Introduction to Video Essays

“Like, an essay…but with video?” Is probably what most people would say when asked what a video essay is. In all honesty, I’d have to agree. But that description makes it sound a lot more “boring” than the genre actually is. Before I can even start telling you what makes a video essay so much better than your average essay, I need to explain to you why I decided to choose this fairly new form of genre.

Okay, so basically, I may or may not have fallen into the Hollywood trap that is the “male gaze” and who’s to blame? Well, partially me. And partially my inability to understand fully the implications of my writing and how I was writing it. I’m still not making this very clear, am I?

My freshman year English 125 class was basically Film Analysis 101 (or, alternatively, 20 college students geek out over movies for 4 months). The class was really great, Carol Tell made me a better person, and I decided to wanted to stick with Communications because it let me continue this intense form of analysis without straying too far away from the medium I loved, film.

Our very first essay assignment, after weeks of rigorously tearing apart the 5 paragraph essay, was a visual analysis. And being the art kid that I am, that shit got me going. Especially after I heard it was on a film that my family and I held so dearly: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. To summarize, Rear Window explores the life of a temporarily disabled photographer, who witnesses the murder of one of his neighbors, as he is forced to live his days observing the world through his living room window. Since this movie was made in the 50’s, of course it needs to have a beautiful, blonde bombshell of a female lead. Grace Kelly’s character was the awe and wonderment of our entire class. So, obviously, I chose to analyze Kelly’s first scene in the movie.

she’s beauty, she’s grace, she’s…part of the male gaze!?

Unfortunately, I did exactly what Hitchcock’s creepy ass mind wanted me to do: watch Grace Kelly’s every single move throughout this movie with voyeuristic detail. At the time of writing the essay, I thought I was being clever for saying that the character was more than your average 1950’s female lead. “She’s compelling, she’s not like other female roles of the time,” I thought, applauding Hitchcock for giving her a brain, “Every time she enters a room, she’s telling us that she’s here! Here I am!”  And that’s exactly where I went wrong. Upon reviewing my entire essay, instead of depicting Kelly as the iconic female lead, I painted the picture of the male gaze in all its glory. I talked so heavily about the way she held herself, the way her gaze said something, the way her smile pulled you in. These are qualities unlike any woman in real life would (with the exception of her constantly being watched). I described her as a role, as an object, not as a human. It shocked me during the re-read of this essay. How…the hell did I, a woman, fall into such a shitty trap!? As overdramatic as it sounds, I really do think a video essay will help me recover from my previous oversimplification of these images by implementing a highly neccessary, moving-image function, and  a deeper dive into the misogyny of film. 

Video essays, in ways, are just like essays. They allow you to view a text through an argumentative and/or analytical lens. Much different from a review, video essays often have a thesis based upon the subject. In my case, I’d probably come up with a thesis about the trap of the male gaze, and how it takes a careful eye to be able to notice when it’s in action. Video essays often give you a broader context at first, narrowing down to detailed conversation about the subject matter, and then broadening up again for future exploration. Or, in the case of Lessons from the Screenplay, the analysis begins extremely narrow, ultimately creating large, overarching similarities between two texts. Most of the time, many different ideas begin developing simultaneously throughout the video, and are tied together at the end.

However, all of this information is paired with the use of audio and visual components. Many video essays take visuals from multiple movies, TV shows or other forms of visual media to help aid their argument, even if it’s not totally relevant to the subject matter. The writer often comes to the audience in the form of a talking head, much like that of a news reporter. The writer is interjected between their visual examples, talking over the clips or allowing the audio to play in order to prove points. Most times, they are witty, personal, and don’t take too seriously the implications of their argument (or at least, from what I’ve seen). The popular visual analyst, Lindsay Ellis, is a perfect example of this. In my case, and a lot of others, the sole purpose of a video essay is to explain an observation found in a piece of text and prove this to the audience. So yeah, a way cooler way to present information and you can let the clips speak for themselves. Videos are uploaded a lot of the time to Youtube and Vimeo, where individuals like Ellis have started a cult following of the genre.

a lot of storyboarding starts out real rough…

Often, video essays start with a rough script of the argument and examples. Much like an actual script, the length of this can give the writer a rough outline of how long the video might be. Planning a video essay also means creating storyboards and detailed descriptions of how the video will flow and match up with the written portion of the essay. While at first, rough storyboarding is just a way to get your ideas out there (much like an outline), a concrete storyboard is necessary to move forward with the recording and editing process. Video essays, much like formal essays, rely heavily on structure (here’s a video essay on video essay structure), which is why storyboarding is so essential to the overall functionality of the video.

