This video presents a compilation of excerpts from my video essay work. I have produced video essays that traverse the realms of both criticism and scholarship. In all of them, I attempt to experiment with the form in order to probe its potentialities as a form of writing.
The video essays examine a variety of topics through different aesthetic and critical approaches. They equally chart a distinct progression in terms of technical quality. In this regard, the video serves as an overview of my development as a media practitioner.
The video essays on display utilize various formal approaches to the ‘essayistic.’ The basis is a combination of repurposed images and sounds, transformed to convey an argument. Alternatively, voice-over narration, textual inserts, compositing, and/or visual effects are added to bolster the argument.
The video includes textual inserts that provide background information on the individual video essay (for more information, see the links below). The video features excerpts from the following video essays:
Transmedia Synergies - Remediating Films and Video Games (by Matthias Stork)
This video essay combines my interest in video game aesthetics and film analysis. It was published in the Winter 2013 issue of the UCLA Film and Media Studies Journal MEDIASCAPE. I consider it to be my most ambitious video essay project yet.
Media scholar Henry Jenkins wrote a kind appreciation of the essay on his blog.
It was subsequently published on the indiewire blog Press Play.
Slate magazine published a review of the video essay here.
I am currently a graduate student in the cinema and media studies department at UCLA (M.A., expected in 2013). My research centers on the intersections between cinema and digital media and their impact on contemporary visual culture, particularly in relation to the New Digital Hollywood industry. I am especially interested in the synergies between films and video games, the aesthetics of neo-spectacle, and post-cinematic media forms. I further explores the intricacies of transmedia marketing, the stylistic dimensions of remediation, and the use of digital technology in criticism and academic scholarship.
As an aspiring media scholar, I experiment with a new form of writing, the video essay, to display and develop my research. I conceptualize the video essay as an emergent manifestation of database filmmaking, a pastiche system designed to synthesize different works of media art in form of a critical commentary.
This production portfolio chronicles my attempts to navigate these various spheres of media studies.
All video essays and projects were made according to principles of Fair Use (or Fair Dealing), primarily with scholarly, critical, and educational aims. They were published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Here is a short list of institutions and projects I am involved in:
Mediascape Journal: I served as co-editor of the Meta Section for the winter 2013 issue and I am the co-Editor-in-Chief for the spring 2013 issue which is currently under way.
Mediascape Blog: I serve as coordinator and contributor for the newly instituted Mediascape blog, a way for UCLA graduate students in cinema and media studies to interact with each other.
ClipNotes: Dr. Steve Mamber’s iPad application facilitates the integration of video and text for educational purposes.
indiewire Press Play: I have produced video essays and articles for the blog. I collaborated with Matt Zoller Seitz on the video essay Outstanding Collaborative Performance: Yoda(this video essay is a Press Play collaboration examining the contributions of Frank Oz and his team to the pop-culture iconography of Star Wars. Matt was responsible for the voice-over (writing and performance) while I edited the piece. The essay is notable for its collaborative nature. I had a large database of videos, images, sounds, and scores at my disposal. I experimented with different edits, played with the relationship between voice-over, image, and sound. Matt provided instructions in regards to the mood of the essay, how it should feel. Overall, I was granted carte blanche. My first draft was scrutinized by several Press Play contributors, providing feedback on the interrelation between images and sounds. The email and phone call correspondence was both challenging and enlightening. Ultimately, I had to synthesize several responses to produce an edit that was in tune with Matt’s voice-over. The experience of co-producing a video essay reminded me how important discourse and feedback sessions are for this emerging art form. Still in its nascent stage, the video essay can only benefit from a continued discussion that takes account of a plurality of voices. Press Play is such a collaborative community which consistently engages in a dialogue about the art of the video essay).
Video Essay Discourse
I have also discussed the video essay as an emergent form of media criticism and scholarship. It is an ongoing process which I hope to chronicle here in detail. Essentially, I explore the video essay as an exercise in database filmmaking, rhetorical performativity, and phenomenological writing. Furthermore, I pursue questions of the ‘essayistic’ in video essays in order to approach a definition of what the form actually constitutes and what potentialities it offers.
Written Work on Video Essays
Frames Cinema Journal, “In Touch with the Film Object.”
My video essay experiments are hosted on my Vimeo channel, available here.
Furthermore, the video essay has brought together a group of database filmmakers whose work constitutes a constant source of inspiration for me. And their aesthetic as well as intellectual contributions to the form are worthy of consideration. I am limiting my list to video essaysists whose work has had a profound impact upon me and continues to inform my own efforts. There are, of course, numerous others whose work is worthy of further consideration and in-depth analysis.
Kevin B. Lee Kevin B. Lee, editor-in-chief of Press Playand Fandor Keyframeeditor, is undoubtedly the leading video essayist and the form’s most prolific advocate. His production and curatorial work has immensely advanced the video essay, both in terms of aesthetics, distribution, and theory.
Matt Zoller Seitz Matt Zoller Seitz is the television critic for New York Magazine and the founder of the video essay blog Press Play. He has produced numerous video essays all of which showcase a different aesthetic approach. His work is particularly notable for its experimentalism and innovation.
Jim Emerson Jim Emerson is a critic for the Chicago Sun Times and maintains the film criticism blog Scanners. His video essays are reflections on specific motifs in films and frequently incorporate a poetic dimension.
Catherine Grant Catherine Grant is a film scholar at the University of Sussex in England and maintains the academic blog Film Studies for Free. As a video essayist, she is predominantly interested in exploring notions of authorship and intertextuality. Her academic work is further concerned with the effects and potentialities of digital scholarship and she is the leading curator of video essays.
