DREW MORTON

FROM THE PANEL TO THE FRAME: STYLE AND SCOTT PILGRIM

By Drew Morton

Curated at [in]Transition, 1.3, 2014 by Catherine Grant

From the Panel to the Frame: Style and Scott Pilgrim by Drew Morton.
First published in Drew Morton and Matt Zoller Seitz, ‘VIDEO ESSAY: From the Panel to the Frame: Style and Scott Pilgrim‘, PRESS PLAY/indieWire, February 13, 2013.
Online at: http://blogs.indiewire.com/pressplay/video-essay-from-the-panel-to-the-frame-style-and-scott-pilgrim

 

THOUGH THIS BE MADNESS, YET THERE IS METHOD IN IT: Notes on Producing and Revising Videographic Scholarship

By Drew Morton

 

Introduction

At our 2014 Society of Cinema and Media Studies workshop “Visualizing Media Studies,” Christine Becker, Catherine Grant, Christian Keathley, Jason Mittell, Benjamin Sampson, Matthias Stork, and I spoke about videographic film and moving image studies and launched the inaugural issue of [in]Transition, the first ever academic peer-reviewed journal of videographic film and moving image studies. During the workshop (a recording of which is viewable online here), Matthias politely ribbed me about sharing multiple drafts of my video essay “From the Panel to the Frame: Style and Scott Pilgrim” on Facebook and asking colleagues for notes as I went about making revisions. Now, on the eve of launching the open peer review mechanisms we have established at the journal, my attempt at peer review sounds rather quaint. Yet, the feedback I received helped me formalize an approach to production and a presentational tone that I have found to be (generally) successful.

As I begin research on what I hope will become a Scalar book project devoted to the history, taxonomy, and production of the video essay, these preliminary notes will hopefully serve as a stop-gap for those scholars interested in videographic scholarship yet unsure of where to begin. With this rather ambiguous objective in mind, I’ve divided the essay into two parts to cover the spectrum that Keathley describes as running from the analytical and explanatory to the poetic and expressive (179-180). The first focuses on the production method I refined with the analytical video essay “From the Panel to the Frame” and have since implemented in my classroom. The second section focuses on the process of revision and draws upon my work on the diptych “Good Dads/Bad Dads: A Tribute to Cinematic Fathers.” During the production of this video essay, I uploaded all five drafts to Vimeo along with the revision notes provided by friends and colleagues to try to showcase some of the aesthetic considerations one faces when producing poetic videographic scholarship.

 

PART I: “From the Panel to the Frame:  Style and Scott Pilgrim”:  My Production Method (Version 2.0)

I completed my first video essay on the overlap between comic books and film1 for one of Janet Bergstrom’s graduate seminars at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2007. At the time, Janet made fruitful suggestions regarding the cataloging of assets (video clips, scans of archival documents, etc.) and I threw many of them out the window. While I do not believe that the finished project exhibits this disorganized creative spirit, my old hard drive certainly did and it would now be impossible to make revisions because of my scattershot methodology. Thus, in the years since, I have doubled back and implemented many of them. I say this to acknowledge and compliment Janet for leading the way and guiding a generation of UCLA film scholars towards the form. We may not always listen, but you’re always right.

I.1. Start with a Completed Visual Project

“From the Panel to the Frame” began as a dissertation chapter that I spent a year struggling to turn into a journal article that I felt could best articulate the formalist argument I was making regarding stylistic remediation (or the dialogue of representational styles that was taking place between comic books and film). This was a difficult task, as those familiar with Raymond Bellour’s essay “The Unattainable Text” will be quick to note. Formal analysis – particularly visual analysis – is a difficult focus to maintain in traditional academic prose because it is “unquotable” (22). I was trying to capture the stylistic nuances of two visual media texts through a handful of figures and and pages of dry, descriptive, analysis.  As Bellour writes:

This is why filmic analyses, once they begin to be precise, and while, for the reasons I have just suggested, they remain strangely incomplete, are always so long, according to the extent of their coverage, even if analysis is, as we know, always in a sense interminable. That is why they are so difficult, or more accurately, so graceless to read, repetitive, complicated, I shall not say needlessly so, but necessarily so, as the price of their strange perversity [26].