So, does that clear up why this is probably the perfect way to turn my first, shallow, hardly entertaining analysis of Rear Window into a hopefully engaging, thoughtful trainwreck of a video essay? If anything, I definitely have the personality to pull it off.

xoxo-

Briana 

 

By the way, here’s my sources!

http://libguides.augie.edu/c.php?g=526064&p=3599418

The video essay

Introduction to Op-Eds

I decided to experiment with an op-ed for this project. My original piece is my college essay–written three years ago by me, about me, with the intention of showing why I would be a good candidate for admission to the colleges I applied to. My college essay was deliberately constructed, starting with an element of myself that could theoretically be a character flaw–anxiety–but through a careful arc of anecdotes, personal development and reflection, eventually seeking to prove itself to be a strength, something that sets me apart but has made me a stronger, more capable student and person. I think college essays are generally constructed in this quite deliberate way; whether they are focusing on something quite serious or pivotal in one’s life, such as the death of a loved one or a mental or physical struggle, or something as simple but symbolic and telling as a favorite food. To me, it seems that a lot of people write about these life-changing moments or experiences–as my peers and I wrote our essays, experiences like deaths and eating disorders seemed like automatic topics. However, my mom is now a college counselor (helping students with their college process, not working with a college or high school) and I’ve thought a great deal about her thoughts on college essays. Specifically, she thinks that this very specific type of essay–one that shows that you are not perfect and your life has not been perfect, but these experiences have made you stronger, more well-rounded, a better candidate for admission (and ultimately, you are ok and perhaps now even better than when you started, even if this is realistically untrue)–is not good, because it shows a flaw. If you have struggled with anxiety, admitting you is essentially a flight risk. If you have struggled with an eating disorder, admitting you is a flight risk. And I don’t know if that’s true or fair. I think if someone wrote about a physical illness or disability–say, having cancer or being in a wheelchair, it wouldn’t face the stigma that these mental struggles do. While college essays are typically very embellished and carefully constructed, the idea of writing about a weakness that has made you stronger is at least, theoretically, offering quite an honest and genuine perspective about yourself and how you’ve come to be.

All of this is to explain the question this has led me to explore through an op-ed: what is a college essay?

Op-eds collaborate thought and opinion with factual evidence; they are well written, but incorporate casual anecdotes, appeals to readers, and even humorous additions. This unique combination of different writing styles is perfect for someone to explore an opinion or idea and seek to share and prove their thoughts. Op-eds typically follow quite a few guidelines. Duke University’s Office of News and Communications’ style guide for op-eds specifies 20 guidelines to follow. A few of the most essential ones:

  • Shorter is better–aim for 750 words or less.
  • Address only one problem, make that one point well, and make it clear at the top of your article.
  • Appeal to readers specifically, personally, and anecdotally. Why should they care?
  • Acknowledge the other side–but make sure you come out on top.
  • Write in an active voice, and one that is understandable by a wide audience.

One of my favorite outlets for op-eds is, of course, The New York Times. My reading of opinion pieces here has definitely influenced how I conceptualize op-eds, and how I plan to write my own.

For further resources, this is The New York Times’s opinion page: https://www.nytimes.com/section/opinion.

A recent opinion piece by Anita Hill on the Cavanaugh proceedings: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/18/opinion/anita-hill-brett-kavanaugh-clarence-thomas.html?emc=edit_ne_20180918&nl=evening-briefing&nlid=7731757820180918&te=1.

Another guide for writing op-eds: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/25/opinion/tips-for-aspiring-op-ed-writers.html

Introduction to the Short Story

A short story.

It’s just a novel cut short right? Less developed themes and characters? Just take a novel, cut out the slow bits, speed up everything and BAM; the perfect short story.

