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Is Found Footage the Worst Thing to Happen to Cinema? [TALKING IMAGES]

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St. Gloede
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Is Found Footage the Worst Thing to Happen to Cinema? [TALKING IMAGES]

#1

Post by St. Gloede »

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Do you agree with Sol that found footage is the worst thing to have ever happened to cinema? Join us to see if we can find hidden ground (did Sol like any found footage film?!) and explore the insane wave of Found Footage films starting with The Blair Witch Project. We'll explore everything from its very inception in the 1960s (yes, that's right!), why it took nearly 40 years to become a force to be reckoned with, and explore the rise, fall, best films and whether its moment is truly done.

You Can Listen Here:

Sounder: https://talking-images.sounder.fm/episo ... ootage-bad

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/0fJIWw ... PskgBjz9ol

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/i ... 0574644952

Participants:
  • Ben / Flavo5000
  • Sol / Sol
  • Tom / Filmbantha
  • Chris / St. Gloede
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So ... do you agree with Sol?

What is your relationship with Found Footage? Is it a subgenre you get excited about, tend to seek out or perhaps you find mostly disappointing and overused?

What are the advantages of found footage films to you (if any)? Can Found Footage do things other genres can't?

Are there inherent flaws or weaknesses in the Found Footage subgenre (for instance being the worst thing to happen to cinema)?

How come it took so long until FF became popular as the first film is from 62 (The Connection) and the major boom was in the 00s. Does it mainly come down to cheaper video cameras and advancing technology?

Why did Found Footage films become as popular as they were and why did the trend die down?

Do you think we'll see a resurrection of big Found Footage films and if so, what would it take?

Does Found Footage have untapped potential? Would you like to see it used in different ways and contexts?

Bonus: Would you like to see Wes Anderson try his hand at Found Footage?
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#2

Post by blocho »

I'm excited to listen to this one. I haven't heard flavo on a podcast yet, so I'm eager to hear from a new participant.

So ... do you agree with Sol?
I'm guessing this is a bit of purposeful hyperbole on sol's part. Off the top of my head, I think the jailing and oppression of filmmakers (as has occurred recently in Iran) is a worse thing. But, overall, I agree that found footage is a bad thing. Or, to be more specific, it's an interesting idea that has been overused and become shorthand for lazy filmmaking.

What is your relationship with Found Footage? Is it a subgenre you get excited about, tend to seek out or perhaps you find mostly disappointing and overused?
It's not a narrative/visual style that I know very well. I think it occurs most commonly in horror, and I just haven't seen too many of the horror movies of the past 25 years. I certainly don't get excited about it or seek it out. Nor do I avoid it. If I hear about a movie that takes a found footage approach, I do tend to be a bit suspicious because it's kind of a facile way to make a movie different without actually making it better or more interesting.

What are the advantages of found footage films to you (if any)? Can Found Footage do things other genres can't?
The one use of found footage that I think can be intriguing is when it is used to highlight the pervasiveness or insidiousness of public surveillance. I'm thinking, for example, of District 9 or The Wire, both of which use some found footage early on before moving away from it. In both cases, the found footage highlights the existence of an immense and powerful law enforcement apparatus.

Why did Found Footage films become as popular as they were and why did the trend die down?
It's a bit random, isn't it? If Blair Witch hadn't come along, maybe the whole craze wouldn't have occurred. And I suppose it died down because it became too common.
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#3

Post by Fergenaprido »

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I haven't listened to it yet, but I'm surprised if Sol says he dislikes found footage films since he was championing The Dirties and Operation Avalanche a lot last month in the Canadian challenge.

So ... do you agree with Sol?
No, but I won't be dying on the opposing hill anytime soon.

What is your relationship with Found Footage? Is it a subgenre you get excited about, tend to seek out or perhaps you find mostly disappointing and overused?
Most people think of horror films when it comes to found footage, but I think only one of the films I've seen might count as horror. So I haven't seen the typical examples used. Aside from Blair Witch and the Paranormal Activity film, sequels, and knockoffs, I'm not really aware of what found footage films are out there. I have a vague interest to see the two aforementioned films, but I'm more curious than excited about them.

