Tomorrow, ‘Throwback’ a Few at the Found Footage Festival

Poorly chosen superimposed fonts, the flick of tracking being adjusted, and a hazy analog fuzz.

These are the hallmarks of VHS, and the absurd instructional videos, home movies, and public service announcements that Joe Pickett, Nick Prueher and Geoff Haas often screened for their friends in high school.

In 2004 the trio created the Found Footage Festival and toured with it to fund their first documentary, “Dirty Country.” This weekend, the sixth installment of the festival hits Anthology Film Archives.

If you’re among the many who frequent sites like Everything Is Terrible!, you’re well aware of the forgotten, personal, and downright bizarre things that have been committed to VHS tape. But while that site often relies on creative editing and splicing to solicit laughs, the videos in the Found Footage Festival are mostly untouched.

“Our philosophy is that the videos are weird enough on their own,” said Mr. Prueher. “We don’t need to weird them up at all. In fact, the more straightforward we are in presenting the videos as we found them, the funnier they are.”

Much like the misuse of fonts and overuse of Photoshop effects dated graphic design in the early-to-mid ‘90s, the introduction of home video cameras and early digital editing techniques created a distinctive, often hilarious aesthetic.

With its neon pulsing titles, budget green-screen effects, and lots of sheer clothing, “It Ain’t Worth it,” a pro-abstinence video starring former NBA stars David Robinson and A.C. Green and NFL great Barry Sanders, shares the early-90s production values of the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” intro, or a Too Short video. One could argue that no matter how noble their subject matter, cheesy videos like this were asking to be lampooned, even during their time.

“People forget this now, but when VHS first came out for consumers it was revolutionary. It was cheap to produce and eventually, ubiquitous,” said Mr. Prueher. “As a result, any amateur with an inkling of an idea was getting into the VHS market, so you ended up with a lot weird, esoteric stuff on tape.”

Mr. Prueher believes the “wide-eyed naiveté” of early VHS pioneers is “almost impossible in the internet age where everyone is fully aware that their webcam video might be seen all over the world,” and seeing their handiwork archived on the internet just doesn’t compare to seeing it live.

“I like getting a funny YouTube link in my inbox as much as the next guy, but watching a clip on a little two-inch window on your laptop by yourself is a totally different experience than watching it with a big group in a movie theater on the big screen,” he said. “Something magical happens when you take these videos that were meant to be watched at home or in a break room and projecting them on the silver screen.”

Though there is one video Mr. Prueher wouldn’t necessarily want to see on the big screen: “When I was 12-years-old, my parents took me and my sister, age 10, to a theme park in California. I really wanted to do this karaoke thing where you sing a song and then make a music video of it and they give the videotape as a souvenir. My parents relented and I convinced my sister to help me do the Fresh Prince’s ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand.’ I should point out a few things about myself at that age: I was quite fat, my voice hadn’t changed yet, and my comedy philosophy was the opposite ‘less is more.’”

Volume 6 of the Found Footage Festival screens Saturday Jan. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue. Tickets are $14 and include one complimentary beer from Brooklyn Brewery.