To distill this down more simply, as the editor from an academic press warned me, formal analysis as prose is simply not “sexy.”

Yet, this is where videographic film scholarship can redeem visual analysis. We can play out sequences in real time, pause upon individual frames, weave in primary and secondary research, and formalize an argument via voice over commentary. As Keathley notes,

The existence of an object (or part of it) alongside commentary on it places film critics in a position that their literary and art historical counterparts have long lived with: the need to accurately describe and persuasively interpret an object that is equally and as immediately available to the reader as it is to the critic [178].

While I have yet to see many video essays that mobilize theories and methodologies that have defined media studies over the past ten years (For example, I am specifically thinking about a video essay that might approach a text through industrial analysis), that does not mean that the format is incapable of supporting that approach.  It merely means that a creative imagination is required; a creative imagination that can, for instance, provocatively present box office statistics and the stipulations in a visually stimulating way.  Thus, my first suggestion to those new to the video essay is to begin with a topic that has a visual emphasis and to have an article or paper as a road map to help guide the way.

 I.2. Revising the Prose for Broadcast

Since I already had performed the research and formulated the argument, I was able to begin tailoring the prose of my existing written work for “broadcast.” This process is a bit ambiguous; it involves adapting the article for the listener’s ear. I simplified sentence structure and repeatedly read the script aloud to myself, trying to account for the performance of my delivery (if your video essay has voice over, it is imperative that you employ a vocal performance that can carry it – be it your own or – in the case of Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself – someone else’s). In the case of “From the Panel to the Frame,” my first script was far too convoluted. When I uploaded a rough draft of the essay and asked for feedback, my colleagues (including Matt Zoller Seitz, Ben Sampson, and Matthias Stork) informed me that I read far too quickly and crammed too much information into the audio track. As Timothy Corrigan writes, one characteristic of the essay and the essay film is the dramatization of the “destabilizing encounter between a visual world that resists or troubles its verbal assessment, producing a linguistic struggle with a visual world that continually undermines or subverts the subjective power of language” (19).2 Acknowledging the semiotic dimension of Corrigan’s observation, this becomes a pragmatic balancing act that defines both the video essayist’s role and the completed work. The argument needs to be both aural and visual, and this union can undermine as easily as it illustrates. For instance, if you overemphasize one informational track over the other for too long, the viewer will simply ignore the neglected stream.

A second related issue became apparent after this first draft. I wanted to publish the essay at Matt Zoller Seitz’s indieWire website Press Play but I had difficulty defining my audience. Specifically, Matt was concerned that the piece was driven too much by voice over and theory. I, on the other hand, wanted to make a theoretical piece. In the end, I decided that the theoretical overview (of remediation and transmedia storytelling in particular) might become more palatable if I presented more of it visually. For instance, I not only use voice over to describe remediation, but I show several examples of it (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has always been a potent source to draw on in my classroom teaching). I told Matt that I did not feel comfortable “dumbing down” the argument and solved the problem by – rather crassly – thinking about how I would describe the argument to my mother. The intellectual depth was still there, as was the theoretical jargon; I was merely presenting them in a more accessible manner. In the end, this split the difference.  Websites like Kotaku and The Comics Journal republished the essay and the audience for my scholarship grew to include both those interested in comic books and film and those within the academy. Overnight, the video became the most widely “read” piece of scholarship I have ever published (with over 13,000 views).  It made me realize that we could bring “sexy” back to formal analysis.

