Junk Culture: Found Footage Festival at the Coolidge

Sat. March 31

 Is there any event anywhere that goes on without someone capturing it on videotape or digital camera/cell phone? Is mytube.com where we all aspire to be with our "art?" Do we have time to sift through all the chaff to get to the wheat? Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett do. The former writers from The Onion have been collecting "found" videotapes since 1991 after  Prueher stumbled across a McDonald’s training video entitled "Inside and Outside Custodial Duties" starring David Spade. No, we’re just kidding on that last part. But he did find it in a break room trash can while he was working in a Wisconsin McDonald’s in a Wisconsin break room. "I couldnt’ believe how dumb it was," says Prueher. "I immediately told Joe, and we had people over and made fun of it in my parents living room. Then, we started looking in thrift stores and garbage cans, and our collection began to grow. Now, we probably have 500 tapes, most VHS tapes from the golden age of home video."
The guys are bringing an hour’s worth of their tapes to the Coolidge Corner Theatre Saturday March 31 at midnight, for their third "Found Footage Festival." Criteria? "For us," says Preuher, "the main thing is it has to be unintentionally funny and it has to legitimately sound. We generally don’t do internet videos. Youtube is great, but for us, our show is more about telling the backstory of these videos and savoring it. We do our best to do some detective work into them and give you a guided tour."
One of this year’s highlights, says Preuher is footage from a cable access show that aired in New York City in the late ’70s and early ’80s. "It’s called ‘Stairway to Stardom. It was a talent show, and has all the varyng talent levels you get on these. It’s crudely produced with a lot of charm. These people wanted to be famous." So, when Preuher and his partner track these people down, what do they say? Are they embarrassed beyond words? "Everybody we’ve met has been a really good sport about it," says Prueher. "There’s so many people celebrating this footage. In this one, there’s this little girl tap dancer (in photo) dancing to a terrible disco song, She was 8 at the time. We tracked her down and she came on stage, re-enacted her dance." Also on tap: exercise videos from Mark Wahlberg and O.J. Simpson. "It’s definitely not for kids," says Prueher, "but there’s nothing prurient like Paris Hilton or Tommy Lee and Pam Anderson. There is some brief full frontal male nudity. We say ‘We don’t make ’em, we just find ’em.’"
This work led them to a humurous documentary they just made and are screening soon at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin. "It’s called ‘Dirty Country,’ and it’s based on another find, a cassette tape we found 12 years ago called "Songs for Studs." They’re well-written, catchy country songs with the dopiest lyrics you can imagine, We tracked down the guy who made it, Larry Pierce. It turns out there’s this whole underground genre, this dirty circuit. It dates back to the dirty blues of ’20s." Admission to the midnight show of "Found Footage" is $9.50.

290 Harvard St., Brookline, 6217-734-2500 coolidge.org

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