The Found Footage Festival Returns to the Texas Theatre, Now With More Self-Hypnosis
You'll be reading plenty in the next few days about a certain other film festival coming up in town -- but for all you high-minded cinephiles who just can't wait, good news: Thursday night at the Texas Theatre, the Found Footage Festival's back for its third stop in Dallas, with a whole new collection of VHS clips uncovered in thrift stores, dumpsters and fast-food franchise training rooms.
I've chatted with co-curaor Nick Prueher each of the last two times the festival's come to town, and today Prueher was good enough to take a break from his VHS-hunting in New Orleans this afternoon to chat about the upcoming show, and what he and Joe Pickett have been up to in the year-and-a-half since their last Dallas stop. For one thing, the fest's taken on an even higher profile now that it's gotten its own page at the A.V. Club. For another thing, Prueher says, a glut of new vintage VHS tapes hit thrift stores just when they thought they'd seen it all.
"For whatever reason, over the last year we found more footage than we've ever found in the past," Prueher says. "Our theory is that everybody finally got rid of their VHS tapes, and now we have them all. We own every single tape."
Jump for the rest of our Q's and A's.
So what do you all have in store for the festival's latest incarnation?
We've got 75-80 different snippets for the new show, with some trends we never knew exitsted before now. We found like a dozen different self-hypnosis videos, mostly from the early- to mid-'80s. They'd show you hypnotic images on screen, and they'd give you verbal suggestions, like how to quit amoking.
There's two about how to make love, there's one about how to be a better racquetball player. Or how to be a better bowler. They're mostly by this company called Cybervision -- their form of hypnosis was just watching somebody doing something correctly over and over again. You just watch this guy's release over and over again, like it's just by osmosis.
They have the same sort of, "Every day, every way you get better at making love." Then the just swap that out with an image of a rotating tennis ball. And that's all that matters.
Probably the greatest find that I remember in recent years we found in Chicago last year. It was getting to the point that we started seeing a lot of the same tapes pop up at different thrift stores -- and then we found this. It was from 1985, it was still shrink-wrapped, and it was called "Rent-A-Friend." The concept was like, if you're lonely you could pop this tape in the tape deck for half an hour. Just very sad.
The tape is just a guy sitting in front of the camera, then he starts talking about himself -- he tells you where he grew up, about how he grew up in Chicago. Then after about 15 minutes he runs out of things to talk about and he sort of reveals too much about himself.
At one point he talks about how he always regretted never asking out this one girl in high school. He talks about how his father fainted one time and he thought he killed his father. But then he thought, "Wow, I must be a pretty powerful little guy." It's just pretty dark -- he's like, "Is there guilt in your family by any chance?"
The best thing of all -- a week ago we tracked this guy down, he still lives in Chicago, and he'll be coming out to our show there in April.
So when you're back in Dallas, do you have some places in mind you want to be sure and scour for old VHS?
Garland Road Thrift Store -- that one was so good, so fruitful last time. I ended up with two boxes of videos. I had to pay like $120 to ship 'em home.
There was a hand-labeled video in there that's in the new show -- we did something last year called the "VHS cover slideshow," where the footage might not be great but the covers were too awesome not to share with someone. They'd taped the movie Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which, I dunno, maybe it was the third one -- they'd spelled it MORTEL COMBET: ANIA ...- I don't even remember how they finished "Annihilation." I just thought it was incredible. We picked that one up, and we actually close out our VHS covers slideshow with that.
Now that you guys are up on the AV Club site, how's that changed your live shows, or the audiences you draw?
It's always been strange because our live show came first -- we started doing that before YouTube was around. We're sort of stubbornly old school.
We still think that's the best way to see what we're doing, because you can watch these videos in a little two-inch window on your computer screen, but it's a totally different experience when you're in a theater with 200 like-minded people, and there's tour guides like us to take you through it. That's what the Found Footage Festival has always been about.
The Onion AV Club asked us to package the highlights from five years of doing the show, and do it in digestible chunks, and we do get a lot of people coming to the show who haven't heard us before that.
I think that's cool. We're still finding different ways to format it for an online, for television -- we have a book coming out in October of over 250 of our favorite VHS covers, with just jokes underneath the covers. If the book is half as funny as the covers, it ought to be pretty good.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.