"Rewind This!" documents the history of the VHS tape

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“Rewind This!” documents the rise and fall of VHS throughout the home video revolution (Photo courtesy of Josh Johnson).

“Rewind This!” documents the rise and fall of VHS throughout the home video revolution. The Daily Texan sat down with director Josh Johnson, producer Carolee Mitchell and cinematographer and editor Christopher Palmer to discuss the importance of VHS and the fate of physical media.

The Daily Texan: How did the idea for this film come about?

Christopher Palmer: Josh Johnson originally came up with this idea … I think it was more related to VHS and VHS collectors and it wasn’t quite as broad. There were the inklings of what it could be. And we interviewed one of the subjects in our film who had all these VHS tapes and it kind of became obvious that there was something really interesting in this whole thing and really beyond this idea.

DT: Is Austin a center for VHS culture?

Josh Johnson: I think the thing that is unique about Austin in terms of its film culture is that it has a lot of people that have moved here specifically to be a part of the existing film culture, rather than something that has been created entirely through people that were originally here. The culture that has sprung up is largely inspired by the Alamo Drafthouse and the kind of offbeat film culture that has been created over the past 20 years and, as a result, there’s a lot of people here with interests in not just classics of cinema but films that slipped through the cracks and have never really gotten their due. 

DT: Do you think that physical mediums like DVD and Blu-ray are on the way to becoming obsolete?

Palmer: Oh, hell yeah they will be. That stuff is dying. They print less and less every year.

Johnson: I think it’s entirely possible that the next film that we make will not even be released on one of those formats. I think we’re really talking about a matter of years before it’s completely gone.

DT: What are your feelings leading up to the film’s premiere?

Mitchell: The movie grew up in Austin. That’s where we filmed it, that’s where it was born. We had so much support from the community in Austin, so the idea of coming back and showing it with that community is just beyond exciting.

Johnson: I would say that I’ve never been more excited about anything in my life than this screening coming up at the Paramount … I’m really excited about the fact that we’re sharing it for the first time, not just with a festival audience or an industry audience, but also with the public that has been so supportive of it up until now. I think it’s going to be a really exhilarating and joyous evening.

DT: Why should “Rewind This!” be important to college students?

Mitchell: It’s the roots. It’s all about a moment in time that changed the film industry for everyone. There’s pre-home video and there’s post. To really understand where we are now, it’s really important to see where those beginnings were.

Johnson: The home video revolution probably altered how society functions in terms of media consumption more than anything before or since, so it’s a movement that really touched everyone, even if they’re not aware of it. And beyond that, just as a filmgoer, it’s a film that is filled up to the brim with passionate voices from people who care very deeply about something, and I think as a filmgoer it ultimately doesn’t really matter what that thing is, it’s always euphoric and exciting to see somebody who cares deeply about something and wants to share their enthusiasm with you.