What are the advantages of found footage films to you (if any)? Can Found Footage do things other genres can't?
Make a film on a low budget that has a plausible reason to look low budget. It can be a great way for filmmakers with great ideas to showcase their talent without relying on heavy CGI or other expensive things (which might be why horror films use it, since they can avoid showing the monsters for most of the film).

Are there inherent flaws or weaknesses in the Found Footage subgenre (for instance being the worst thing to happen to cinema)?
Everything needs to be seen through in-film cameras, which can hinder what is shown or make the characters do unrealistic things in order to capture something on film for the movie.

How come it took so long until FF became popular as the first film is from 62 (The Connection) and the major boom was in the 00s. Does it mainly come down to cheaper video cameras and advancing technology?
Probably. I think digital handheld camcorders were the main reason. They were introduced in 1992 and became popular (and relatively inexpensive) after 1995, so it took less than four years for the first big found footage hit to come around, which is pretty quick IMO.

Why did Found Footage films become as popular as they were and why did the trend die down?
Not sure, and don't really care.

Do you think we'll see a resurrection of big Found Footage films and if so, what would it take?
Doubtful

Does Found Footage have untapped potential? Would you like to see it used in different ways and contexts?
My unfounded (pun intended) impression is that found footage horror films primarily employ jump scares, which I loathe - I'd like to see more non-horror films try and creatively employ this filmmaking method.

Bonus: Would you like to see Wes Anderson try his hand at Found Footage?
No. I'd rather he work on The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders (with the original SNL cast)

- - - -

For context, I've only seen 6 found footage films, and perhaps I use the term too loosely. For me, a found footage film is one that exclusively/primarily relies on in-universe cameras to tell the story to the audience, usually personal camcorders, security footage, and media footage.
1. 8.0 - District 9 (2009) - I'm pretty sure all of this film is found footage, not just the beginning, but it's been a while since I saw it and don't rightly remember
2. 7.6 - Chronicle (2012)
3. 7.6 - Cloverfield (2008)
4. 7.6 - Ma vraie vie à Rouen [The True Story of My Life in Rouen / My Life on Ice] (2002)
5. 7.2 - The Dirties (2013)
6. 6.2 - Into the Storm (2014)

I liked the first four (alien scifi, superhero scifi teendiary, monster scifi, and coming-of-age teen videodiary), had problems with the fifth (teen videodiary, see LB review here for more), and didn't care for the last one (disaster teen videodiary).

There were some really great moments in the first three films that utilized the found footage concept really well, I think, and perhaps all three merit a rewatch.
The French film was nice, and is also the earliest found footage film I've seen, and focuses more on character development than anything else.
The last two had good concepts, but missed the mark for me, especially the last one - it's like it used the "made by teens" crutch to explain away poor plot and mediocre acting.
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#4

Post by Fergenaprido »

Okay, listened to it now. :thumbsup:

- I don't see the problem with knowing that you're seeing something that's been filmed. I've never felt like I'm right in the room with the characters, I've always felt like I'm seeing a story play out on the screen removed from myself. Perhaps some films aim for that (say, Avatar in 3D on the big screen), but I'd say the vast majority don't - I always feel like an outside looking in, and found footage films can probably do more to draw me in to feeling like I'm actually there (well, not the ones that rely on security or news footage).

- I agree with flavo's point about artifice and why some things happened to be filmed.

- Orson Welles and War of the Worlds radio broadcast? I didn't realize he was behind that, and at first I thought flavo had mixed him up with the author H.G. Wells. TIL. :D

- What's the name of the "84" Vietnam war film? I can't make it out when people are speaking the title.

- Ah, here we get the discussion about Chronicle and The Dirties and Operation Avalanche.

- Dawson City footage wasn't found in a river, but underneath in an old swimming pool, I believe.

- There's a non-horror short film called Noah from 2013 filmed entirely through screens that I'd recommend.