Well, not exactly.

When writing a short story, the author has to be precise and concise in word choice and development, both of characters and themes. Because of this, short story authors often choose to leave out background details, instead beginning in the middle of all the action and developing an understanding of the characters through the plot itself. The author shows us who the characters are by leading them down different paths, giving them characteristics through the choices they make.

The author must also make concessions on the complexity of the plot. Instead of inundating the story with multiple, intersecting plot lines, both big and small, they must focus on one plot and develop that in the limited amount of pages they have. The plot in short stories, also tends to deal with more internal problems of the protagonist, as opposed to external conflicts.

When researching different genres, the short story stood out to me. For a short story every word counts, they can’t spend two chapters developing a character; instead they have to illustrate who the character is throughout the story and in small actions which add up.

This appeals to me because it seems similar to an essay, but with the arguments and ideas hidden in fictional characters and story-lines. This idea directly translates to what I want to do with my first experiment.  When I was looking through my old papers, I found one I had written for my intro to psychology course on the Stanford Prison experiment. The goal of this essay was to critically analyze the faults, both ethical and moral, in the design of this experiment using knowledge from the textbook and lectures.

This immediately gave me an idea to write about the experiment through the eyes of a participant, an idea that was later improved upon by one of my classmates. They suggested I write from the perspective of both a prisoner and a guard. From their perspective, I plan to show the doubts and fears real participants must surely have experienced during the run of the experiment.

Through this experiment, I think I will gain a new perspective on how to formulate arguments and make the best use of what space I am allotted.

Introduction to psychological analysis

The genre I picked can be classified as broadly as a formal academic essay, and as specific as a psychological analysis. I’m using the article I wrote for The Michigan Daily — which centers around the tears of several basketball players after they lost in the National Championship game — to more broadly analyze the role of emotion in sports. This analysis will focus on a few specific questions that I hope to more clearly answer by the end of my essay. When is it socially acceptable to cry in sports? When is it not? More broadly, where do our conceptions about male emotions in sports come from? I will hope to use other situations in sports when athletes cried and there was either a backlash to those emotions or a more generally positive response, like I witnessed from the Michigan basketball team.

There are several potential stumbling blocks in my transformation. I’m worried about how much I should and should not relate back to the scene I witnessed. Since the article itself is obviously very anecdotal — focusing on scenes and quotes and not much broad context on masculinity — I will have to do all the research essentially from scratch. It’s much easier, in my opinion, to take an academic essay and make it an Op-Ed rather than the other way around. But this is the topic that intrigued me and my classmates most, so it’s the one I’m selecting.

The main concern I have is centering properly around the genre I’ve chosen (one that is a bit broad and vague). You all know, generally, what an academic essay is. It’s harder to nail down exactly how this will take the form of a psychological analysis, if that is indeed what I select. It won’t be a “case study” as described best here: https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-write-a-psychology-case-study-2795722. But it also won’t be your standard English 125 essay.

I will need to do further research on the topic, because psychological analyses are generally reports from psychologists based on studies they’ve performed. My “study” is quite an inexact one, if you can even call it that. It is also just one example in a plethora. I am excited to explore other examples of emption in sports — I already have a few in mind. But I am slightly concerned about both reaching a proper conclusion if there’s one to reach, and the context I will need in order to present that conclusion.

I think it’s a challenge, but a good challenge, for me to take on this semester, in a topic that interests and confounds me. Because of that, I’m motivated to forge ahead with this project, pursuing every avenue possible to make it as strong of a transformation as I can.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of male athletes crying/showing emotion. Try to guess which ones are generally considered acceptable.

Introduction to the Genre of Infographics

For my first experiment’s genre, I have decided on an infographic. Common types of infographics include informational, comparison, timeline, and how to. Infographics are the highest shared content type, and according to MIT, 90% of information sent to the brain is visual. I am interested in this genre because of its ability to convey information in an artistic, thorough, and concise manner. Usually all of the infographics I see easily catch the reader’s attention with the bright colors, recognizable symbols, and organized layout. With increased readership because of those qualities, it is easier to get important messages across and have people remember it.

