Film Studies in Motion: From audiovisual essay to academic research video

Types and formal aspects: a taxonomy

Mapping and categorizing current videos is a precarious task: first, one needs to acknowledge that the foggy definition of ‘essay videos’ factually opens the scope up to a wide array of video content that features – sometimes vaguely – reframed film excerpts (where the ‘fogginess’ comes from either obscure annotation or by the sheer fact that a sequence is lifted from its original narrative or rhetoric and, subsequently, its emotional and aesthetic context). Videos by scholars and critics labeled as ‘essay videos’ also share many traits and formal properties with fan videos and ‘tributes’. Moreover, it is far from uncommon that those who make essayistic and analytical videos also dabble in videos that are more geared toward film appreciation or entertainment. The term ‘filmmaker’ is also used hazily: whereas Matt Zoller Seitz actually directed a feature film, others (like Nelson Carvajal and Kogonada) appear ready to adopt the moniker with reference to their output of mashups and supercuts. Additionally, videos may have been commissioned and produced for a specific platform, but when uploaded to personal YouTube or Vimeo accounts, they end up in various collections that range throughout the gamut of entertainment, fandom, and scholarly work. Scholarly collections of video essays do not uphold (or have at all) strict (or any) criteria either. In other cases, contributors, members or subscribers are encouraged to offer videos that are hardly scholarly by any traditional standards. As will come forth in our discussions of the video essay panel of Ebertfest 2013 and the 2014 launch event of [in]Transition, early audiovisually produced Film Studies are aimed more at establishing, broadening, and sharing the view on film history rather than pushing the envelope of hardcore theory or even analysis (as the practice is changing as we speak, this claim might lose its relevance). Nevertheless, the presently available and proliferating groups are the best instances to look for videos, as institutionalized curating is lagging behind.
            Again, the technical and logistical restrictions that come with our book call for the need to be compact and retain focus. Therefore, we have decided to discern dominant video categories – (annotated) excerpts, supercuts, mashups, videographic analyses, video lectures, and thesis videos –, which can be broken up into smaller ones. Note that the traits ascribed to these categories do not always show up within their given category, nor are they exclusively bound to these classifications. What we are presenting here are dominant tendencies in recurring and comparable characteristics. For overview and referential purposes, we have comprised a table to accompany the more in-depth, investigative texts that follow. Again, the numbers and positive/negative scores in this table represent tendencies with dominant occurrences.

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