The Videographic Essay: Practice and Pedagogy

Introduction, Acknowledgements, and Further Reading

Introduction and Acknowledgements:

The idea for the workshop was prompted by our interest and participation in a recent important development in film and media scholarship: the increased production over the past decade of ‘video essays’—or what we prefer to call videographic criticism—both within and outside of academic contexts. Such works have appeared in a variety of online journals, and videographic essays have occasionally even been offered as part of an academic conference presentations, including panels and workshops featuring one or both of us. The groundswell of interest in this new form of multi-media criticism saw a milestone in 2014, when MediaCommons and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ official publication, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies (then known as Cinema Journal) came together to launch [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film & Moving Image Studies, the first publication to consist exclusively of peer-reviewed videographic work. We co-founded this journal, along with Christine Becker and Drew Morton.

Through these various activities, it became clear to us that there were many scholars interested in making videographic criticism who did not have the technical training with a digital editing program, conceptual background on video-based scholarship, and/or the community available to support them as they developed their ideas. The Scholarship in Sound & Image workshop was designed to address these matters, even if on a small scale and with only a handful of people. But after the launch of [in]Transition, it seemed a logical and important next step.

When we opened the call for applications for the first workshop, which was budgeted to host 12 participants, we were suddenly slightly worried that our assessment of the demand for such training was exaggerated—but we needn’t have been: we received over 100 applications. Initially we planned to accept both faculty and graduate students, but given this deluge, we decided to restrict admission to faculty only—but we sought a diverse group, including faculty who were from a range of institutional types and who were at various points in their careers. We were fortunate to have an extraordinary group of inaugural participants in 2015: Vicki Callahan, Tracy Cox-Stanton, Corey Creekmur, Allison de Fren, Shane Denson, John Gibbs, Liz Greene, Adam Hart, Patrick Keating, Melanie Kohnen, Jaap Kooijman, Nic Poppe, Michael Talbott, and Kristen Warner. Indeed, we were overwhelmed by what an extraordinary creative and intellectual experience the workshop turned out to be—thanks largely to this terrific group.

So we decided to share as much as we could of our experience—and we published that material in a short book, which was both a report on the workshop and a set of guidelines for teaching and practicing videographic criticism. Some exercises worked better than others, and a key part of each day’s discussion was about how the assignment could have been more effectively crafted, especially for teaching purposes. These conversations were very useful, especially after the NEH representatives encouraged us to apply for a second grant (which we received) and we set about making revisions to our pedagogical plan.

Since we had excluded graduate students from the first workshop, we decided to privilege them in the second round. The second workshop in 2017 consisted exclusively of students who were enrolled in graduate programs at that time: Katie Bird, Lola Breaux, Marc Francis, Nzingha Kendall, Evelyn Kreutzer, Hoi Lun Law, Derek Long, Casey McCormick, Nicole Morse, Nike Nivar-Ortiz, Jenny Oyallon-Koloski, Sarah Ross, Jordan Schonig, and Patrick Sullivan. The third workshop in 2018, once again, included only faculty: Elizabeth Alsop, Andrea Comiskey, Nat Deyo, Susan Harewood, Lisa Henderson, Maria Hofmann, Juan Llamas Rodriguez, Kathleen Loock, Neepa Majumdar, Hoang Nguyen, Alan O’Leary, Sean O’Sullivan, Matthew Payne, Maria Pramaggiore, Maria San Filippo, and Laura Serna. In both these workshops, the experience of the first was miraculously repeated: we enjoyed an extraordinary creative and intellectual experience, and we significantly expanded our already rich community of practice.

This website presents the revised pedagogical plan that we employed in the second and third workshops, and embeds some of the video exercises produced by participants during the workshops. In addition, [in]Transition has published three special issues featuring videographic essays by participants that were initiated in the workshops: numbers 2.4, 5.1, and 5.3. [in]Transition has continued to publish videos by workshop participants—as of the end of 2019, twenty-one workshop participants have had peer-reviewed work published in the journal.

The workshops benefited enormously from the collaboration of others. First, there is our colleague and friend Ethan Murphy, the Media Production Specialist for Middlebury’s Film & Media Culture Department, who offered daily instruction on Adobe Premiere Pro, and who became an invaluable collaborator as we reconceived our pedagogical program for advanced scholars. In addition, our four student assistants—Stella Holt, August Laska, Emma Hampsten, and Will DiGravio—each of whom is also a talented maker of videographic work, were invaluable participants in the workshops. In addition to their primary roles, Ethan and the student assistants shared with us the tasks of leading group critiques and advising participants on work in progress. Without them, neither the workshop nor the ideas explored in this website could be considered successful.

Each year, we invited several special guests, who gave stimulating presentations and who generously spent time offering feedback to the participants as they were working on their final projects. In 2015, we were joined by Kevin B. Lee and Eric Faden; and in the two subsequent workshops we invited alumni from the first: Corey Creekmur and Liz Greene in 2017, and Allison de Fren and Kevin B. Lee in 2018. These visits, which came in the second week, just as we were all well settled into our routines, served in each instance to jumpstart everyone’s conceptual and work processes, further enriching the experience for us all.

We want to thank the NEH staff members, especially Jason Rhody and Jennifer Serventi, for their wonderful support, as well as the staff from many offices at Middlebury College, particularly Mary Stanley and Sheerya Berg.

Finally, there is Catherine Grant, who has been our close collaborator on this videographic workshop project since we began working on our first grant proposal. She attended all  workshops and generously consulted with us as we prepared versions two and three. It would be difficult to overstate the contributions she made to the success of these workshops, so we asked her to share co-authorship credit with us on this website, as well as contributing two essays to it.

Related Writings on Videographic Criticism by Authors:
Copyright ©2019 by Christian Keathley and Jason Mittell

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