In the past few weeks a new web series has debuted on YouTube. A surreal and disturbing collection of sketches, animation and songs, Mr Biffo’s Found Footage has been in production for a full year, made with a budget raised through Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Now that every episode is available to watch, this seems like the time to take a closer look at this series and ask: just who is Mr Biffo, what is Found Footage really all about, and is it any good?
So let’s start with revealing the identity of Mr Biffo, mysterious creator of Found Footage. If you’re wondering what Mr Biffo actually looks like, you can see him shuffling about on screen in some episodes of Found Footage. If there’s a man wearing a mullet wig or some ill fitting cut-off denim shorts, that’ll be him. In real life though, Mr Biffo is also known as Paul Rose, a successful writer who has worked on real television programmes that have actually been shown on the telly. Throughout a long career Rose has written scripts and produced shows such as My Parents Are Aliens and Dani’s Castle, and has received a ‘Royal Television Society Award’ for the 4 O’Clock Club. He also wrote the script for Pudsey the Dog: The Movie, but then everybody has an off day every now and then.
The Mr Biffo persona came about when Rose first rose to prominence as the main writer and co-creator of Digitiser, a video games magazine featured on Channel 4’s Teletext pages back in the nineties. Writing under the pseudonym of Mr Biffo, Rose developed a subversive and surreal sense of humour which seemed at odds with the Teletext format, and led to the magazine building a dedicated audience of up to 1.5 million viewers. Rose eventually moved on from Teletext and forged a successful script writing career, however he would later return to the Mr Biffo persona in 2014 with a new website, Digitiser 2000, followed in 2016 by the Block Party convention, a joint celebration of Digitiser and Teletext.
The origins of Found Footage can be traced to a short series of clips specially created by Rose for this convention, recreating some of the fake adverts featured on the original run of Digitiser. An example of the subversive humour associated with the magazine, these pages appeared to be one of the usual adverts featured on Teletext, until the viewer paid closer attention to the nonsensical products. Inspired by the experience of making these videos, Rose launched a Kickstarter campaign for a full series called Found Footage with a subsequent Indiegogo campaign raising further funds for a more ambitious final episode, resulting in a combined budget in the region of £22,000.
In addition to the convention clips which have been adapted to become the pilot episode, Rose has produced a Christmas special, prologue episode, a full series of six episodes, and an epic finale complete with higher production values. All in all, there’s an impressive amount of original content when you consider the budget available. Rose has relied on supporters of the Kickstarter campaign throughout the production process, through contacting backers to source suitable locations for filming, requesting feedback and inviting extras to take part. Along with a few fans, the cast features Rose’s friends and family members, other Youtube personalities, American performers hired through Fiverr, and even a few celebrity cameos. The various elements of each episode are linked together by an introduction that reveals that they are all VHS tapes found at a car boot sale, complete with the tracking errors and poor visual quality of the format. Along with providing a consistent aesthetic style, this conceit also helps to disguise the limited budget and resources.
If you want to watch Found Footage, you should know that it’s pretty strange. It’s the sort of programme that you’re reluctant to recommend to your mates, in case they think you’ve gone mad. The series has a real atmosphere of raw creativity and invention, and the subversive humour has a way of taking you by surprise. There’s a constant barrage of genres, including animation, songs, sketches and home footage. There are fake adverts where characters with names such as Flansy C-Bong try to promote their awful products. Other sequences include Police front man Sting playing a computer game which becomes increasingly disturbing, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak going on a violent rampage, and a song about cutting off and eating people’s hair as they sleep. While this all seems to be pretty random, after watching a couple of episodes you start to uncover clues pointing to an ongoing narrative, a mystery storyline concerning the ominous Xenoxxx Corporation, the messianic figure of Goujon John, and something to do with bums and poo.
It seems pretty redundant to review a series like this. There are no concessions or compromises made to make this series more attractive to a larger audience. There’s a good chance you will likely be baffled and/or repulsed when exposed to Mr Biffo’s Found Footage. But you could also find yourself pulled in by the dark humour, the surreal and disturbing atmosphere, and the crazy invention of it all. And it is free to watch after all. As a backer of the Kickstarter campaign my name is on the credits of the final episode, so that’s pretty cool as well.
The full series of Mr Biffo’s Found Footage is available on the Digitiser 2000 Youtube channel. Check out the teaser trailer below.