After a four-year hiatus from Sacramento, the Found Footage Festival – a showcase of strange videos discovered by sifting through garage sales and thrift stores – will return to the capital city on Friday.
The collected videos will be shown at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at Movies on a Big Screen, which is located at 600 4th St. in West Sacramento. Tickets are available at the door for $10.
Created in 2005 by Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, the showcase features some of the funniest and strangest videos that the friends have found in their long search for unwanted VHS tapes.
Prueher, who currently works for “The Colbert Report” and is a former head researcher for “The David Letterman Show,” said that the idea for a collection of found videos began when he discovered a ridiculous training video in McDonald’s where he worked during high school.
Encouraged by the McDonald’s video, Prueher began searching through garage sales and thrift stores for similar VHS tapes. Around the same time, Joe Pickett – now a contributing writer for satirical news organization The Onion – was working for a video duplication house in Minneapolis.
“Whenever somebody came in with a video that was funny and could be duplicated, Joe would make an extra copy for us,” Prueher said. “Soon we were showing the goofy videos we found to our friends in their living rooms.“
After receiving a positive response from friends, the pair arranged the first screening at a tiny performance space in the East Village in New York City, Pickett said.
“For whatever reason, these dumb videos struck a chord with people in the audience and we sold out a couple shows that summer. It took off from there,” he said in an e-mail. “We speculate it’s because the videos in our show were originally meant to be watched alone – like exercise videos, training videos, etc. Something hilarious happens when you get a group together to watch them.“
Prueher and Pickett are present at every screening acting as hosts and providing commentary and back-stories for the many clips.
“The show is basically a guided tour through our video collection. We come out on stage and explain how and where we found them and then make smart-ass remarks and observations,” Prueher said.
Many of the found videos are edited into shorter clips, Pickett said.
“Most these videos are so tedious, that we’ll just include a couple clips, and string them together in a themed montage,” he said.
One example is a “Best of Harassment” montage in which Pickett and Prueher edited 17 harassment videos intended for employee training down to only the reenactments of what employees are not supposed to do.
“We try to maintain the essence of what the video is and not manipulate or change the meaning of them,” he said. “It’s funnier if what you see is the real deal.“
As one might expect, sifting through unmarked and unwanted videos has led the friends to some unpleasant viewing experiences. The pair once found a video titled “Vaginal Surgery” and watched a bit of it, only to find that the video was exactly what one might expect – a graphic genital surgery, Pickett said, noting that the video has never been shown publicly.
On the other hand, a penile implant instructional video turned out to be fair game.
“The device literally pumps up a penis using a pump that is placed in the scrotum. It [is] really gross, but also really hilarious, so we included [it] in our first volume,” Pickett said. “In fact, we’ve included full frontal male nudity in every show since.“
Prueher encouraged audience members to bring any strange videos they might have found to the screening, as submissions will be accepted at the show.
Movies on a Big Screen co-founder Robert McKeown said that the show fits in with the kind of independent and unique films that he tries to bring to Sacramento.
“While the films we show might not have the same kind of budget and might not look as slick, you are getting really interesting stuff and true creativity,” he said. “We try to shake up people’s opinions about independent films.“
On Friday night, Pickett and Prueher will also be trying to change people’s opinions – this time about old VHS videos that might have been thrown away or neglected for years. There ought to be a few goldmines out there – after all, one man’s trash is another man’s hilarious found video. Or at least that’s what Pickett and Prueher are out to prove.
ZACK FREDERICK can be reached at email@example.com.