Suggestion: It would be great to include links of the films discussed/mentioned somewhere.
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#5

Post by OldAle1 »

Ooh forgot to comment - I actually listened to this shortly after it was posted.

So ... do you agree with Sol?

Part of me wants to, because I really don't much like most of the found footage films I've seen, but no, not really. It's a style that rarely appeals to me but as others have mentioned, it can be an effective and interesting, different sort of narrative device - particularly in NON-horror films. If I had to pick an obvious "worst thing that's happened to cinema" it would be shaky-cam but even there I can find some really interesting examples.

What is your relationship with Found Footage? Is it a subgenre you get excited about, tend to seek out or perhaps you find mostly disappointing and overused?

I really don't give a shit about it. I saw The Blair Witch Project in the cinema, new - but it had been out a few months already. My buddy and I, both film snobs of several years' standing at that point, looked at each other when it was over and essentially said "what's the big deal?" I think seeing that - and seeing The Phantom Menace around the same time - and seeing the box office they each generated was another sign for me that popular American cinema was overall sliding more quickly into mediocrity and irrelevance.

What are the advantages of found footage films to you (if any)? Can Found Footage do things other genres can't?

I suppose if artfully used it could convey suspense or mystery in some interesting ways that are hard to do otherwise, but I don't necessarily think any of that is impossible with conventional techniques. And it could be used in a film dealing with memory in interesting ways but again - is there anything FF can do that other kinds of filmmaking can't? Maybe it's my own lack of imagination but I don't see it.

Are there inherent flaws or weaknesses in the Found Footage subgenre (for instance being the worst thing to happen to cinema)?

Well, it's usually very ugly and unappealing to my personal aesthetics - it doesn't have to be, but it's rarely anything that I like looking at. Combining the typical low-res digital video quality with typical washed-out colors and low contrast (admittedly, I'm talking mostly about earlier examples - not sure I've seen much post-2010) makes for a non-appetizing viewing experience for me most of the time. And I think the deliberate limitations in narrative/story possibilities often make for a frustrating experience - even the examples that I've liked the most (probably Cloverfield and [REC] off the top of my head) have felt kind of "incomplete" to me.

How come it took so long until FF became popular as the first film is from 62 (The Connection) and the major boom was in the 00s. Does it mainly come down to cheaper video cameras and advancing technology?

I think it's mostly the cheapness and technology, yeah. It may have something to do with the rise of reality TV and social media as well - put it all together and you do have the makings of a different kind of trend I guess.

Why did Found Footage films become as popular as they were and why did the trend die down?

I really have no clue as to why they got popular - I've never really been a big horror guy until the last few years, and so missed anybody going on about them on horror forums, and I've never paid a huge amount of attention to writing about the genre; I mean, I knew there were all these films, but as to why, it just didn't cross my mind. As to the trend dying, it seems to me from my limited knowledge that few filmmakers tried to do anything new or interesting with it, or if they did they weren't successful commercially. So eventually years of the same-old same-old will get tiring even to the most accepting of audiences. And I suppose to filmmakers.

Do you think we'll see a resurrection of big Found Footage films and if so, what would it take?

Sure, everything gets recycled. What would it take? 2000s nostalgia, I suppose? I dunno.

Does Found Footage have untapped potential? Would you like to see it used in different ways and contexts?

I suppose, but as I've said above, I don't particularly like the look or feel of it and so don't really think about it much. I mean sure, doing a found footage musical or war movie or western would be something different but I don't see any reason to hope for or anticipate such a thing.

Bonus: Would you like to see Wes Anderson try his hand at Found Footage?

Well, it would be almost exactly the furthest thing from what anybody would expect him to do, so it would be interesting in that respect but...not really.


