Volume 2, Issue 14: A YouTube Debut
And catching up on various news and notes in the video essay world!
It’s great to be back with you all here in 2022. I hope the new year has gotten off to a decent start despite, you know, everything. After nearly two years of luckily evading the virus, I spent the final days of 2021 recovering from COVID, which, thankfully, was not too bad for me all things considered. Thank you, vaccines!
Some Favorites of 2021
One of the few benefits of testing positive was I had a chance to catch up on many 2021 movies I had missed. This year was the first in which I felt as though I had seen enough movies to create a list of personal favorites. Of course, there are many movies I have yet to see, including the highly-acclaimed Drive My Car, which I’m hoping to catch a screening of this week. I tried to base the list, which will undoubtedly change, less around “best” and more around the films I spent the most time thinking about. What were some of your favorites?
(P.S. I’ve started using Letterboxd a lot more lately. Feel free to follow me there!)
Since the last time I sent out an issue of this newsletter, the annual Sight & Sound poll of the “best” video essays of 2021 has been published. Many thanks to Ariel Avissar, Grace Lee, and Cydnii Wilde Harris for curating the poll once again! I was honored and grateful that a few of my own works were selected. And I can’t wait to catch up on the dozens of video essays I missed in the last year! To get you started, here were my picks:
A YouTube Debut
The new year began on an exciting note for me: I made my YouTube video essay debut! I was thrilled to have a chance to collaborate with Adam Tinius, who runs the popular YouTube channel Entertain the Elk.
Adam asked me to research and then draft the script for a video essay on Sergio Leone’s use of the close-up. And then Adam got to work on the hard stuff: revising the script, providing a superb voiceover, and then of course editing the video itself. My obvious bias aside, I think it turned out great! You can watch it here:
I did not see what Adam did with the script until the video was published. Watching for the first time was an odd and thrilling experience to say the least. Adam left most all of the original script I wrote in the piece, so it was rather uncanny to hear many of “my” words not only come out of his mouth, but to then also see his videographic adaptation unfold on screen.
For example, I found his use of black and white when quoting theorists like Balázs and Barthes to be a particularly effective choice. By simply changing the color, the image evokes what the text itself demonstrates: the cinematic traditions in which Leone’s cinema operates and disrupts.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience and I hope to collaborate in this way again soon. Writing this out now makes me realize that chatting with Adam on the podcast about the collaboration (and, of course, his work in general) would make for an interesting conversation.
Remixing One’s Own Found Footage
For The Observer, critic Guy Lodge put together a “31-day short film diet for January.” Unfortunately, I have not been following the diet. But I have poked around the list and watched several of the films.
I just want to give a quick shoutout to one of the films I particularly enjoyed, and one that will be of special interest to those who read this newsletter. The film is called Taking Stock (2017), by Duncan Cowles.
The four-minute film is narrated by Cowles, an aspiring filmmaker, who tells his story of trying to make money by selling stock footage. He finds little success in this field; and little money even when a piece of his footage does manage to sell.
The film remixes his “unsuccessful” stock footage into a short tale about the struggle to make it in the film industry, the thousands if not millions of hours of meticulously shot footage that will go unseen, and the undervalued and under-appreciated labor that goes into creating the images we encounter every day. It’s a fantastic piece that I would encourage all to watch.
And finally, I just wanted to share a bit of good news. I was honored to have been selected to participate in Berlinale Talents 2022 as a member of the Talent Press next month! It is sure to be a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to learn from the other participants and mentors. Be on the lookout for more updates in this newsletter! : )
Don’t miss this upcoming event, featuring a fantastic group of videographic critics and scholars! From the event description:
“This two-day Zoom symposium will dedicate day 1 to interrogating the affordances and knowledge claims of three distinctive modes of videographic practice in panels dedicated to the desktop documentary, the personal exploration, and parametric/deformative approaches. On day 2, all participants will be invited to define and debate the key issues for the development of videographic criticism in parallel workshops, and a closing roundtable will recapitulate the symposium findings and set out themes and questions to be considered at future events. The symposium will feature emerging as well as established voices in order to build networks and to expand the community of videographic practitioners, and is run over two days to work for as many time zones as possible.”
Episode 29. Thomas Flight
The latest episode of The Video Essay Podcast features a conversation with Thomas Flight, one of the most popular and prolific video essayists currently working on YouTube. We discuss Thomas' origin story, his audience, and how he balances paying the bills as a full-time video essayist with his passion projects. We also discuss his video essay, "The Side of Scorsese We Don't Talk About," and a fantastic video essay by fellow YouTuber, Jacob Geller, "The Game That Won't Let You See All Of It."
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News & Notes
Please send news and notes for future newsletters to firstname.lastname@example.org
The deadline to apply to the Scholarship in Sound & Image Workshop (aka “Video Essay Camp”) at Middlebury College is February 1. Learn more about the workshop and application process here.
Learning on Screen has invited student video essayists to attend a workshop, “Copyright and Fair Practice for Video Essayists,” to be held on February 1. Learn more here.
Screenworks has a new call for practice for a new special issue on “Musicology on Screen” edited by Estrella Sendra, Barley Norton and Joseph Owen Jackson. The deadline for proposals is February 1. Learn more here.
The journal Tecmerin has put out a new CFP for video essays. The deadline is April 15. Learn more here.
For the fourth consecutive year, first-year students at American University, under the supervision of Jeff Middents, made video essays for The Contemporary World Cinema Project, responding to the question: "what is world cinema today?" Watch here.
All of the video essays published as part of Monographs, a series of essays on Asian cinema—in both audiovisual and written forms —commissioned by the Asian Film Archive, are now available online. Watch here.
Issue five of Tecmerin was published at the end of 2021. Read and watch here.
For those who may be in or making their way through Palo Alto: “SCREENTIME: An Exhibition of Desktop Videos” by Shane Denson’s class at Stanford University, “The Video Essay: Writing with Video about Media and Culture” and Allison de Fren’s “The Video Essay” at Occidental College, is now on display. More here.
Watch the trailer for “The End of History,” an upcoming video essay series from Scout Tafoya and Tucker Johnson.
Ian Garwood has updated his playlists of video essays about video essay making. More here.
And s/o to some intergenerational video essaying!
In the latest issue of NECSUS: “A videographic future beyond film” by Kevin B. Lee
The latest issue of Ekphrasis is dedicated the essay film. Read here.
Polygon’s list of the best video essays of 2021
Film School Rejects’ best video essays of 2021
All Light, Expanded, a new companion website to Theo Anthony’s fantastic documentary, All Light, Everywhere, can be found here.
Many congratulations to Jason Mittell for receiving a NEH/Mellon Fellowship to support his audiovisual book, "The Chemistry of Character on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.”
An article in The Guardian by Olivia Laing: “Ways of Seeing at 50: how John Berger’s radical TV series changed our view of art”
Filmscalpel is currently in the process of compiling a video essay dossier on video games and is looking for suggested video essays. Learn more here.
From NonFics: a guide to all the documentaries you should see in 2022
From Sight & Sound: a survey of experimental cinema in 2021
And finally, a fun thread I started at the end of 2021 featuring tons of great video essays!
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