SFC4 | Introduction to the Video Essay

For this module, ‘Short Form Content 4’, I will be investigating the video essay and discovering how to effectively produce my own. I have always admired a well made video essay, so I am looking forward to researching deeply into how they work and gain a greater understanding of how to produce something informative and engaging for a wider audience to learn from.

Below are a few current video essay writers whose work I return to regularly. They each have their own unique style to their work which I will explore below:

Lewis Bond (Channel Criswell)

Lewis Bond focuses on the history of cinema, and often compares the techniques and impact of older films to that of modern day films. Bond is very good at dissecting a genre in each essay and exposing how that genre has changed within modern day cinema. In the example above he looks at how action cinema has changed and compares Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Seven Samurai’ to current action blockbusters. His use of editing to compare shots and edits between these films reinforces what he says, which also provides clarity to the points he makes. His work is very information heavy, but the way he constructs his essays and provides visual examples and explanations makes his work highly engaging and convincing.

Tony Zhou (Every Frame A Painting)

Tony Zhou is very good at letting the footage speak for itself. He focuses on specific techniques and methods of filmmaking and explains how they work, or why they don’t work. In the example above he looks at visual comedy and concentrates on one of my favorite directors ‘Edgar Wright’. He looks at a wide range of methods that work for visual comedy and organises them into an easy to digest list of techniques. This makes his essays easy to follow, and I find myself gaining a great understanding of the points he has made even after a single viewing. His essays are very well edited, as he uses a good balance of narrated clips and pure footage from the films. Zhou lets the examples he gives unfold in front of us which helps a viewer absorb all the information being shown.

Evan Puschak (The Nerdwriter)   

Evan Puschak creates much shorter video essays, but he covers a far wider area of topics than only film. Within each essay, Puschak has a theme to explore and uses a primary example to demonstrate his point. In the example above, he looks at current day politics and uses ‘The Truman Show’ to demonstrate and reinforce the points he is exploring. Puschak’s Essays are tightly constructed, delivering an insightful and engaging packet of information in one 6-8 minute chunk. I think this is the optimum length of time for a video essay, as it allows for the subject to be covered on a basic level, but also sets up a viewer with enough information to investigate further if they want a greater understanding. His essays generate curiosity with their thoughtful titles and provide just enough satisfaction to encourage further research and learning.

Adam Johnston (Your Movie Sucks)

Adam Johnston produces film reviews more than essays, but I think there is enough similarity between these two distinctions to make it worth including in my research. Johnston creates much lighter and more entertaining content than the aforementioned creators, but I think it is very important to keep a level of entertainment and engagement in ones own work. When something is made with the intention to be listened to and heard by a wider audience, it must have a necessary level of appeal to stand out on the competitive online platforms. I think this is something Johnston does well, and I often go to his videos to be entertained, but leave with some new knowledge or understanding on a subject I had no intention to learn about.

By looking at the range of different approaches and styles these creators use when producing their video essays, I feel I can find my own technique to making my video essay and decide on what manner and form it will take. I will be exploring the meaning  we give to different cuts in cinema and why we have given these meanings.

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