Video Killed the Essay Star

Examples of Video Essays.

If last week we saw examples of merely composing a video essay by grafting onto a scene a “running commentary” this week we’ll be looking at slightly more elaborate ways of composing and producing a video essay.

Kevin B. Lee on the nature of the “video essay”:

These video essays are a bit more elaborate than the ones we saw last week, mostly because they don’t focus on one scene nor do they focus on merely reading off of a script, but they function along the same lines in terms of wanting to present an argument visually.

– Some are variations on the “voice-over” but with more cuts and edits to highlight what is being argued. Take a look at “Pass the Salt”, an exploration of a short scene in Anatomy of a Murder (1959) by Christian Keathley.

– Some can focus merely on visuals: Here’s one from Audiovisualcy, which defines itself as “an online forum for video essays about films and moving image texts, film and moving image studies, and film theory.” This is an example on the use of the golden ratio and tracking shots in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007):

There Will Be Blood / Through Numbers from Ali Shirazi on Vimeo.

Assignment for Next Week:

Pick one of the video essays listed below (sign up sheet on Google Drive) and write an annotation of it (Discuss its title, its organizational structure [Introduction/Title Card/Background on Film, Credits, etc.], what tools it uses — is it a voice-over? does it use music? is it heavily edited? does it use graphics? — how effective it is, how long it is, etc.) Find information on the composer (if available), tell us where it was posted, what its description is; be as thorough as you can be. Either embed the video essay into your post or link to it, and post an image (screenshot) of it. 500 words or more. 

Next week we’ll be going around the room and you’ll be tasked to give a short oral presentation on it so come prepared to do that (you’re also welcome to watch everyone’s video essay choices though that is not a requirement).

A.I. Artificial Intelligence: A Visual Study (1 of 2)” by Ben Samson (2009)

Substance of Style Part 5: The Royal Tenenbaums’  Prologue by Matt Zoller Seitz (2009) 

Outlaw Vision: Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker” by  Michael Joshua Rowin and Matt Soller Seitz (2010)

The Spielberg Face” by Kevin B. Lee (2011)

Everything is a Remix: Part 2” by Kirby Ferguson (2011)

Chaos Cinema Part 1” by  Matthias Stork (2011)

Establishing Split: Requiem 102 Project #2” by Catherine Brant (2011)

Analysis of Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)” by Steven Benedict (2012)

The Oscars and the Bechdel Test” by Feminist Frequency (2012)

Ebert Presents: Race and the Movies” by Kartina Richardson (2012)

Super: A Brief History of Superhero Films” By Michael Mirasol (2012)

Movies Are For Men” by Studio Little (2013)

WTF Happened to Movie Posters?” by GoodBadFlicks (2013)

Electric Sheep: How Female Power Is Limited By Consumer Culture” by Serena Bramble & Arielle Bernstein (2014)

David Fincher: And the Other Way is Wrong” by Tony Zhou (2014)

Pre-Classical Cinema: A Timeline of Cinema Episode 1” by Bradley Weatherholt (2014)

The History of the Movie Trailer” by Filmmaker IQ (2014)

How Samurai Films are Responsible for Star Wars” by Film School’d (2014)

SHAME ‘Opening Shot’ – Film Analysis” by Must See Films (2014)


About Manuel Betancourt

Manuel is a New York City-based writer, editor, and critical thinker. He's a pop culture enthusiast and an eternal Buffy fan. His work has appeared in Film Comment,, Backstage Magazine, Vice, INTO,, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Catapult, among others. He's a regular contributor to Remezcla and Electric Literature. | @bmanuel
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