[Editor's Note: HD, a.k.a. Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, is also publisher of an online series of interviews on a teeter totter. Introductions to new Teeter Talks appear on The Chronicle.]
Last Thursday afternoon, I wheeled the mobile teeter totter down Liberty Street to the Michigan Theater, to the exact spot where John Roos [proprietor of Roos Roast Coffee] and I had tottered back in the spring of 2008.
The occasion was a ride with Nick Prueher, who together with Joe Pickett co-founded the Found Footage Festival. The festival is a celebration of old, found VHS tapes. It has toured the country for the last six years – each year Prueher and Pickett curate a new show. The 2010 edition passed through Ann Arbor last Thursday.
Imagine an exercise video featuring Angela Lansbury in a bath towel giving herself a massage. Or imagine a sexual harassment training video – how to recognize and avoid it, not how to perpetrate it – featuring a guy in a lunchroom holding up a piece of fruit and asking, “What do you think of my banana?”
These are the sorts of videotapes that Prueher and Pickett have sifted through by the thousands. They culled out the very best to make a part of their show, which they host and comment on live in theaters across the land.
On the totter, Prueher discussed with me the requirement that the videos they collect be “found.” The story of how the tapes were found – in many cases in thrift stores – are as important as what’s on the tape, he said. They’ve been producing the Found Footage Festival for long enough that people now send in videos they’ve found – and the story of how they’re found is archived along with the contents of the tape.
But Prueher described on the totter how there could be a kind of “taint” attached to a collection, if someone just sent in, say for example, a bunch of training videos that they themselves produced and directed back in the early 1990s. He also talked about his internship on Mystery Science Theater.
It was the notion of an authentic “find” that I found most intriguing. So I’d like to tie that into a short reflection about The Chronicle’s Stopped.Watched. section and The Muehlig Funeral Chapel at Fourth and William Street in downtown Ann Arbor.