In the '80s VHS ruled. This was long before there was something called the Internet at our fingertips and on the tiny phones in our pockets that can do virtually anything. This was many years before the concept of "viral videos" that make people instant celebrities on YouTube regardless of talent or skill.
VHS was an inexpensive format that allowed people to create and distribute projects regardless if they ever found an audience. On Friday, April 1, Tulsans will have a chance to witness a collection of lost clips as the Found Footage Festival comes to the Circle Cinema.
Evidently, there was a lot of VHS product that never made it to the masses as the Found Footage Festival's co-founders, Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett, have made it their mission (and full-time jobs) to rifle through thousands of hours of tape before selecting the "best of the worst" for our enjoyment. Not to be missed, the Found Footage Festival (FFF) is a celebration of the unintentionally hilarious, the culture of the '80s and the era when the VHS tape was king.
The roots for FFF date back to 1991, when the duo came across an industrial video entitled Inside and Outside Custodial Duties stored in a McDonald's break room. Naturally intrigued by such a discovery -- who wouldn't be? -- Prueher and Pickett began collecting more strange and bizarre videos, building their collection one tape at a time.
In 2004, after spending three months locked away in their apartments watching videos, they had found enough to bring their vision to the masses and dubbed it the Found Footage Festival. They've been touring to packed theaters across the country ever since.
So what goes on at a FFF show? Prueher and Pickett are the co-hosts for the evening, providing a backdrop of what is about to be shown on the screen. Their combined credits include The Onion, The Colbert Report and Mystery Science Theater 3000, so there will be lots of comedy.
"We intro the videos and explain how we came across it, which often have funny stories as well," Prueher said. "Sometimes we'll make jokes over it, but we try to let the video speak for itself. We've discovered some hypnosis videos we're excited to show clips of this tour. Basically, the show is a guided tour through video. With lots of humor."
The latest FFF tour has over 100 shows across the United States and Prueher and Pickett will be taking the power of the VHS to England for the first time later in the year. With an itinerary similar to a band's schedule, Prueher admits that there are similarities to what they do with a musical tour, but, "Our groupies are mostly nerds though."
Press Play. The Found Footage Festival is a celebration of the unintentionally hilarious,
the culture of the ’80s and the era when the VHS tape was king.
"Playing guitar onstage is more appealing than sarcastic remarks over VHS tapes," Prueher said.
FFF tours for the bulk of the year with time set aside for going over new footage and trying to find that jewel that is good enough to make the next tour or DVD release of highlights. Prueher said the duo takes three months off to watch videos together.
"Sometimes what we watch is so bad we have to hold hands to get through it," he said. "But then we discover this gem and we can't wait to show it to the public because we find it so humorous."
The pair uses their tours to stockpile their collection and if you happen to frequent secondhand stores, you might run into Prueher and Pickett.
"We plan on getting to Tulsa early in the day to comb through thrift stores looking for new footage. We try to find stuff in each city we do a show," Preheher said. "People also send us tapes in the mail, too. It feels like Christmas morning to get a package while not knowing what is in it."
An added bonus for Tulsans will be the rare opportunity to see possibly the greatest cult video of all-time, the legendary documentary short Heavy Metal Parking Lot. In 1986, Jeff Krulik and John Heyn grabbed a camcorder and made their way to the Capital Centre parking lot and began filming concert goers amped up to see Judas Priest that night. The result is a 17-minute time capsule that is a perfect crystallization of what it meant to be a teenager into heavy metal in the '80s.
In 1986, I was 17 and living in Pryor, Okla., so I can vouch for the accuracy of Heavy Metal Parking Lot since, in some way, virtually every young person in town was a carbon copy of the kids on display in Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Its raw authenticity is frightening, embarrassing, riveting and hilarious all at the same time. Anyone who may have gone to see metal shows at the Fairground Pavilion or Assembly Center will have an out-of-body experience at the sheer drunken antics on display as the merits of Priest, heavy metal, booze, sex and drugs are enthusiastically endorsed.
Heavy Metal Parking Lot and the Found Footage Festival both screen Friday, April 1 at Circle Cinema, 12 S. Lewis Ave. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at circlecinema.com or by calling 918-585-3504.
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