Dec 09 | Author: Roger Erik Tinch
The found footage culture of discovering terribly brilliant gems like late night infomercials to forgotten Z-movies is a true art. From the mashup stylings of TV Sheriff to the strangely introspective work of Animal Charm there’s such a plethora of bad content just ripe for the picking. One of these tastemakers is the outfit known as Everything Is Terrible who run a daily blog and post the best of the worst (and who’s site is a recent obsession of mine). The fine chaps at EIT were willing to take part in an interview where they delved into their process of attaining and curating this beautiful gutter art.
How did EIT get started? And who are all the questionable characters involved?
GS: Hello, I’m Ghoul Skool.
FS: We’re Future Schlock.
CG: I’m Commodore Gilgamesh!
GS: EIT began as a way for us to show off our thrift store finds while living in LA, NYC, and Chicago. We all have a very sad and never ending obsession with finding old VHS tapes, so it made sense to finally share them with this terrible world.
How do you go about finding such video treasures? What sort of equipment and resources do you use?
FS: We find the tapes mostly through thrift stores and video store closings. Now that all the chain video stores have switched to DVD and with the rise of Netflix, most small, local video stores are eliminating their VHS stock or going out of business completely, so we can pick up a lot of weird, forgotten movies for cheap. This is both good and bad, because we can get huge lots of obscure videos, but once these local video stores are cleaned out, there won’t be many local sources left.
Also there are specialty video stores like Odd Obsession in Chicago, Kim’s Video in New York (which is closing, sadly), and Cinefile in LA which carry these B to Z grade movies and ephemeral videos, so they are an excellent resource that save us money and storage space. We use eBay from time to time, but that’s a trickier business, because the prices are always higher not to mention the shipping costs. It can also become quite tedious sifting through the VHS listings, because every mainstream Hollywood VHS released is listed as rare and out of print. However you can find some real gems on eBay if you have the patience and the right search words.
As for equipment, we all have a VCR’s and DVD players hooked up to our computers and we capture using a Canopus box. Then we import the files to editing software like Premiere or Final Cut Pro and start trimming down the captured footage until we get what ends up getting posted.
CG: The Terrible is everywhere! Since everything really is Terrible, we don’t have to do much searching! I use a half-broken Walmart DVD/VHS combo that my mom didn’t want anymore, a dusty dv deck that makes a strange “wizzzwhirlwhirl” sound, and a PC that occasionally has a mouse and keyboard that both work at the same time!
What makes a video worthy of the EIT stamp of quality?
GS: It really depends and can come from anywhere. For example, I’ve found that virtually anything made in the year of 1986, or VHS’ that come in those gray, over sized boxes are always a good bet. All one man shows are great, home movies, and of course any fast food training tapes give us digital boners. The way I see it, there can only be great movies and terrible movies. Mediocre movies are the absolute worst. The fact that our name ends in an exclamation point is because we love the fact that the world sucks. We want to rub our faces in it.
FS: We all can agree when something is Terrible (capital T), but beyond a certain point I think everyone has their own interpretation. I think something is terrible when it’s not good or bad, but both at the same time. Good at being bad, doing a terrible job trying to be good, whatever. Some stuff is just bad because it’s boring. It’s uninspired. Stuff that’s Terrible has some idea behind it, and the more poorly executed and/or crazy the idea, the better.
CG: Terrible, which is everything! Therefore everything is worthy and thus every quality of everything is Terrible! Hence forth and so one making everything Terrible!
Any infamous and unattainable videos that are the holy grail?
FS: For the most part, we don’t go looking for specific videos but we’re pretty much always on the lookout for new tapes. We judge the tapes from their covers, their titles, their cast and when they were made. Unfortunately this leads to a lot of boring crap and wasted time, but that’s the nature of the beast. From our experience, for every video posted, there’s probably 2 to 3 videos that were watched but unusable. The only movie that really that comes to mind in a “holy grail” sense is the The Day The Clown Cried, the Jerry Lewis comedy where he plays a clown in a concentration camp. However I don’t think anybody will be able to see this until after Jerry Lewis’ death, and maybe not even then.
GS: I couldn’t agree more, expect sometimes the crap we watch is so bad I feel like puking. But after years of slit throats, my ‘holy grail’ of tapes was getting my hands on the tape of those kids remaking Raiders of the Lost Arc. That to me was like when Indy finds the holy grail at the end of Last Crusade.
What is your (or each of the EIT members) favorite piece of found footage?
GS: I would have to go with Sherry & Mark’s wedding video from 1991- easily the saddest thing I’ve ever seen caught on tape. I had to do something, so here’s what came of it:
Sherry and Mark’s wedding video should be celebrated as a national holiday. It should be a ride at an amusement park.
FS: One of our all time favorite clips is Dogville Comedy Shorts, aka dogs with guns, the all-dog western. The other is Rock Music and the Occult, where a semi-illiterate Baptist preacher warns kids about the Satanic messages in ’80s pop hits.
CG: 1984 Los Angeles Comedy Competition! That Ray Combs knows a thing or two about women, let me tell you what!
GS: I should also mention that I see EIT as a competition to see who can find the shittiest gem- except in this game, we all win. Every week my mind is blown by how endlessly bad things can get. Just when I think it can’t get any worse than than ‘Tappercize,’ out of nowhere Future Schlock drops ‘Rainbow Spirit‘ into our laps. How can you live after seeing a bunch of hippies singing ‘there’s a rainbow around the mooooooon’ for 5 minutes? You’ve gone passed the colors and seen the end of the universe.
Are you fans of Animal Charm and TV Sheriff? What do you think of their work?
FS: We cannot really speak about Animal Charm and TV Sheriff, because we have not yet seen their DVDs (though Other Cinema is an excellent distribution company).
CG: Meh! (He hasn’t seen either one, but does not like competition).
Have you done or plan to do public exhibitions of EIT videos?
FS: We had a public screening for the release of Future Schlock 2, but haven’t pursued the idea with EIT yet because all of the footage is spread around between different computers in different cities.
GS: We’re compiling a soundtrack right now, but be warned – We are currently putting together a DVD that will be our Mr. Holland’s Magnum Opus. We’re seriously considering renting a place out in the desert, doing a bunch of mushrooms and not leaving either we (or our spirit animals) finishes it. I’m hoping that my power animal will be a white wolf that can fly and knows Final Cut Pro.
CG: Plan to do so much! Do so little!
Where did you get that awesome EIT animated logo?
FS: I used to work at the Everything Is Terrible Home Video Entertainment Systems Headquarters, so I took that with me before I quit back in 1986. God, I hope none of my old bosses at E.I.T.H.V.E.S.H.Q. are reading this!
Check out their site here.