 I.3. Storyboarding

Yet, as I reflect upon this audiovisual essay with much needed critical distance, I realise that I could have done more work on balancing the audio and video tracks. I still read the prose far too quickly at times (When I show it in my video essay class, my students say I sound like the auctioneer-esque announcer in the Micro Machines commercials) and there are long stretches where I could have provided a welcome auditory reprieve from my voice to my viewer by embedding more information in the video track. his is where the third step in my production process comes in: storyboarding. When you are revising the prose for broadcast, it is imperative to think about the visual assets that can illustrate your argument. What video clip might best exemplify the remediation of text in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)? Do I need to read a lengthy quote from Edgar Wright on his production methods or would it be better to put it on the screen in a text crawl? Moreover, you need to think about how long text on the screen takes to “read” and how auditory noise might infringe upon your ability to relay the message.

In formulating my production practice, I found an incredibly helpful resource in an otherwise unrelated textbook on news broadcasting entitled Air Words: Writing Broadcast News in the Internet Age by John Hewitt. Hewitt’s book contains a number of tips worth briefly mentioning. First, remember to reference your visual material. Whenever there is a change in visual content, consider the viewer’s relationship to it. For instance, if you transition from a sequence in Citizen Kane to a page from the Production Code Administration report, ask yourself if you have successfully prefaced the transition in visual material from an ice sculpture of Charles Foster Kane to the PCA’s objections over the brothel sequence. Furthermore, referencing the visual does not necessarily mean talking about it. You can always use on screen text as a transition or an attribution. For those interested, Hewitt’s sections on preparing visual news packages and writing voice over to bridge gaps in coverage (chapters 8-12) are particularly useful.

One of the main conundrums faced by the video essayist is whether he or she should begin production with an audio track or a video track. In the case of “From the Panel to the Frame,” I began with the audio track and storyboards. Yet, despite my initial planning, there were stretches of the essay in which I had allowed my voice over to go slightly out of sync with my video track. I do not mean that literally (as if I had a Kathy Selden behind the screen helping me), but with regard to the topic at hand. Specifically, a section in which I audibly summarized transmedia storytelling kept landing over a prolonged sequence from The Animatrix (2003). Yes, The Animatrix is a transmedia extension of The Matrix and they are related. However, as the sequence went on, my voice over started describing the Warner Bros. conglomerate while the video footage veered into an action sequence and quickly became a distraction. While I opted to abridge my voice over and re-record it, this issue of topical synchronicity is not always remedied with a simple fix. For instance, what happens when a sequence only lasts fifteen seconds and your concise voice over runs thirty seconds? Do you slow the footage down to 1/2 speed, which takes the clip out of its original context? Or do you play the clip twice to reiterate your observation? Or do you play the clip and cut to something related? If you choose that option, what happens when you need to cut away a few frames into the next shot and you have a difficult time providing a visual transition to the next point in your argument?

 I.4. Save and Share Your Drafts Often

The structural conundrum I have just posited does not always have an easy solution. In my experience, I have often needed to test out a range of solutions and have leaned on colleagues for feedback. Moreover, when you fix such a problem, you may inadvertently create more problems through a ripple effect on your Adobe Premiere timeline.  Specifically, elongating a video clip will probably put items further down the timeline out of sync. Just like your writing, it is imperative to save drafts early and often. Moreover, it is often easier to save them separately so that you can tinker more liberally without worrying about derailing the structural train you have spent hours conducting. Just as you do when you log your video clips and save your assets to your hard drive, create a system for naming your files and drafts. Moreover, keep an external hard drive (or cloud service on hand) for backing up exported drafts in case your timeline gets corrupted.

