If it's true that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, then here are some quick tips from producers Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett:
1. Don't ever participate in a dating video -- it will come back to haunt you.
2. Beware of training tapes for corporations -- they are inherently cringe-worthy.
3. If you film yourself at a Renaissance festival at any point, you're just asking for it.
These follies are the videotaped scenes Prueher and Pickett strive to find for comedic relief. After all, they're the masterminds behind the Found Footage Festival: A Celebration of Odd and Hilarious Found Videos, which the childhood friends created in 2004. The duo returns to Atlanta Thursday for another showing of our country's most embarrassing moments captured on VHS.
We talked to Prueher, a former researcher at the Late Show with David Letterman, about the magic of embarrassing moments.
Q. Where does this fascination with forgotten footage come from?
A. [Back in high school] I had stolen this McDonald's tape from the training room. It was a training video for the custodians. It became this cult thing where [Joe and I] would invite people over to my parents' living room and make fun of it… That got us to thinking that if there were videos that dumb right under our noses, we imagined there must be a lot more out there, too. That sort of began our quest to look in out-of-the-way places like break rooms, thrift stores, Salvation Armys, Goodwills and garage sales. We’d just keep our eye out for VHS tapes … things like home movies and weird celebrity exercise videos and training videos that were just discarded. We made it our mission to rescue them.
Q. Describe one of the stranger tapes you've shown.
A. Joe found a home movie at an estate sale in Queens, New York... It starts off with this young girl dressed in dancer clothes, dancing to the "Phantom of the Opera" soundtrack. And then the tape cuts and it’s an old man, presumably the one that died, in the same outfit -- dressed as a woman in dancing clothes, also dancing to the "Phantom of the Opera." And then it cuts again and now he’s outside, behind the camera, recording neighbors' houses being demolished by a construction crew. And he gets into a screaming obscenity-laden match with the foreman of the construction site over whether he’s allowed to shoot the demolition ... And then as quickly as the tape began, it just ends. You’re left to fill in all of the blanks. It's like it was David Lynch’s home movie.
Q. Will you be out of a job in a certain amount of time given that people now document everything?
A. No, because the formats will change -- people aren’t recording on VHS anymore - but bad ideas never change, you know? As long as people have those ideas and are willing to commit them to tape or video or memory card or whatever format it ends up being, then I don’t think we’re in any danger of running out of material. I think we might be finding hard drives in thrift stores in 20 years. There are still going to be some ridiculous delusional people who decide to record themselves for posterity.
IF YOU GO
The Found Footage Festival begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, located at 1049 Ponce De Leon Avenue. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at http://foundfootagefest.com or at the door.
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