by Jonathan Dermid – firstname.lastname@example.org – Staff writer
For Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, co-founders of the Found Footage Festival, videotape is not a dead format – it is a time capsule.
The Found Footage Festival travels across the country to share awkward videos with a wider than intended audience. Last Wednesday, the footage came to The Grey Eagle in Asheville.
“Joe and I have known each other since sixth grade. We grew up in a small town where there was not a lot going on, so we would pass the time by watching bad television and making jokes to ourselves,” Prueher said of the genesis of the project.
“Then one day, in 1991, I was a freshman in high school working at McDonald’s, and I found a training video in the break room for McDonald’s janitors, and I was blown away. I couldn’t believe how ridiculous it was. It was insulting. So I snuck it home in my backpack, and Joe and I would have viewing parties of it at my house. Fifteen years later, we’re basically doing the same thing in front of crowds with thousands of videos at our disposal,” Prueher said.
Prueher and Pickett were caught off guard by how well the festival was received in 2004 when they had the chance to take the material they collected and show it in theaters all across the country.
“We were surprised that people liked it as much as we did until we actually got it out on the road. To us, it was kind of like an inside joke with us and our friends, and we couldn’t believe that other people actually dug it as much as we did. Everyone’s had that awkward training video or the weird exercise video your mom would watch before school,” Prueher said.
A widespread acceptance has made their job much easier in terms of consistently finding new material, Prueher said. Although Prueher describes himself as a thrift store maven, he and Pickett constantly receive new material from their dedicated fanbase. They have also found a great deal of support within local video store communities, particularly Asheville’s own Orbit DVD, who sponsored their local annual show for the past four years.
“I got involved through the Asheville Media Arts Project, and we brought them to the Asheville Arts Center and it was a hit,” says Marc McCloud, founder and owner of Orbit DVD. “For me personally, in the late ‘80s, I started looking for really obscure, bootleg videotapes just out of curiosity. A lot of times, these videos would have bizarre clips tacked onto the end, and it wasn’t until the mid-‘90s that I realized that there was actually a subculture devoted to this kind of weird stuff. I love these guys, because in a sense, we went down very similar paths with the same interest, they just channeled it on a much larger scale.”
The Grey Eagle has also been very supportive of the festival, as the show was presented to a packed house.
“The Grey Eagle has music almost every single night, so it’s a lot of fun to break from that sometimes and give people a good comedy show,” said Grey Eagle owner Jeremy Power.
Prueher is extremely appreciative of the support of Orbit DVD. He said McCloud’s sponsorship was unique.
“Most cities we go to, we just do the show and that’s it, but we wouldn’t have come to Asheville if Marc hadn’t reached out to us and brought us here. It’s so nice to have someone so tied into the local scene who gets it, because it makes it feel a lot much easier.”
After all these years and after thousands of videos, Prueher said his favorite videos are still the employee training videos.
“They don’t give those out, Prueher said.”Whenever you find one, it’s like you’re stumbling across some kind of corporate secret, and it’s hilarious to get to expose that.”