Furthermore, showing the drafts both to fellow video essayists and scholars has been incredibly fruitful for me. With regard to the former camp of critics, I cannot tell you how many times I have left either one frame from the following shot at the end of a sequence or when I have left a one frame gap between two sections of timeline. Your eyes will get tired. Moreover, like academic writing, your mind will overlook flaws or gaps in knowledge because of your subjective proximity to the material. Do not allow self-consciousness regarding your knowledge of software and the practice of new mode of aesthetics force you into a place defined by a reluctance or resistance to seek outside opinion. We all need to crawl before we can walk and the video essay is no exception. Moreover, one benefit of “adapting” a finished research project as a video – even a published essay (which I am currently in the process of doing) – is that you may have gotten some feedback from your peers on the content and quality of your argument already. Finally, with the open peer review process we have designed for [in]Transition, this need no longer be as quaint and informal as sharing your drafts with colleagues over e-mail or social media. Our process involves placing both communities at the gateway, as videographic criticism is as much an aesthetic enterprise as it is an intellectual one (LINK TO FOLLOW).

 

PART II: “Good Dads/Bad Dads:  A Tribute to Cinematic Fathers”:  On Collaboration, Revision, and the Value of Poetic Videographic Scholarship

Good Dads/BAD DADS: A Tribute to Cinematic Fathers by Drew Morton

First published in Drew Morton and Benjamin Sampson,’Good Dads/Bad Dads: A Tribute to Cinematic Fathers‘, PRESS PLAY/indieWire, June 14, 2014.
Online at: http://blogs.indiewire.com/pressplay/video-essay-diptych-good-dads-bad-dads-a-tribute-to-cinematic-fathers

Before beginning my editorial collaboration with Christian and Catherine, I held a prejudice against poetic videographic work. Initially, I felt that work lacked the scholarly rigor of the argumentative, often voice over driven, mode of the video essay. The arguments were elusive and scholarly sources were often nonexistent. I insisted on seeking analogous relationships between the video essay and the journal article or book chapter. In the process of doing so, I closed myself off from the aesthetic possibilities inherent in the form. As our conversations began, I quickly realized that many of the solutions I sought in striking a balance between the aural and the visual were to be found in the domain of the poetic video essay. While scholar Adrian Martin has argued that the voice over “closes down meaning” within the text, I have also found that it closes down creativity. Returning to Corrigan’s account, if one of the defining attributes of the essay film is the linguistic struggle between the visual world and language, essayists are often faced with “the necessity of reinventing that language to compensate for its inadequacies before the world” (19). By embracing only the argumentative mode in video essays, I was limiting my attempts at reinvention to a very small toolbox.

Thus, I followed up “From the Panel to the Frame” with “Free Will in Kubrick’s The Shining” – a hybrid of the argumentative and the poetic. Again, I started with a completed research project and a desire to redeem The Shining as a video essay subject after the release of the problematic Room 237 (2012). While I still began with a script, my approach differed this time around because I decided to begin the production process with a video track. I found I was seeking aesthetically more creative ways of bringing out observations through dissolves, superimpositions, and split-screens. I was attempting to reinvent my own videographic language and, by doing so, I had found a tone that engaged with Stanley Kubrick’s film on its own ambiguous terms. Moreover, I was becoming more adept with the software (Final Cut Express, at the time) I was using. As I began teaching my video essay class for the second time, I decided to work alongside the students to sharpen my skills and become more familiar with the newer software (Adobe Premiere). However, I did not have a research project on deck and decided to try making a handful of pieces that were completely poetic. The latest essay in that movement was the diptych “Good Dads/Bad Dads: A Tribute to Cinematic Fathers,” created in collaboration with by colleague Benjamin Sampson for a Father’s Day issue of Press Play. Because I prefer Darth Vader to Jor-El, I chose bad dads.

