Found Footage Festival Hits the Wex
The holiday season brings a lot of entertainment options to Columbus, but nothing else quite like the Found Footage Festival. Set to celebrate its 10th anniversary on Tuesday, 12/16 at the Wexner Center for the Arts (1871 N High St.), FFF brings a comedy show featuring a collection of video oddities.
Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett have made an annual trek to Columbus to share their found favorites since 2005. Drawn together in the 6th grade by their shared joy of irony, they’ve prowled thrift stores and perused garage sale wares since childhood, collecting peculiar VHS tapes. In 2004, they turned that odd pastime into a show.
“We were trying to raise money for a documentary we were making called Dirty County,” says Prueher. “It’s about a guy who sings filthy country songs. They weren’t giving out grants for it, believe it or not, and we thought: How can we make money without having to spend any? The only thing we had of value was our VHS collection.”
The friends dug through 15 years of collected tapes, culling the highlights and developing a live show to accompany the footage.
Prueher says, “It was kind of an extension of what we did for friends in our living room. We’d sit around and show people our latest finds and offer running commentary and jokes.”
The first Found Footage Festival was a success.
“We’ve been surprised there’s such a broad appeal,” says Prueher. “We thought just our group of weirdo friends would like it.”
Their celebration of discarded and forgotten video gems has actually drawn enough critical and commercial attention to become a full time gig and then some. Prueher says they do 140 dates a year, traveling internationally with the event.
“We’re on the road most of the year,” he says. “It keeps getting bigger – it’s a pretty crazy schedule. It’s pretty fun. The hard work is the three months when we’re not on tour, actually watching all the videos we’ve collected over the year.”
Each new year brings a new program of clips, so the pair takes advantage of the travel by digging around thrift stores and the like in each new location.
“When we’re in Columbus or anywhere else on tour, we buy videos in thrift stores and ship them all home,” Prueher says. “The touring part is actually fun because it’s like doing show and tell. The hard part is when it’s a beautiful summer day and you’re inside watching a cash register training video or something, thinking: What the hell am I doing with my life right now?”
Prueher still enjoys programming the event, but he has some desperate moments. “I remember this year’s exercise montage – which is something we do every year – was particularly painful. At one point I had a bit of an existential crisis. Then, in the middle of that I found How to Have Cybersex on the Internet, which is just one of our most incredible finds of all time. That sort of renews you. It’s a tough slog sometimes, but then you find a video you can’t wait to show people and that’s what makes us want to get back on the road and do it again.”
Some highlights of their work include a holiday workout video the two found in Columbus. But simply finding and sharing clips is sometimes not enough, and the tenth anniversary show felt liked it deserved a little something extra.
“We go the extra mile,” Prueher says. “We actually hire private detectives. This year we tracked down two guys we’ve been trying to find since the early Nineties from the John and Johnny Show, these super obnoxious regional home shopping hosts. We fell in love with these guys. We got these two together for the first time since 1987. So, we not only play some long lost footage from them, but we play the emotional reunion footage.”
They tried something a little different this year, too.
“Being on the road, we do these morning news interviews and we thought, if we can get booked on morning shows with just our weird video show, I bet we could get a fake person booked.”
While touring last year, Pickett and Prueher sent out a press release promoting a chef’s new book about sprucing up holiday leftovers.
“I got booked on 5 different morning shows,” Prueher says. “The idea was to come up with the grossest concoctions and see if we could get the news anchors to actually try them. And 4 out of the 5 did. Now it’s just a tradition, it’s something we’re going to try to do every year.”
The 10th Anniversary show will include clips from the cooking hoax, reunions, a few old favorites and plenty of new bits. Plus, you can do your part to contribute to next year’s run.
“I always encourage anyone who’s found any videos around Columbus to please bring them to the show,” says Prueher. “We always do trades of DVDs for VHS tapes, so bring your tapes!”
The Found Footage Festival plays a one night event Tuesday, December 16th at 7pm. Tickets are $10 ($8 for Wexner members) and are available at wexarts.org and www.foundfootagefest.com.