A Lesson Learned from VHYes

As co-host of the Footcandle Films podcast, I’m often looking for movies that might not make it to the big multiplex theaters but still have plenty of entertainment value and are worth a watch. For a recent episode I reviewed the anthology sketch comedy flick VHYes.  The film’s premise is that a young kid gets a VHS video camera for Christmas in 1987. He then mistakenly records odd late night television shows and random home movies over his parent’s wedding tape.  This new movie (just released in 2020) was shot entirely on VHS tape using an old VHS camera…not digitally…not on film.

This creative decision made quite an impact on me.  Why?  When working on projects creators can often feel pushed to utilize the latest technology or trend (camera footage from a drone is one of the latest fads du jour). Seeking out a truly unique approach can prove to be more challenging and time consuming but often more rewarding.

In VHYes director Jack Henry Robbins could have decided to make a skit-based retro comedy nodding to the popularity of shows like Stranger Things and The Goldbergs on film using state-of-the-art cameras.  With all the available trickery of digital effects Robbins could have easily manipulated the footage in the editing room to achieve a faux-authentic 80’s era specific look.  Instead he used an outdated format that had poor image quality and bad color…normally these things would decrease a film’s look or production value.  In this case it served to make the film feel more “real” because it looked conceivable that the film was actually the result of a bored kid experimenting with a new toy in the late 80’s. An added bonus is that many moviegoers (count myself in this tabulation) become intrigued after learning about the film’s quirky production making the lore serve as a clever promotional tool.

As I sit in planning meetings discussing upcoming projects VHYes will serve as a reminder that it is not necessarily the new gadgets you have at your disposal that can make a project unique. The differentiator could be how you choose to tell your story.  Setting what appear to be limitations (such as shooting on an outdated inferior VHS format) can open up new and unexpected avenues of inspiration and creation.

Currently Listening To: Live Phish Albums on Apple Music