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Public Access Explosion

For over 20 years, Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher have made a career out collecting VHS tapes from thrift stores, garage sales, and dumpsters.

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Joe Pickett, left, and Nick Prueher of the found footage fest


Public Access Explosion

At the Creative Alliance May 2, 7:30 p.m., with special guests Jeff Krulik, Joe Pickett, and Nick Prueher

For over 20 years, Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher have made a career out of collecting VHS tapes from thrift stores, garage sales, dumpsters, and anyone who’s willing to give them up. They handpick the most outrageous in the batch and tote them across the country to sold-out screenings as the Found Footage Festival. Turns out your old home movies can earn you some dough even if they’re not sex tapes. On May 2, the duo will be in Baltimore to host the Public Access Explosion, a compilation of some of the best (read: worst) footage from America’s public-access stations. To give it Maryland flavor, Jeff Krulik, who ran a cable-access station in Prince George’s County during the ’80s, will offer some of his favorites: a Scottish-heritage show called Scots in Maryland; a mysterious program called The Hypnotist, on which he guest stars; and excerpts from his iconic underground classic, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, including rarely seen follow-up interviews with the partiers at the Judas Priest concert. The 15-minute documentary has gained Krulik a cult following since it was made, in 1986, in spite of the fact that he and his buddy made it with equipment they “borrowed” from the station, and that they never got licenses to use any of the music. City Paper talked to Krulik about found footage and his public-access success story.

City Paper: How did you get involved with the Found Footage Festival?

Jeff Krulik: Those guys actually reached out to me several years ago. I live in the Washington, D.C.-Maryland suburbs area, and they were having a presentation here. I believe [Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett] were fans of Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and they invited me to participate in their presentation. I believe they showed something I called Public Access Gibberish, which was just a short video I put together to chronicle my several years running the studio. We became friends pretty much after that. They showed Heavy Metal Parking Lot at the beginning of their presentation all across the country; that was a couple years ago now.

CP: Will you be contributing any clips from your own collection for Public Access Explosion?

JK: Yeah, I will. I save everything, so I have a lot from my days in public access; hopefully they can use some. I know that they have a lot of things, they’ve been curating videos for many years. I used to do this when I ran my public-access studio. I used to have parties in my house every year where I would show the best of public access, which was really the worst of public access. So this is kind of an extension of that. It started in my living room. Maybe it started in Joe and Nick’s living room too. I’ll have to ask them.

CP: What’s your favorite moment so far from what you’re showing?

JK: Well, not to be self-indulgent but it’s to see some of the hairstyles I was sporting, because I appeared on camera at certain times. I was running a studio, you know? The things that I wore—the sweaters, the ill-fitting pants—because I was a 25-year-old director at a studio. I didn’t get the memo that all I was doing was babysitting the community, keeping people off of management’s back, because that’s what public access was. The county had a cable monopoly; they were the sole provider. Part of the franchise agreement was to give the community television, so that people could come in and make their own television, do what they want with limited restrictions, get their message out, blah blah blah. And for me, this was really cool, because in a lot of ways it was an extension of college radio, which I had been really active in. Here was free-form television, and that was cool when I was able to produce certain things that I wanted to do or take the equipment and make Heavy Metal Parking Lot. But when I had to literally babysit community do-gooders or county residents or local blowhards who wanted to make their own TV shows . . . it got really aggravating and depressing [laughs]. And I wound up being there for almost five years.

But again, I tell you, public access is great. I don’t have any bad things to say about public access because that’s where I got my start, and where I learned how to operate a camera and edit. I developed an eye behind the camera. I always recommend it to people who want to get into film and didn’t study it in school. Public access is still thriving in communities all across the land.

For more information, visit foundfootagefest.com.

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