During the time that people started eating Tide Pods, my chemistry professor showed us this infographic.

For the most part, this infographic is representative of its genre.  To be an infographic, there should be an overall burning question or problem that it aims to solve. Then, there are other relevant facts to answer sub questions. In this case, the main purpose would be why Tide Pods should not be eaten, and the sub questions would be like what’s inside a Tide Pod and what happens when someone eats one.

Infographics also make use of statistics, charts, graphs, and icons. The purpose of these depictions is to allow for minimal use of text to display data, explain concepts, simplify ideas, and show relationships. They make abstract ideas much easier to understand. In the example I showed, chemical depictions and structures were used because they best enhanced the text. It is important to make sure that the structure of the data enhances the information because sometimes words do just fine in representing the information. It is also just as important to ensure that the graph or chart accurately represents the data, as mistakes can easily be made during the process of creation.

Flow is one of the most important aspects to consider when making an infographic. Based on the purpose and type of information that is presented, both the layout and information must flow. Regarding layout, there needs to be an appropriate structure, like two columns vs. one column. The format and colors should remain consistent throughout the infographic. Regarding the words, they should start with what the reader will gain from the infographic and then dive into the details. That way it will be like a story for the readers, leading to excitement and curiosity as they read. When thinking about the words, one key point is to know who the audience is, especially for the purposes of technical language and style. The Tide Pods infographic manages flow well in both of these categories.  The two column and blue scheme format remains consist throughout, and the inclusion of chemical structures and simple chemistry terms works well for their audience with a basic chemistry background.

Here are some websites with more examples and tips on infographics.

https://venngage.com/blog/how-to-make-an-infographic-in-5-steps/

https://coschedule.com/blog/how-to-make-an-infographic/

https://icons8.com/articles/what-is-an-infographic/

https://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/how-make-beautiful-and-effective-infographics

Ryan Clemmons – Intro

Hey everyone! My name is Ryan Clemmons and I am from Westland, Michigan – about 30 minutes away from AA. Most people haven’t heard of Westland, so if you’ve heard of Canton, it’s right next door. I am a Junior studying Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in writing (obviously). The current plan is to attend law school – at least that’s what I tell my dad to keep him sane. I took a Research Methods course this summer and fell in love with it, which has me heavily considering possible PhD programs as well.

I’m an only child and I live with my dad. We are super close, even though he refuses to let me call him my “best friend”, he is. He’s my hero in more ways than one. My maternal grandparents (Nana and Papa) live three houses down from me, and have been a huge part of my life. My dad’s mom (Grandma) lives a few streets over, and is the person I call when just about anything happens in my life. Good grade, bad grade, new pens, bad break up: Grandma knows about it.

Here at Michigan, I have played on the club volleyball team since freshman year. I’ve played volleyball year round since middle school, and though I chose not to pursue the sport in college, I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I am also in a pre-law and public policy co-ed fraternity, and I work at the law library.

Some of my favorite past-times include listening to podcasts, bullet journaling (if you haven’t heard of this, look it up – it’s like an entire subculture and it’s changed my life), reading (not as much as I should), watching and talking about sports, and intaking as much television and movies as physically possible. I wish I knew how much of my life I’ve spent in front of a tv, it’s probably a lot. I love any movie with Dermot Mulroney, and I’ve watched just about all of them with my Grandma. I have more cinematic interests than mid 90’s rom-coms, but I’ll save those for another post. My favorite sports are college football – the college categorization is important – and professional baseball. I do not particularly like or follow professional football, and my only claim to basketball is winning my March Madness bracket last year.

I (accidentally) have taken two ULWR classes thus far at UMich, and in both classes I felt like I experienced the most growth as a writer and a person. When I came across the minor in writing, it appealed to me for two reasons: the ease with which I would fulfill at least the ULWR part of the minor, and the opportunity to develop myself further as a writer. Writing has always held a special place in my heart. When I was young, I wrote many fiction short stories, if they could even be called that. In high school, the ACT-style focus of writing turned me away from the practice, and more recently I’ve developed a love for academic writing. I think people who enjoy and care about writing are the best kind of people, and I’m excited that the minor will allow me to get to know all of you.

