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Film Thu Apr 14 2011

Preview: Found Footage Festival @ The Music Box 4/15

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Nick Prueher and Joe Picket share thrift store gold at the Found Footage Festival.

The Found Footage Festival, a one-of-a-kind event showcasing videos found at garage sales and thrift stores and in warehouses and dumpsters throughout North America, is returning to Chicago tomorrow night at the Music Box, in conjunction with a special 25th anniversary screening of the documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot, which was videotaped in a concert arena parking lot before a Judas Priest show in Maryland in 1986.

In addition to hosting in-person FFF screenings, curators Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher are also the brains and brawn behind the documentaries Dirty Country and Winnebago Man, and have written for The Onion and the Late Show with David Letterman.

If you were lucky enough to catch FFF last summer, you got to see a rare screening of the 1987 film Computer Beach Party at The Empty Bottle. Tomorrow's show at the Music Box promises to be every bit as fun. Among the new clips to be featured are:

-Self-hypnosis videos about how to be a better lover, businessman, and bowler
-A 1986 home movie taken during a debaucherous weekend in Florida
-A collection of ventriloquism how-to videos that will forever haunt you
-A brand-new compilation of exercise videos featuring Cher, Lyle Alzado and the American Gladiators

With a tour that's taking them to 75 cities in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., Prueher and Pickett are on the road quite a bit these days, but I managed to catch Prueher on the phone for a few minutes en route to Baltimore last week.

GB: This is the second time that FFF has screened a full-length feature film (last summer we saw Computer Beach Party). Of course, this time around it's in conjunction with a more "traditional" FFF show -- if that word can be used to describe FFF. Is this something that you'll continue to pursue as you collect found footage for the FFF show?

FFF: Yeah I think the problem is we just have short attention spans, to entertain ourselves we get a variety of stuff and put it in one show. When we do find something special -- last week in Houston we found something called Big and Hairy, we haven't even watched it yet. It looks like it's about a kid in a bad Sasquatch costume, it looks promising, it may be our next Computer Beach Party.

Tell me about Heavy Metal Parking Lot -- why have you chosen this film to accompany your current tour?

Well, we made friends with the filmmakers; this is a movie that was part of the same tape trading tradition -- before Internet you'd make copies on VHS and have this really old 5 or 6 generations video with bad audio, and this film is a remarkable time capsule of a 1986 concert parking lot. It captured the types of people who were there, and it's very quotable. This year marks the 25th anniversary since it was filmed, we were looking for something new to do with the show, and it worked out that that's kind of our opening act.

What are some highlights from your current tour?

There's a guy who works at public access television in Austin, and he always has a whole box of tapes to pilfer from every year. One of the big highlights in Chicago is we're going to meet a guy who's in one of the clips -- from a video called Rent-a-Friend, we found it last year in Chicago, we actually found the guy who is the "Rent-a-Friend", and we just have a lot of questions about this video.

You've been getting quite a lot of press over the past year, what's the best and worst thing that's been said about you?

I don't know that we pay much attention to it. One person in a recent video said our jokes were mediocre based on our DVD -- but we take that as compliment, I'll take "mediocre".

Is there anything else you want people to know about the April 15th show at the Music Box?

Rent-a-Friend is a big selling point. The video we found is still in the shrink wrap, from 1985, we found it the last time we were in Chicago, and we got in contact with the guy who made it. The concept behind this video was that if you were lonely you could put this tape in, and the guy onscreen would be your virtual friend for an hour, which is just sad when you think about it but apparently he took it as seriously as you could. He asks you questions that you were supposed to answer to your TV screen, which requires a huge suspension of disbelief, but then he starts talking about himself: where he grew up, and his siblings -- fine, but 15 minutes in he starts running out of things to talk about, and begins revealing far too much about himself.

He talks at about one point this girl always he pined for in high school, he never tracked her down, but if she's watching -- please give him a call. He talks about a noise he makes when he's really excited... and he's kind of like a friend you wouldn't want in real life or on your TV screen. So we have a lot of questions for the guy, he's going to make his first public appearance at the Music Box. I mean, nobody knows about this video, we may have the only copy that was ever produced, I don't know, we'll find out. So that's going to be an historic evening on the 15th.

Apart from that we only get to Chicago once or twice a year so if anybody has found anything -- public access TV tapes we should hear about, or if they found a tape at a thrift store, please bring it to the show!

The Found Footage Festival is showing at The Music Box (3733 N. Southport) for one night only: Friday, April 15th, at 10pm. Tickets are $10 and can be bought online or in person.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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