Film Reviews

Hosts Nick Prueher (left) and Joe Pickett (right).
Image: Joshua Hertz

Lost and Found

A chat with Nick Prueher, half of the team that unearths bizarre filmfest fare

What inspired you to start the Found Footage Festival?

My friend Joe [Pickett], who I’ve known since sixth grade–he’s the other guy doing the festival–we were just bored in our small hometown of Wisconsin. I found a tape in high school that was a training video for McDonald’s janitors in the break-room of the McDonald’s where I was working as a freshman. It was so silly and so ridiculous that I took it home, showed it to Joe and we developed a cult around this video tape. We’d have friends over and watch it and make jokes about it and that’s really what inspired us to look in other places.

Over the years we’ve amassed a pretty big collection to entertain ourselves and our friends and we decided, well, let’s take it out of our living room and put them in a theater. So that was about eight years ago, and we’ve been collecting tapes for over 20 years.

How much room does that take up in your house?

We both have small apartments in New York that are cluttered with them but we also have about two storage lockers full of 5,000 tapes. . . . We can’t stop ourselves. [Laughs]

Why is the ‘80s so funny?

I don’t really know, I feel like a lot of tapes we find are from the ‘80s or early ‘90s because that’s when VHS was king, and it became so cheap to produce VHS tapes that everyone could make one. Even if you had no business making a tape, people were doing it. I think whenever there’s enough distance between a decade you can kind of feel free to laugh at it. Certainly the hairstyles and the clothing go a long ways towards making something funny, but what we found is that the bad ideas will never go away, thankfully for us.

Have you ever had any encounters with the people from your clips?

Yeah, we do actually. They made a whole movie about a guy we tracked down last year. This guy Jack Rebney made a video in 1989, and he was making an industrial video about Winnebago RV’s and he kept losing his temper on set–he kept going on these angry, hilarious tirades. We got our hands on the raw footage and cut together our favorite angry tirades into this formatted clip and it became a big hit at our show and online.

We tried to track down this guy Jack Rebney but we couldn’t, so the filmmaker [Ben Steinbauer] said, “I’m going to take it a step further,” and he hired a private investigator to find him. He actually found him living like a hermit in North Carolina, and the movie ends with him appearing at our show for the first time–he was pretty pissed off. This guy has been dubbed “The Angriest Man in the World” by some people so it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but the thing is, once he saw how much joy he was bringing to people, his heart just melted. You could just see he saw that people just weren’t being mean-spirited about it, but they genuinely got a lot of joy out of his creative swearing.

Aww…

Yeah, so that was one of the highlights. In this new show, we track down one guy who did this very mysterious public access show on local television in Los Angeles called Dancing With Frank Pacholski. Frank is this sort of middle-aged, hairy bald man who was completely naked except for an American flag speedo and he’s dancing to patriotic John Phillip Sousa marches and things like that, but the brilliant part is that the audience for it is a semi-circle of half-a-dozen elderly people who have been bussed in from a nursing home or something, and they’re just sitting there completely disinterested. We hired that same private investigator who found the RV guy and he found this guy for us. We’re playing our interview with him in Honolulu next week.

Will you be sightseeing here?

We will look for videos but yeah, we’ll do some sightseeing for the week. I can only imagine what kind of things will turn up in Honolulu thrift stores. I have a feeling because it’s so culturally different, that there are going to be some things we never even dreamed of.

Fresh Café, 831 Queen St., Fri., 4/27, 9pm, $10, [foundfootagefest.com]