 II.1. BAD DADS: The First Draft 

BAD DADS Draft I by Drew Morton

Two of the main aesthetic issues I encountered during the production of “Bad Dads” are apparent in the first draft. First, having upgraded much of my DVD library to Blu-Ray, I was limited to sourcing low resolution clips on YouTube for some of the films I wished to include (most ripping software is still designed for DVDs). Thus, the first scene from The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) looked questionable and – more significantly – did not work terribly well with the timeline options I had in Adobe Premiere (which put the audio out of sync with the video). Obviously, when you download a video from YouTube, you are at the mercy of a idiosyncratically curated collection. Clips can range from HD rips uploaded recently to SD versions uploaded from years ago from older DVD transfers. Moreover, in “Bad Dads,” you will also see the “imprint” of the continuous reissue of DVDs with “remastered” presentations. This is specially visible in the clips from Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), which shift aspect ratios from his “preferred” pan and scan (on the early DVDs from the late 90s to early 2000s) to his estate’s later embrace of widescreen (for the special edition DVD and Blu-Ray set that came out in the late-2000s).

As I began to revise the draft into a more polished aesthetic product, I often needed to find better quality assets to replace the low resolution “placeholders” I had on my timeline. Most of the time, I address this aesthetic issue by borrowing DVD copies from friends or, in some cases, using Netflix or the local video store. However, due to the time consuming process of tracking down proper copies, ripping them (via Handbrake on Mac), and sectioning off clips from the ripped master files (via MPEG Streamclip on Mac), I like to use YouTube clips to help speed the formulation of a rough “thumbnail.” It becomes, in essence, an intermediary between my storyboard and my finished product: a pre-visualization.

Moreover, given the collage nature of the essay, creating a smooth sound mix was a daunting challenge. Specifically, the transition from the relatively quiet dialogue The Night of the Hunter (1955) to the bombastic mix of John Williams and emotion in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) was a tremendously frustrating. The pairing works well thematically; by focusing on the dialogue after Darth Vader’s revelation, it surprises the viewer by not embracing the cliché while it simultaneously responds to John’s defiant proclamation to Reverend Harry Powell. However, the two aesthetic modes could not be further apart and the transition between them took multiple drafts to appropriately address. I should add – because it illustrates my earlier point about how working with “found footage” can profoundly limit the options at the video essayist’s disposal – that I was unable to cut to Empire earlier because the reverse shot of Luke was too short and only appeared on screen for a couple of frames. However, I also needed a snippet of dialogue from that shot to complete the idea. Thus, my early solution was to attempt to use a sound bridge and slow motion to mask the jarring graphic cut while hoping that the ironic addition of Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father” would help me disguise the audio transition.

II.2. BAD DADS: The Second Draft 

Bad Dads Draft II by Drew Morton

In the second draft, I attempted to add momentum to the opening by cutting into Tenenbaums earlier and using “Song for my Father” to define the edit points for me. For those new to videographic criticism, music helps define the tone of a piece and provides an energy. Specifically, I used electronica (by Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score to The Social Network) in “From the Panel to the Frame” as a metonym for the digitally infused aesthetic of the film and to produce a driving energy. On the other hand, I mobilized slower, monotonous, compositions in “Free Will” (some from Wendy Carlos’s original score, some from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) to capture the ghostly, hypnotic rhythms of Kubrick’s film. Moreover, music helps guide the video essayist by providing an overt map for edit points. In the case of “Bad Dads,” you can see how horn vamps are guiding the cuts and structure of the introduction.

I attempted to smooth the transition from The Night of the Hunter to Empire by using a prolonged sound bridge and removing the slow motion reverse shot of Luke. However, the sound bridge is far too long and leads to that issue of “topical asynchronicity” I described earlier. Needless to say, I still had not found a permanent solution. Once again, I made a series of small edits to cut in and out of clips to preserve momentum.

Next to my continued grappling with the Hunter to Empire edit point,the largest alteration in the second draft came when I began to think about an ending. By using the baptism sequence from The Godfather (1972), I had found a structured and thematically rich finale.  However, the original soundtrack of the sequence was tainted by the climactic gunfire layered on top of the score. The obvious solution was to segue between the original soundtrack (for the dialogue) and a pure recording from the original score. Thus, I tried to transition out of the diegetic music to a re-recorded version of the organ music so that the gunfire would not punctuate scenes that were unrelated (for instance, the longing gaze of Humbert Humbert in Lolita). Yet, because the version in the film is not the same arrangement in the film, you can audibly “see” the seams of the transitions between the re-recorded score and the original source in draft two.

