Experiments in (fan)videographic criticism

For years I’ve been dancing around doing the five videographic exercises offered by my colleagues Jason Mittell and Chris Keathley as part of their recurring Workshop on Scholarship in Sound and Media in (affectionately known by participants as Video Camp) and most recently in the new edition of their book The Videographic Essay: Criticism in Sound and Image (Caboose, 2019). I actually took a stab at the exercises once before, about a year ago, with Twin Peaks: The Return, but ran into a wall with the voiceover exercise, and then the semester began, and well, you know how that goes.

But now, I’m on sabbatical, and beginning to dig into a large multimodal project on transcultural fandom and fan video, and doing these exercises seemed like the perfect way to kick start this project. And wow, was it ever. If you’re stuck with a media-related project (be it academic of fannish), or having trouble in some way, I cannot recommend these more! I feel like they’ve ignited my brain and my creativity, my academic work and my vidding.

So I thought I’d share my exercises here, one by one, and some of my early thoughts on them and the ideas they touch on. If you click through to each exercise’s individual post, I’ll include additional thoughts on each one there.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, and if you decide to do the exercises yourself, please do share the results (if you feel comfortable doing so, of course)!

Videographic Exercise 1: The Pechakucha

GUIDELINES: Pechakucha. Create a video of exactly 60 seconds consisting of precisely 10 video clips from a single film, each lasting precisely 6 seconds, assembled with straight cuts. Audio should be one continuous sequence from the same film with no edits.

Videographic Exercise 2: Voiceover


GUIDELINES: Voiceover. Produce a short (3 minute max) video on your selected film using your own voiceover. The voiceover should relay an anecdote, tell a joke, read from some piece of writing, or otherwise provide an independent channel of material not overtly related to your film. The content can be your own original material or reading something others have written / spoken. The project must also incorporate some sound from the film itself. Video should be one continuous sequence from the film; duration and/or scale can be manipulated, but it should include no new video edits.

Videographic Exercises 3: Epigraph

GUIDELINES: Epigraph. Select a sequence from your film, and a quotation from a critical text (not specifically related to your film) of no longer than 10 sentences. Alter the video sequence in some noticeable way using at least two different types of transitions or effects. Either replace or significantly alter the soundtrack. The quotation should appear onscreen in some dynamic interaction with the video. The video should not be longer than 3 minutes.

Videographic Exercises 4: Multiscreen

GUIDELINES: Multiscreen Video. Use a multiscreen process to create a short piece (3 minute max) responding to at least one other video.. The video must contain moments of both fullscreen and multiscreen, with including images from the video(s) you are responding to. All audio and visuals must come from your film or the videos you are responding to. (I’ve adapted here for beyond the camp/class context, and yes, whoops, I didn’t follow that last rule…)

Videographic Exercise 5: Abstract Trailer

GUIDELINES: Videographic Abstract Trailer. Produce a short (no more than 2 minute) abstract trailer of a larger videographic project. This videographic abstract trailer should convey the topic, approach, and tone of the larger project to be (per an article abstract), and relate to the form of the film trailer in some way. One key goal of this video is to make us want to see the larger project. It might also function as a kind of “proposal” that will help you develop the larger project. Think about parameters. (Again, I’ve adapted this slightly to work beyond the class/camp context.)

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