VHS obsessed filmmakers want you to REWIND THIS!

Brian Kelley

by: Brian Kelley
January 28th, 2011

For a good number of movie fans today, childhood memories are contained on 1,410ft of tape wound across two reels inside a 7⅜" × 4" × 1" plastic case held together by five Philips head screws. I'm talking about VHS (Video Home System) of course which, starting from its introduction on June 4th, 1977 until the announcement of the DVD format in March of 1997 spelled the beginning of the end, was prolific in a way not seen since in the home video arena.

Now that I think about it, I'm talking as if every one of you reading this remembers a time when VHS was the primary purveyor of cinematic comfort in one's living room. It has actually come to a point where movie tastes are bred in the home via 1s and 0s exclusively. Now, a movie watching disaster constitutes 30 seconds of a Zac Efron monologue missed due to a slightly scratched disc or a momentary blip in a Wi-Fi connection. Back in the VHS days, though, a movie night kerfuffle would start with a VCR (that's Video Cassette Recorder) inexplicably spitting out a tape in the middle of a badass verbal smack down delivered by a slightly blurry Gene Hackman, the guts still wrapped around the video head inside. If dad were so inclined, he could attempt to resolve the problem himself which would sometimes involve taking the machine apart. Our family night video problems were resolved with power tools, not keystrokes.

When the final load of programmed VHS tapes  left a warehouse on December 31, 2008, the format was considered all but dead (the last Hollywood title to have been released on VHS was 2005's A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE). While it's true there have been mild signs of mainstream life such as a VHS version of Ti West's HOUSE OF THE DEVIL bundled with the DVD and a Japanese release of Miyazaki's PONYO recently, VHS is but a distant memory for the vast majority of movie lovers. It is no secret, though, that the format thrives in circles of rabid collectors. The truth is, more movies were released on VHS than DVD could ever hope to see and, as such, an incredible number of titles now fetch enormous prices on eBay. Being a VHS collector myself, I could go on and on about the merits of the format and the joy of the hunt but I'll let you wait and see that for yourself in a new documentary currently in production.

Meet (clockwise from left) Josh Johnson, Carolee Mitchell and Christopher Palmer. Josh had the idea for a VHS focused documentary when he realized just how often the format was being discussed long after new films were being released exclusively on DVD. Recognizing the rich history and continued relevancy of VHS, he began working with Carolee and Christopher on the project and together they realized the true scope. Not only would they need to track the life of VHS from birth, they would need to chronicle the pioneers of the format, the distributors, the shot-on-video filmmakers and even the unique cover artwork that made so many trips to the video store memorable. The current working title for the project is REWIND THIS!

While the group (working as a production company under the name IPF Productions) have set credits (Josh is director, Christopher is DP and editor, and Carolee is producer), they frequently shift roles on the fly to get the most out of every minute they have with their interviewees. So far, the team has several interviews in the bag with subjects ranging from collectors (yours truly was interviewed, whether or not I make the final cut remains to be seen) to independent store owners, indie distributors, and even filmmakers such as WINNEBAGO MAN director Ben Steinbaur who became aware of Jack Rebney through (what else) VHS.

There's much to be done, though, and much of that involves traveling to spots all over the world to speak with the key players in the VHS arena. The group will visits places as varied as Chicago, DC, and NY as well as Tokyo and London. Traveling the world with three people and equipment isn't cheap and the team has come up with a way to raise some of the money necessary to get themselves to the people the need to interview.

In order to raise money to help complete their celebration of all things VHS, the Austin based IPF Productions crew is holding an art show with pieces donated by several artists. Original works will all be available for purchase at the art show but will remain on display through the duration of exhibit. At the grand opening party shirts and prints (and other goodies) will be for sale. Those in Austin would be wise to come out for some truly unique gear and to witness live VCR VJ mixing, a man dressed as a VHS tape and a VHS shaped bed!

The grand opening event will be on Friday, February 4th from 7 to 10 PM. The party and the exhibit (which will run through the month of February) will be at:

Rio Rita Cafe
1308 East 6th Street
Austin, TX, 78702

This is a unique chance to support independent filmmakers with a passion for an important and fabled period of time in movie history.

For more information on the show and the documentary please go to www.rewindthismovie.com.

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