II.3. BAD DADS: The Third and Fourth Drafts

Bad Dads Draft III by Drew Morton

Bad Dads Draft IV by Drew Morton

In the third draft, I again attempted to use a sound bridge to transition from Hunter to Empire, but it still was not working. When the solution came in the fourth draft, it was not from a creative epiphany that Benjamin and I had; it simply involved a long process of trial and error in manipulating aural key frames between the three tracks (the two films and the musical track). Again, the baptism finale was an aural nightmare. By cutting back and forth to Michael Corleone’s reaction shots, I had created a larger audio transition headache for myself. In the process of revising the third draft into the final version, I smoothed over some of the transitions in the finale by leaning on loud diegetic sounds to cover the transitions (the gunshot in Kill Bill and Plainview beating Eli in There Will Be Blood). While it still isn’t seamless, it was the best we could do with the sources we had access to. Finally, the final draft showcases the full evolution of those low-res “thumbnails” into higher quality clips.

Obviously, due to the poetic quality of the piece, many of the suggestions I was offered by Benjamin, Chiara Grizzaffi, and Christian Keathley were technical in nature. I learned a great deal about audio mixing thanks to Ben. One of the benefits of our collaboration and opening our work up for very candid and constructive criticism was realizing and addressing our mutual blind spots. Quite frankly, I think the strength of my video essay work has always been both the intellectual and structural dimensions. My work is not nearly as aesthetically polished as that of Benjamin or other practitioners like Nelson Carvajal and Kevin Lee.

Benjamin had the opposite problem. It was not that his pieces lack scholarly rigor, as viewers of his essays on F for Fake and A.I. will quickly and rightfully note; he simply lost himself in aesthetic refinements. Specifically, his early drafts of “Good Dads” ran far too long (I believe his first cut was nearly ten minutes; his finished video can be found here). Yet, working next to him for a week, I was also able to assist him with some structural problems he was having. He had gotten too close to the material, as often happens in the process of creating a video essay. As Laura Mulvey writes about our ability, now, to “fragment” film, thanks to the DVD (and, implicitly, the digital video essay):

A tension begins to emerge, however, between a cinephilia that is more on the side of a fetishistic investment in the extraction of a fragment of cinema from its context and a cinephilia that extracts and then replaces a fragment with extra understanding back into its context” [144].

While Mulvey describes a “fetishistic investment,” I would complicate it by describing it as a joy of curation. As Mulvey and Keathley describe, videographic criticism often develops out of cinephilia. Scott Pilgrim and The Shining are both texts that I have a deep personal affection for (in fact, my early cut of Free Will… suffered from the same problem that Benjamin was experiencing – it had an meta-epilogue about the video essay and Room 237 that blind sided my viewers). When the essayist finds that audiovisual means of relaying a complex thought or idea, it’s much the same as when an academic writer is forced to cut a piece of prose that he or she has agonized over. Quite simply, we are either introducing a new text or a new way of seeing a text to viewers. Ben had begun to feel a bit sentimental about the inclusion of some of the clips and had a desire to introduce viewers to films that he felt had been underappreciated. In doing so, he elongated the implied structural progression from childhood to adulthood and the definition of the through line began to get lost.

