Found Footage

The Modern Narrative Voice?

John Fraim

Old Devil Moon

Found-footage films is becoming a definition for a new type of narration, narrative, and narrator to express the truly modern perspective on our world today. In this sense, the truth of the world might better be expressed through the context or narrative voice than just the words of content of this voice. Everything in life has context and content. In many ways, they are the two battling symbols of our lives. Feminine and Masculine archetypes in many ways. The Feminine is always context, the context of water. Masculine is always content, the content of fire.

The type of narration has yet to be classified under a new definition other than the found footage genre of storytelling. It perhaps is best at telling our modern story of living in our age of incredible information and technology. In our world today, it might be very appropriate to call our new artists and creators those who pull together what is presently in the world rather than create things that are presently not in the world.

The suggestion is that our new artists and creators in the world might be those who find (discover) things in the world rather than create things not in the world. Storytellers working in this genre find evidence and this evidence (or found footage) present pieces of a puzzle to the mystery the creator of the found footage was attempting to solve. Now, it is up to the storyteller who finds this footage (and the audiece) to attempt to solve the mystery represented in the found footage.

The emerging newfound footage type of narration uses the “evidence” of our present world to reinforce the story the artist is trying to tell the world today. In many ways, it is perhaps evidence to tell that great American story. One’s great story of living in these times. 

This newfound footage voice attempts to pull things in the world together rather than create new voices or things in the world. The definition of a new type of artist in our world who uses things in the present to tell a story rather than invents new things to tell a story. It is a matter of finding items (often in various media) to tell a story. Finding that “found footage” in evidence outside the scope of the author’s creation. There is a great trustworthiness to this found evidence by the author as opposed to the author’s argued evidence from him or her alone.

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Archive 81 is the greatest example of this new, developing “found footage” genre of storytelling. The new narrative voice for our times. It doesn’t present all the answers for the elements of this new genre of filmmaking. But it suggests the outlines of the new narrative in a clear manner. 

The “found footage” genre might best be described as creating a story from finding the previously created piece of a story. Some in forms outside literature and existing as sounds or music or photos or segments of film. In this sense, it typically employs one or more of a few key cinematic techniques. There is the first-person perspective of the creator of the piece of “found footage.” The is also a documentary film aspect to the found footage piece. Also, a news component as well as a surveillance aspect of the footage. No one knows they are on/in film. 

As a plot device, found footage has precedents in literature, particularly in the epistolary novel which typically consists of either correspondence or diary entries, purportedly written by a character central to the events. Like found footage, the epistolary technique has often been employed in horror fiction: both Dracula and Frankenstein are epistolary novels, as are the works of authors such as H.P. Lovecraft. 

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It needs to be kept in mind that Archive 81 started its life in sound and not image. The sound was the podcast series of Archive 81 that debuted in March 2016, was the first podcast from Powell and Sollinger. The podcast went for three seasons until 2018.

The first podcast of Archive 81 represented the sound version of a found footage film of images. It’s a genre of filmmaking that started with the bizarre (and legendary) Cannibal Holocaust in 1979 and continued through leading found footage films like The Blair Witch ProjectParanormal Activity and Cloverfield. There are many more than this and a short Google search will turn up many all types of top found footage lists of films that almost all of us have seen. Yet, none of these other found footage films started in that medium of sound, as a podcast. 

Sound plays such an important part in the brilliant streamer right now on Netflix with its Archive 81. I have just watched the entire eight episodes and can say that it is one of the greatest pieces of filmmaking I have ever interacted with. One of the brilliant new narrative methods employed in Archive 81 is to play around with the “found footage” genre of narration. Mix it up for the audience so that it appears in the various guises as in the brilliant Archive 81

The “found footage” genre presents us with audiovisual material that is presented outside of its original context: images that were found (in a film archive or home movie) rather than created expressly for a particular work of art. In many ways, the found footage genre of film is like the epistolary novel assembled from diaries and pieces of evidence, apparently outside the creation of the author of the work. It represents the state-of-the-art in the found footage world of storytelling. It is a world that is discovered (or found) rather than created. It extends the possibilities for the genre of storytelling first used in Cannibal Holocaust and Blair Witch Project

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