Capstone Challenge Journal 2: The Problem of Over-Intellectualizing

Here we are again, spending time reflecting on past works that have influenced my current project instead of, you know, actually working on that far from finished project. And I only have myself to blame. Cool!

For this post, I dug out another more untraditional piece that I hadn’t read since turning it in two years ago. It was my final paper for SAC 236, an essay that was pretty rigid in its structural requirements. We were required to split the writing into three sections, the first on our chosen film’s themes, the second on a specific scene and how the different filmmaking techniques inform those themes, and a third as a more general stylistic analysis for how the film captures its themes overall.

For me, something so formally structured as this was actually kind of easy to conceptualize, as opposed to the normally free-form approach to writing found in most of my English classes that count on you to choose an interesting and complex enough topic all on your own. Where the challenge came in this writing, for me, was in how it required me to adopt a new analytical vocabulary for analyzing film rather than literature, something I would have been largely incapable of prior to taking the class.

Before 236, I mostly viewed the technical aspects of film as simply a means by which the story was presented rather than an actual part of the story itself. I had never thoroughly considered how the technical distinctions of film – the composition of shots, the use of different camera techniques, the lighting, the sound, the editing, etc. – were actually a huge part of how we process that medium as an art form. And I admit, I was a bit skeptical about all of this at first. Were the vertical lines of the architecture in the background of that shot really directing my eye towards the subject of the shot? I wondered if this wasn’t reading into the process a bit too much just for the sake of intellectualizing it.

I don’t think it was until I wrote this final piece that it all clicked for me. When forced to look at a single scene and try to decipher how it fits into the film’s thematic whole, just looking at the plot of the scene itself wasn’t enough. After applying what I knew about filmmaking from the class, however, the scene was revealed to me to have surprising depth. What started as a verbose attempt at meeting my page count with over-reaching analyses turned out to be a genuinely interested experiment in how well I could deduce the way this medium told its stories in a way that didn’t rely wholly on words. The importance of the visual and even audible side of film made itself apparent to me in this process, and I haven’t watched a film the same way ever since.

The writing of this piece was of significant importance to my whole understanding of how different mediums tell stories, an idea that my capstone is exploring in the medium of video games. Of course, the challenge I’m facing now is that unlike the SAC piece, which followed a course that taught me exactly how to interpret the medium I was writing about, I’m kind of charting my own course on the video game front. Thankfully, though, my experience with this piece as well as others I’ve written with similar intent has taught me how to detect the distinctions I’m looking for.

But then this circles back to my original skepticism about over-reading certain art forms. How can I be sure that I’m not over intellectualizing the very elements of video games that I’m writing about? There’s really no way to confirm that for myself… but I keep remembering how my own skepticism was alleviated by how well the ideas were presented to me, and how having to apply those ideas myself was a useful exercise in understanding the legitimacy of such analysis. I can only hope that my project manages to accomplish the same thing.

One thought to “Capstone Challenge Journal 2: The Problem of Over-Intellectualizing”

  1. Hi Henry,

    Thanks for sharing your struggle with your project! From what I can discern about your project, it seems like you’ve chosen something very different from the past and also something that is stimulating!

    I also struggle with over-intellectualizing, as you put. Although I am not analyzing a genre/ format like you are, I find it easy to embed too much analysis when it is inefficient. I am writing a short story that has mini-stories that are based on laws about women, and I feel really burdened with all the background knowledge I have and the nuances I can add to stories. I know that about 90% of the information I see will probably not be commuted to my audience, but that does not really help me stop overthinking; it just makes it which even easier to overthink every aspect to see what sticks.

    Your solution seems very manageable and applicable to where you are in this stage of the course.

    I hope the rest of your capstone goes well!

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