In 1991, Nick Prueher, a high school freshman and McDonald’s employee, found a training video called Inside and Outside Custodial Services while at work. The ridiculous tape became an obsession of Prueher and his friend Joe Pickett. “We’d watch this video and make fun of it,” said Prueher. “And that just got us to thinking, there had to be more material out there like this just waiting to be discovered.”
Now, Prueher and Pickett are on the sixth tour of the Found Footage Festival, which celebrates all the crazy, unintentionally hilarious VHS tapes Prueher and Pickett have found since their high school days. “We’ve got probably about 4,000 videos in our collection,” shared Prueher. The Found Footage collection keeps growing; it’s part of the reason Prueher and Pickett go on tour. “We’re scouring the Earth for new material,” he joked. Fans of the show often bring videos to the performances and also send tapes in the mail. “It’s like Christmas morning every time we get a package.”
Prueher and Pickett love doing their homework. They often manage to track down the makers of the VHS tapes they find; some have even made appearances at the Festival. “Without fail, people have been flattered by the attention,” he shared. “They’re able to laugh at it. And I think the fact that we’re not doing it in a mean-spirited way also helps… it’s more of a celebration of these kind of regrettable moments captured on tape.” Prueher said spending hours watching footage of these people lends them a mythical status in his mind. “For us, it’s like meeting George Clooney or Julia Roberts or somebody,” he admitted.
This year, the Found Footage Festival is going on tour with Heavy Metal Parking Lot, a 16-minute documentary made by two 20-somethings in 1986. The film documents Judas Priest fans hanging out in an arena parking lot before a show in Maryland. “I can’t believe I’m talking about it here, 25 years later,” said Jeff Krulik, one of the creators of the doc.
Although Heavy Metal Parking Lot isn’t found footage, Krulik and Prueher agree that it comes from the same era and tradition. Prueher explained that “before the Internet, you’d find videos and trade them with people, and they’d share them by making dubs of them, and hooking two VCRs together.” Prueher and his friends inherited a 10th generation dub of the film, and it quickly became a favourite. “You put a bunch of drunk Judas Priest fans in front of a camera and that’s all you’ve got to do, you’ve got a masterpiece on your hands,” he said.
Years after its making, Heavy Metal Parking Lot has become a cult classic, not only among the alt-rock crowd, but also among celebrities. “Gosh, it was totally by accident, not design,” shared Krulik. “It was a period when a video camera was a novelty and home video was in its infancy.” Long after shelving the film in 1990, Krulik and collaborator John Heyn found out that Heavy Metal Parking Lot was a favourite on the Nirvana tour bus, and even managed to get a copy to Dave Grohl after the documentary’s DVD release in 2004.
Times have changed considerably since the release of the documentary and the footage found by Prueher and Pickett. For one, websites like YouTube make sharing anything and everything easier. On his part, Kruhlik hopes Heavy Metal Parking Lot will continue to be discovered and shared by a new generation. “But if they don’t, we’ll have had a good run,” he concluded.
The Found Footage Festival comes to Montreal for one night only on Feb. 1. For more information, go to www.foundfootagefestival.com. For more about Heavy Metal Parking Lot, check out www.heavymetalparkinglot.com.