by ‘The World’s Angriest RV Salesman,’ we can die happy!”
When asked about the craziest footage that he hasn’t yet shown us, Nick replied: “I’m really excited to show off some classic footage from the tape trading days in the ’90s called The Martin Carlton Stunt Spectacular. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a guy named Carlton climbing a very tall tree and trying to jump to another tall tree. It goes spectacularly wrong, but Martin ended up fine. That will be in the Volume 9 show.”
I gritted my teeth, and told Nick the true story about the time I missed a chance to buy a VHS tape called Midget Wrestling Bloopers for $3. Now, I will never, ever know what was on that tape … unless, perhaps, you guys have seen it?
“You’re not going to believe this but I’m looking at a copy of Midget Wrestling Bloopers on our ‘Bloopers’ shelf right now!”
“The thing I don’t get about it is that they’re not really bloopers. It’s just little people wrestling, which I guess the producers consider bloopers.”
As for Nick’s own personal one-that-got-away stories, he reveals, “There’s some footage I saw on YouTube called The Super Broker Shuffle that I’d love to find one day. We only show footage we’ve found on physical media — nothing from the internet — so we’re hoping to track this one down on VHS. It’s a bunch of middle-aged white guys who broker product placement at grocery stores ‘rapping’ about why they’re the best. This came out without any of the charisma and rhythm of pro athletes. Apparently it was shown at a sales meeting back in the late ’80s. If anyone finds The Super Broker Shuffle, please let us know. Money is no object.”
Nick concluded with a final warning: “Every show we do features full-frontal male nudity in some sort of non-erotic context. Be prepared.”
Found Footage Festival Volume 9 screens Thursday, April 25 at 7 p.m. and Found Footage Festival After Dark screens Friday, April 26 at 9 p.m. Both shows are at the Globe Cinema as part of the Calgary Underground Film Festival.
John Tebbutt is the Video Vulture. He has been writing about obscure and ridiculous cinema since 1997. You can keep up with his nonsense on his website, Facebook, Twitter and through episodes of a program he’s doing with NUTV.