British Columbia

This Vancouver man collects Jerry Maguire tapes — to build a pyramid in the desert

Rob Feller has collected more than 450 VHS tapes of the 1996 Tom Cruise movie in the past eight years for art installation group Everything Is Terrible!

Video and performance collective Everything Is Terrible! has collected about 27,000 copies from fans

Vancouverite Rob Feller says part of what drives him to collect VHS tapes of Jerry Maguire is "the thrill of the chase." (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Some people collect Beanie Babies. Others, rare coins. For Vancouverite Rob Feller, it's VHS copies of a 1996 Tom Cruise movie he's never seen. 

"[People] think I'm crazy — and that's not far off the mark," Feller said from his home in the West End.

Over the past eight years, Feller has led a small group of friends to collect 456 copies of the blockbuster hit Jerry Maguire and donate them to the Los Angeles-based video and performance collective Everything Is Terrible!

Feller is their top "Jerry" collector in Canada. He says the hunt for Jerry Maguire tapes is a fun challenge. He's also keen to contribute to the collective's goal for the tapes: to use them as building blocks for a giant pyramid in the U.S. desert. 

"It's about the absurdity," Feller said. "It's a celebration of everything weird."

Video and performance collective Everything Is Terrible! say their fans have donated about 27,000 VHS tapes of the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire. (Jim Newberry)

Everything Is Terrible! co-creator Dimitri Simakis says his collective is committed to seeing the project through. 

"Don't get me wrong, I know how stupid it is," Simakis said over the phone from L.A. "That's why we can't stop now. It has to get taken all the way — we can't stop until the pyramid is done." 

Salvaging lost culture

What Everything Is Terrible! mostly does is collect old video tapes from places like thrift stores, edit them and post them on the internet as a way to salvage an era of pop culture otherwise relegated to obscurity.

Some of its more popular videos include a woman demonstrating a cat massage and a yellow dinosaur warning parents and children about pedophiles. 

Simakis says the collective, whose members mostly grew up in the 80s and 90s, posts the videos as a way to critique and celebrate the flood of content its members grew up with. 

"We were so inundated with it, it kind of made us sick. And this is our way to regurgitate it back a little bit," he said. 

The "Jerry" collection came about because they kept finding the tapes while searching for other videos. The collective then asked their fans to collect them on their behalf.

In 2017, when the collection reached about 14,000, it became the group's first fully immersive art installation: a fully functional, pop-up a video store that only stocked the 1996 blockbuster about a hot-shot sports agent.

The two-week installation garnered media attention from around the world, and fuelled the Instagram feeds of thousands of people who attended. 

"That was a really nice sign that what we were doing was resonating with people," Simakis said.

The group then decided to push the project further, and turn the tapes into the building blocks of a giant pyramid in the California desert.

"We really want to bring people together and we really like to take ideas to the extreme," he said. 

The 1996 movie Jerry Maguire was released just as DVDs were entering the mainstream, which means a lot of people ditched their VHS copies as they upgraded to DVD. (Image Source: top-3.net)

The project is partly an homage to roadside attractions, Simakis says, and partly a critique of consumer culture — millions of people bought VHS tapes of Jerry Maguire, and then discarded them as technology progressed to DVD. 

The collective currently has more than 27,000 copies of Jerry Maguire, and it's still accepting more. 

Be kind, please rewind

For Vancouverite Feller, contributing to the project has become a hobby and a welcome distraction. 

"It's the thrill of the hunt at this point, it has nothing to do with the film," he said. "It's a reminder just to not take life so seriously." 

Rob Feller recently donated 100 Jerry Maguire VHS tapes to the art collective Everything Is Terrible! and he has already collected another 40. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Feller mostly hunts the tapes down in thrift stores, even sometimes going on road trips to search further afield. 

Last month, he dropped off 100 tapes at the last Everything Is Terrible! show in Vancouver. He already has another 40 in his kitchen. 

Feller also posts messages on social media looking for more and offering $2 per copy — "if they're rewound, of course."

Anyone interest in donating Jerry Maguire DVDs to Everything Is Terrible! can ship them to  PO box 50825, Los Angeles, Calif. 90050.

 

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

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