 

Introduction – Mary Jo Kelly

Hi everyone! My name is Mary Jo Kelly. I’m Michigan City, Indiana, which, yes, is a town in Indiana and is named due to its proximity to Lake Michigan. My hometown is so ironic that I usually just describe myself as from “near Chicago,” even though I’m really not from Chicago at all, although I do spend a lot of time there. If I tell people in Michigan that I’m from Indiana, I’m automatically from Indianapolis, and that’s a good three hours from my hometown. Apart from my hometown that is very strange to Michiganders, I am an only child. I have a 4-year-old cat named Koa, who is really the baby of the family.

I’m currently a junior studying Communications. I chose Communications because media is such a center of life and culture, and I am really interested in its effects on people. After college, I’m hoping to go into PR or possibly attend graduate school.

In my free time, I love to travel, go to concerts, write, and read. I stay busy on campus through my co-ed service fraternity APO, as a facilitator in Feminist Forum in the RC, and the Disney Interest Group.

The Minor in Writing seems that it will really allow me to bring together my passion for writing with skills that will help me in my future career. I am so excited for seeing how much I can grow with everyone in the Minor in Writing!

 

My cat Koa!

Olivia Turano Introduction

Hi! I’m Olivia Turano and I’m a junior majoring in Public Policy. I’m really passionate about social justice and plan to focus on social and criminal justice and human rights policy (I think). I might go to law school, but not 100% positive–I love law and have always planned on being a lawyer, but I’m also really interested in politics and might be interested in pursuing non-profits, political work, or even maybe consulting (like political or social responsibility? There are so many fields and it’s really  overwhelming.) I’m from New York City and can attest that it is, in fact, the greatest city on earth. I love baseball and am a huge Yankee fan. I live with my parents and 15-year-old sister. I am best friends with my parents and after years of viciously hating each other, I am also really close to my sister now. I’ve been told I’m identical to my mom, dad, and sister at various times–picture included so you can be the judge.

A lot of my interests revolve around politics and social justice. Beyond that, I love to read and Harry Potter is my guilty pleasure. I like running but do so in constant fear of getting another stress fracture because I stress fractured my femur last December and was on crutches for a while (contrary to popular belief, crutches are NOT fun and I do not recommend at all). I’m really excited about starting the Minor in Writing and exploring my writing on a deeper level this semester.

Caroline Yardley introduction

These are my 2 dogs Ben and Teddy! Ben is a golden retriever (left) and Teddy is a mix of Australian shepherd, terrier, and cocker spaniel (right). They are my best friends and I love them so much!

Hi! My name is Caroline Yardley and I’m a junior studying Communications.  I’m still not sure what I want to do for a career, but right now I’m thinking of doing something with journalism. Some of my hobbies include writing (obviously!), singing, reading (I’m reading the Harry Potter series for the first time and I’m on book 6!), and finding good restaurants in Ann Arbor. I am also involved in several student orgs such as Young Life, Wolverine Support Network, and Arts Chorale! I’m so excited to see what the Minor in Writing has in store!

Lily Sylvester – Introduction

Hi classmates! My name is Lily Sylvester. I am a Junior from Rhode Island. I live about 15 minutes away from Brown University and a little over an hour away from Boston. I have two younger brothers and a Bernese Mountain dog named Naya. I am an Environment major, but I’m honestly not really sure what I want to do yet after college. This summer I had a marketing internship and loved it, so I am considering going down that road.

My family, plus my Nana

I am really into Boston sports and most things New England. At Michigan, I am involved in some environmental clubs and am also on the sailing team. When I’m not doing school, I like to explore new restaurants and grocery stores in Ann Arbor, go on bike rides, listen to podcasts, and watch Netflix. I recently finished The Crown and am now really into Ozark. I also really enjoy traveling and am hopefully studying abroad next semester.

Sailing on Spring Break

The Minor in Writing appealed to me because I get a significant sense of accomplishment from writing, and I want to strengthen and diversify my writing skills. I am excited to get to know our class and be pushed out of my writing comfort zone this semester!

 

Here is Naya at a beach in my town