Q&A: Nick Prueher of Found Footage Festival | Rock Candy

Q&A: Nick Prueher of Found Footage Festival

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Heavy metal home video.

Think “The Soup” meets “Mystery Science Theater 3000” meets FOUND magazine meets all the insane pre-digital ephemera people exhume and stick on YouTube and you're on your way to the Found Footage Festival. On Thursday at 7 p.m. at UCA and Friday at 9 p.m. at Market Street Cinema, childhood friends Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher present their treasure trove of video madness — a home movie taken at a 1985 heavy metal festival outside D.C., exercise videos featuring Dolph Lundgren and Milton Berle and, special for this Arkansas audience, a custom-cut trailer of 1992’s “Little Marines 2,” starring Landers Automotive’s Steve Landers Jr.

Should be a blast.

Buy advance tickets here.

Also, check out a trailer for Pickett and Prueher's full-length documentary "Dirty Country." Maybe they can follow-up with one on Elton and Betty?

Earlier this week, I talked to Prueher by phone.

I’m sure you get this question a lot: Where do you find your found movies?

It’s mostly thrift stores like Salvation Army’s and Goodwills and places like that. Also garage sales and estate sales. We just keep our eyes open. We’ve found them in garbage cans and just lying in the street. In break rooms At places where we’ve worked. You just never know. One thing we’ve found is that no one hangs on to their VHS tapes anymore.

But you guys find these yourselves; people aren’t sending them to you?

We find most of the footage ourselves. But since we’ve been touring, we’ve had people send us tapes and bring them to shows. That’s our favorite thing in the world. That’s how we keep the show going. We can only do so much ourselves. Whenever we get to a new city, the first thing is hit local thrift stores, but if someone’s done that work for us, we love hearing the stories about how and where people have found things and being able to share those with other people.

You started collecting in 1991. Tell me about the first thing you found, an instructional custodial video in McDonald’s in Wisconsin.

That’s kind of where we trace it all back to. I was actually working at this McDonald’s in Wisconsin, which is where we both grew up. In the break room one day, I saw this training video that no one used anymore just collecting dust. It was called “Inside and Outside Custodial Duties.” Out of curiosity or boredom, I popped it in one day. It turned out to be one of the most ridiculous and insulting things I’d ever seen. It was just jaw-droppingly dumb. They tried to have a cute little plot to it: the custodians first day on the job. If he cleaned really hard, he might hope to see “McDonald’s clean,” which is different from normal clean. It was like, “C’mon, really? You’re a custodian at McDonald’s and they’re going to insult you further by making you watch this stupid video?”

So my first thought was I’ve gotta show this to Joe. We’ve known each other since sixth grade, and our friendship is mostly based on an appreciation of bad television and movies. So I brought it home in my backpack that night and called him over, and we watched it and just fell in love with this tape. And made jokes to go along with it. When nothing was going on — we were in high school —  we’d have friends over to my parents living room and watch this McDonald’s video and make fun of it. That’s what really got us to thinking, “If there are videos this ridiculous sitting there collecting dust, there had to be more like it.”

Over the next 15 and 16 years the collection grew and grew. Now we’re sitting on 3,000 plus tapes of goofy footage that we love.

So you cut your footage to travel with it?

We put it on DVD. We try to keep things in the spirit of the original tape. We’re not editing for laughs. But we do try to make it palatable to audiences. Because I wouldn’t wish upon anybody to have to sit through this stuff in its full length the way that we do. We’re a bit masochistic when it comes to that. We like to torture ourselves with bad videos. The lay person shouldn’t have to put up with that.

It’s all mostly older stuff?

Yeah, it mostly comes from the ’80s and ’90s, the golden age of home video. Everybody had a VCR. The market was saturated. It was so cheap to produce VHS at that time. Everybody could have a camcorder where you’d record home videos. Anyone with any budget at all could make a video. I remember my dad buying a beard trimmer, and it came with a how-to video on how to use it. So you got all these weird esoteric things on video from then.

What would you say is your greatest find?

It kind of changes, but one of our all time greatest finds was given to us by a crew member who was working on promotional video for Winnebago. I guess the crew realized that the host of the video had a bit of a temper, so they decided to leave the cameras rolling between takes and essentially captured this guy’s descent into madness. He’s the most creative swearer I’ve ever heard. They gave us two weeks of footage, and we cut together four minutes of our favorite angry tirades of this guy, Jack Rebney. We call him the world’s angriest RV salesman. It became a big hit of our first touring show, and someone recently made a feature length documentary on this guy. We actually had the honor of meeting this guy at a show in San Francisco. He was the one guy we were really nervous about meeting. You know, he’s a really angry guy. But we actually ended up hugging in the end, so it was pretty gratifying.

So is this paying the bills for you guys?

Sort of. It’s paying some of the bills. We’re not getting rich for sure. But it is our primary gig. We’re on the road four days out of the week and only back for a few. We’re both freelance writers and filmmakers, and we do that to make ends meet. This is our passion and pretty much our full time gig.

What’s the future?

We’re fairly old school when it comes to video procurement. We don’t get any videos off the Internet, so we were kind of late to the game to getting onto the Internet with our videos. We don’t give away our best stuff. We save that for the live show. But we have started posting new videos every day. We post little snippets of things we find on the road each day.

We’re also working on a book of our favorite VHS covers; we’ll be showing a small sampling of those in Little Rock. We also have a TV show in the works. I don’t know if that will happen or not, but that would be fun. We’re always looking to grow it. There’s no end of site. As long as people have bad ideas and are willing to commit them to some sort of video tape, we’re in no danger of running out of video.

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