I will say that one thing I'm a little curious about re: sol's reaction, is that given how much he loves the meta in horror, I'd think FF would or could fit right in there. Certainly Cannibal Holocaust - which he rightly calls the best example to date of ff horror - fits this paradigm. And I think Wes Craven in his two major series in some ways anticipates found footage, and I know how much sol loves those.
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#6

Post by sol »

Fergenaprido wrote: August 6th, 2022, 9:25 pm - What's the name of the "84" Vietnam war film? I can't make it out when people are speaking the title.
84C MoPic - sometimes also known as 84 Charlie MoPic: tt0096744
Fergenaprido wrote: August 6th, 2022, 9:25 pm - Ah, here we get the discussion about Chronicle and The Dirties and Operation Avalanche.
Oh yes - even more reason for you to finally watch Operation Avalanche. tehe
OldAle1 wrote: August 6th, 2022, 9:56 pmI will say that one thing I'm a little curious about re: sol's reaction, is that given how much he loves the meta in horror, I'd think FF would or could fit right in there. Certainly Cannibal Holocaust - which he rightly calls the best example to date of ff horror - fits this paradigm. And I think Wes Craven in his two major series in some ways anticipates found footage, and I know how much sol loves those.
When done well, meta horror is mere audience winking, whereas found footage is like having big neon letters shouting "THIS IS FILMED". I understand what you're getting at though.

I did mention Scream 4 in the podcast because Ghostface is filming the murders in that entry. I don't think the other four films really have a found footage element. And I don't recall any found footage in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. New Nightmare is certainly meta, but not found footage, and I can't really remember the other sequels well beyond Parts 2 and 3.
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#7

Post by Onderhond »

St. Gloede wrote: August 1st, 2022, 1:36 pm So ... do you agree with Sol?
Nah, but I can understand his reasoning. It's just that the artificial elements that pull me out of films are things I often find in classic cinema. The acting style, the not quite stable camera work, bad sound quality, clumsy dialogues. It's makes it impossible to get truly invested in a film, and as such enjoy it fully. So yeah, if the camera work or the extra focus on something being literally filmed gives you that, it's not going to be a genre for you.
St. Gloede wrote: August 1st, 2022, 1:36 pm What is your relationship with Found Footage? Is it a subgenre you get excited about, tend to seek out or perhaps you find mostly disappointing and overused?
I certainly don't dislike it. I think it works for what it wants to do, especially in the horror genre. Peeping around a corner through a camera is always a bit more exciting that seeing that same scene filmed in a traditional way. Or the chaos of running away from something horrific. Then again, I do love films like Tetsuo too, so I don't mind a bit of shaky cam. But because they are cheap to make, there's also a lot of crap out there, made by people who don't really have the talent to do it well (because yes, if you're just randomly shaking a camera around, it's not going to look good).
St. Gloede wrote: August 1st, 2022, 1:36 pm What are the advantages of found footage films to you (if any)? Can Found Footage do things other genres can't?
Put you closer to the characters and events, as you're getting a truer first person perspective.
St. Gloede wrote: August 1st, 2022, 1:36 pm Are there inherent flaws or weaknesses in the Found Footage subgenre (for instance being the worst thing to happen to cinema)?
It's incredibly difficult to make something look pretty, and the maximalist aesthetic is very hard to pull off without cheating, so it's never going to be my absolute favorite style of film making.
St. Gloede wrote: August 1st, 2022, 1:36 pm How come it took so long until FF became popular as the first film is from 62 (The Connection) and the major boom was in the 00s. Does it mainly come down to cheaper video cameras and advancing technology?
Technology definitely played a part. Of course, Blair Witch was a lesson in money making many wanted to repeat, but there's also the audience's familiarity with the particular style, which grew exponentially thanks to platforms like YouTube. It still took a long time for found footage to become really popular after Blair Witch (a good 7 or 8 years before the real boom started?).
St. Gloede wrote: August 1st, 2022, 1:36 pm Why did Found Footage films become as popular as they were and why did the trend die down?
It was something new for audiences, plus it was cheap to make, so it was easy to flood the market. Then people got tired of it because it all started to look the same, and creativity/originality wasn't something that is baked into the genre.
St. Gloede wrote: August 1st, 2022, 1:36 pm Do you think we'll see a resurrection of big Found Footage films and if so, what would it take?
Nah, I'm sure it just followed that traditional hype -> big drop -> stabilization curve. These films are still being made (Dashcam is a good recent example), just at a more normal rate.
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