Found Footage Database

Welcome to the Found Footage database

The practice of found footage consists in creating a new film or video from found moving images. The sources used range from home movies to Hollywood classics to commercials and educational films. Their reuse offers unlimited possibilities: modification or conservation of the order of the shots, use of one or more sources, addition of original shots, physical or digital alteration of the picture, acceleration or slowing down, conservation or modification of the original soundtrack, adding comments, dubbing, etc. The artist thus appropriates these images and decontextualizes them for a critical, parodic, didactic, narrative or purely aesthetic purpose.

This approach is not specific to cinema and over the centuries, each art form gave birth to one or more movements that recycles existing works. Found footage therefore belongs to the tradition of artistic appropriation which includes cento (literature and music), spolia (architecture), collage (visual arts), cut-up (literature), sampling (music), remix (music), mashup (video and music) and probably many more.

But why pay so much attention to found footage? Indeed, hundreds of films belong to this category or are assimilated to it, the literature on the subject abounds and an annual magazine is even devoted to it (Found Footage Magazine). How to explain such an attraction for an art which consists in reprocessing the work of other artists?

A positive revelator of continuity editing

In cinema, a film is written three times before reaching its final form: first time when elaborating the screenplay, second time during the shooting and third and final time during the editing. The audience knows how to appreciate the scenario, the performance of the actors and the work of the director. On the other hand, editing has to be as seamless as possible. Even though a cinephile may identify clever continuity editing here and there, editing is mostly noticeable when it doesn’t work. The editing work is therefore rarely appreciated for what it is, namely the third writing step of the movie that can completely change the meaning of the initially intended story. However, in found footage, the viewer notices that two succeeding shots were not conceived to fit together: they differ in lighting, color grading, format, actors, or all of the above. It is easy to deduce that these shots do not come from the same sequence, not from the same film or that something has been altered. However, the artist has taken care to set a continuity via eyeline match, match on action or any other continuity editing commonly used in any movie. The seam then becomes visible not because it does not work but on the contrary because it works even though the two shots were not originally supposed to be bound together. Thus, found footage highlights continuity editing and allows the viewer to appreciate its quality.

Editing as an autonomous writing process

Found footage is not that different from traditional editing because the editor hardly writes or directs the movies he/she edits. The editor works from rushes that someone else has created, just like the found footage artist. However, in found footage, no screenwriter and no director will give any direction to the editor. Found footage is therefore an editing work freed from any screenwriting constraints decided by others. The artist can write a script from the available footage before editing or try out various combinations directly on the flatbed editor or in the editing software. On the other hand, a major constraint remains: the editor has to work with the pictures that are already fixed on film. Building a coherent film out of disparate sources therefore requires a certain mastery of editing. When one is aware of these difficulties, the result inspires admiration. Found footage thus reveals the power of editing as a writing step capable of breaking free from the screenplay and going beyond the content fixed on film.

Recycling forgotten films

Thousands of films lie dormant in public and private collections with little hope of ever being projected again. These are unsuccessful feature films, forgotten shorts, little-seen documentaries, old educational films, family films sold at a flea market - in short, films no one will ever see again. Unless they are used as raw material for a new movie. Found footage takes advantage of this windfall of abandoned images and reuses them to create something new. In doing so, these films regain visibility and get a second life. We can also say that found footage is an ecological art since it reuses a pre-existing material, allowing the economy of the resources necessary for a shoot.

Found Footage Database

As you already understood, I am fond of found footage. Therefore, I created this website to facilitate access to found footage and promote it. Here you will find a list of found footage films and videos, a bibliography on the subject, a list of video editions, articles and a list of festivals showing these films. If you want to get started with the editing of found films, you will also find a detailed tutorial on how to build your own film scanner in the "articles" section. Please have a look.

Enjoy your visit!