I am airing this publicly not to undervalue the work that Benjamin and I produced, but again to underline how important collaboration and revision is to the process of constructing a foundation for videographic scholarship. By making the technical and formal obstacles that define this mode visible, my goal is not to scare or dissuade the uninitiated from approaching the practice. My goal is to provide comfort and to acknowledge that even modestly accomplished video essayists like myself are often frustrated during the production process. The poetic mode can provide a sandbox for directly addressing these frustrations, many of which stem from learning new software. I hope this work carries forth the work described by Keathley in the conclusion to his seminal essay:

At this moment, the question of how to successfully produce film criticism and scholarship in a multi-media form is one that film scholars should take seriously and engage with actively. Such engagement also implies the creation of pedagogical environments to support such work – both in teaching and in research – and peer reviewed venues of publication that would offer professional validation. What the video essays described above highlight so vividly is that digital technologies that enable the combination of images, sounds and written text invite us not just to move critical discussion into a new presentational context, but to re-imagine the very relationship between a cinematic object of study and critical commentary about it [190].

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bellour, Raymond.  2000.  Analysis of Film.  Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Corrigan, Timothy.  2011.  The Essay Film: From Montaigne, After Marker.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hewitt, John.  2012.  Air Words:  Writing Broadcast News in the Internet Age.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press.

Keathley, Christian.  2011.  “La caméra-stylo: Notes on Video Criticism and Cinephilia.”  In The Language and Style of Film Criticism, ed. Alex Clayton and Andrew Klevan.  London: Routledge.

Martin, Adrian.  2010.  “A Voice Too Much,” De Filmkrant, June 2010, No. 322. Originally online at: http://www.filmkrant.nl/av/org/filmkran/archief/fk322/engls322.html. Now online at: http://reframe.sussex.ac.uk/audiovisualessay/reflections/adrian-martin-a-voice-too-much/.

Mulvey, Laura.  2006.  Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image.  London: Reaktion.

 

SUGGESTED CITATION

Drew Morton, ‘Though This Be Madness, Yet There is Method in It:  Notes on Producing and Revising Videographic Scholarship’, The Audiovisual Essay: Practice and Theory in Videgraphic Film and Moving Images Studies, September 2014. Online at: http://reframe.sussex.ac.uk/audiovisualessay/reflections/intransition-1-3/drew-morton/


BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Drew Morton is an Assistant Professor of Mass Communication at Texas A&M University-Texarkana.  He the co-editor and co-founder of [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies, the first peer-reviewed academic journal focused on the visual essay and all of its forms (co-presented by MediaCommons and Cinema Journal).  His publications have appeared in animation: an interdisciplinary journal, The Black Maria, Flow, In Media Res, Mediascape, Press Play, RogerEbert.com, Senses of Cinema, Studies in Comics, and a range of academic anthologies.  He is currently completing a manuscript on the overlap between American blockbuster cinema and comic book style.

NOTES

  1. Drew Morton, ‘Comics to Film (And Halfway Back Again): A DVD Essay’, Flow, April 5, 2007. Online at: http://flowtv.org/2007/04/comics-to-film-and-halfway-back-again-a-dvd-essay/. The DVD essays can be found at YouTube: Comics to Film (And Halfway Back Again): Part One – online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fmp_9_KeDE; and Comics to Film (And Halfway Back Again): Part Two  – online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7OtElmzu10
  2. A brief note on definitions: Corrigan defines the essay film as “a testing of expressive subjectivity through…experiential encounters in a public arena…the product of which becomes the figuration of thinking or thought as a cinematic address and a spectatorial response” (30). While he considers “refractive” essay films that “engage art objects, films, and other aesthetic experiences,” he sidesteps essay films not produced on film (8). To Corrigan, this includes “its most intriguing contemporary transformations through the Internet, other electronic media, and even museum installations” (7). Thus, while Corrigan’s analysis of the essay film – one of the generic relatives of the video essay mode – is an indispensable asset for us, a vivid and rigorous definition of the video essay has yet to be authored. Keathley has begun doing so when he describes them as “short critical essays on a given film or filmmaker, typically read in voice-over by the author and supplemented with carefully chosen and organised film clips” and in his outline of the continuum upon which most video essays can be defined (180). However, the term remains a slippery one.