The video essay John Ford’s Vision of the West is primarily an exercise in adaptation. Essentially, it distills the core of a writen essay into audiovisual form. The essay explores the director’s aesthetic portrayal of the frontier and his engagement with its mythos.
It was a challenge to ‘reduce’ a 20-page paper into a ten-minute video essay. I had to re-evaluate the paper in terms of its audiovisual quality. Video essays, in my opinion, should aspire to do what traditional writing cannot accomplish. I am not sure whether I succeeded in crafting an engaging and informative work. But it stands as an experiment to synthesize divergent forms of writing and research.
The video essay Crash-Cam: through a Lens Shattered forms part of a project that integrates traditional and multimedia scholarship and consists of a written essay, a video essay, and repurposed YouTube clips.
The written essay is an elaboration of the notion of Chaos Cinema which evolved from a video essay series into a conference presentation (delivered at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference in Boston, MA, in March 2012) and subsequently into an article for the online academic publication Media Fields Journal. The essay predominantly centers on the use of sound in Chaos Cinema films —a point which was only peripherally pursued in the video essay— and its significance in a phenomenological framework of film reception.
A series of YouTube clips provide broad exemplifications of specific stylistic features of Chaos Cinema. The written essay focuses on particular moments conveyed by the videos.
The video essay Crash-Cam illustrates an aesthetic motif that has become widespread in mainstream action filmmaking: the movement of objects towards the screen and, in many cases, the penetration of the screen. This motif is an integral part of cinema history, occuring in many of the earliest exercises in filmmaking. Today, it is repurposed to renegotiate spectators’ relationship to the screen in an effort to simulate the effects (and affect) of interactive popular media such as video games and theme park rides.
The written essay details these deliberations while the video essay serves as an audiovisual complement. The project, overall, is an attempt to capitalize on existing multimedia resources to produce a richer and more comprehensive form of scholarship.
This video is a foray into experimentation. It is an attempt to evoke visual poetry. The video combines a poem inspired by Alain Resnais’ L’année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad) with footage from the film. It is important to note that this experiment is a collaboration. The poem was written by J.M. Olejarz, performed by Dana Covit, and edited by me.
The poem is designed to evoke the vision of the author, J.M. Olejarz, a fellow UCLA graduate student. He is chiefly responsible for the look and feel of the poem, supervising the editing and voice performance, and incorporating suggestions by Dana and me.
Working on this project has allowed me to delve into the mechanics of editing, acting and performance, as well as the art of poetic writing. It is also a challege to leave the argument-centric realm of the ‘essayistic’ and focus entirely on a work governed by emotionalism, mood, and composition.
As we continue to work on the video, refining audio quality, nuancing edits and vocal performance, all of us will learn more about what the concept of visual poetry can actually be(come).
The video essay Cine-Painting - The Kino-Brush explores Lev Manovich’s concept of the kino-brush (as introduced in his monograph The Language of New Media) in relation to early and modern cinema. Particularly, it seeks to understand the concept in the context of the oeuvre of Tony Scott.
The video essay is also a commemoration of Scott’s work as a filmmaker, released shortly upon his passing. It honors his experimental audacity and his atistic ability to fuse cinema and painting in inspiring ways.
Furthermore, by virtue of a meta-textual approach, I implicitly attempt to explore a few aspects video essay production itself, particularly in regards to its significance for a new form of reading and writing about film and moving image media.
The video essay is based on a conference presentation titled Acid Aesthetics - Tony Scott’s Cinema of Chaos, delivered at the SouthWestern Popular Culture Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in February 2012.
The video essay (along with excerpts from the paper) were published on the academic blog Film Studies for Free, curated by Catherine Grant.
The video essay was peer-reviewed and published in the first issue of Frames Cinema Journal (including a written complement). The same issue also features a written essay on Chaos Cinema and an interview about video essays with UCLA cinema and media studies professor Janet Bergstrom.
The video essay Moving Pieces - Sergio Leone’s Duel is designed as a purely audiovisual examination of a thematic and aesthetic motif in the Western films of Italian auteur Sergio Leone. It forgoes voice-over narration in an attempt to construct a critical, ‘essayistic’ argument entirely composed of images and sounds (as well as textual inserts).
Moving Pieces aims to exemplify and deconstruct the overarching iconography of Leone’s work to emphasize, on the one hand, its formal rigidity and, on the other hand, the director’s flexibly playful take on it.
This video essay raises the question whether it is indeed a video essay or a mere mash-up. It was conceived as a supplement to Transmedia Synergies, a video essay on the aesthetic, industrial, and critical synergies between films and video games. In said analysis, I was unable to include the film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) extensively (in fact, it is only featured in the opening montage and makes a brief appearance in the latter half of the essay). But since the film, in my opinion, epitomizes the concept of film/video game synergy, I produced this short video as a supplemental feature (included on the DVD for Transmedia Synergies, a class project).
The video compiles ‘remediation’ scenes from the scene and fuses them with a video game-esque score. The goal is to exemplify how the film incorporates references to video game aesthetics into its own formal framework.
Is it a video essay? The video forgoes voice-over narration and explicit textual inserts. To a certain degree, it seeks to make its point purely audiovisually. Personally, I argue that its aesthetic is essayistic. The montage of scenes clearly communicates an argument, namely that the film is consciously ituating itself in the formal context of video game history.
Nevertheless, it is designed as a mash-up. At any rate, it constitutes an effort to ponder the notion of the essayistic and explore the concept of remediation in contemporary filmmaking.