Video Essay: Visual Femininity


A Short Blurb on Video Essays:

Like most students, I come from a background in which writing academic papers that exude cogency is praised by most professors and colleagues alike. In one’s undergraduate studies, the audience is obvious—the professor and possibly a TA who will stamp a final grade onto your papers. When we write about topics that we want to bring beyond the classroom walls and into the public view, this traditional, distant, and formal writing style does not seem to be as effective as other available mediums. Paper-based essays thrive in academia, but do they make the same kind of impact to the rest of society who we really want to listen?

Short video essays are rising into the public as they carve out a slightly different path than documentary films. Documentaries (essentially longer, more professional video essays) have made their way into various classrooms, the History Channel and the Sundance Film Festival. Creators of 3-5 minute long video essays have utilized popular platforms like YouTube or educational websites that encourage this new wave of visual learning and information extraction. Perks of creating an essay in the form of a short clip  are the wider audience, likelihood of someone finishing the piece in one-sitting, and its easy one-click accessibility on the internet.


Process of Creating this Video Essay:

In my previous post, I submitted a draft outline of what my upcoming video essay would look like. The process of outlining a video essay remained relatively the same as it would if I were to write a paper essay with the same topic and thesis. Yet, the aspect of maintaining cogency required that it manifest itself in an unfamiliar, alternate form.

Editing an essay took on a whole new meaning as I replaced my trusty thesaurus with film software programs. Shooting in real time and cutting clips demanded an extra layer of thought than simply pressing the delete key on a computer keyboard. Timing never felt so important. Music emphasized the tone and mood of the piece. The most surprising element was that words became a supplementary supporter rather than the primary means for relaying my message. 

The most rewarding part about this experience was that I wasn’t stuck in a library alone with my laptop and mountains of books beside me as I hammered away into the night trying to find legitimate sources/quotes to use to support or counter-argue my point. Creating this video essay required interaction with other people. I was able to hear their real opinions while I looked at their facial expressions and heard the fluctuations in the sound of their voice. After the shoot, the cast members themselves became my attentive audience as they provided an unexpected stage for me to share and explain my personal questions about Visual Femininity.


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5 thoughts on “Video Essay: Visual Femininity

  1. MP:me says:

    Amanda: Your remarks on your essay give it a secondary frame of production which itself adds to the power of the project. I particularly appreciate your comments about music, pacing, and facial expression (all new vocabularies for effective communication, and ones you’ve taken on with a great deal of mastery, given your early stages in this writing form!) Well done. I think our point about the supplementary nature of language in video is really to the point. It doesn;t go away, it may even be primary in some sense, but it can’t be understood alone, and all the other registers you name begin to nuance and perhaps even change the meaning of the words, especially when you edit with some sort of contradiction or tension (as you do here, allowing words to hit against images reflecting their social expression). I also appreciate reimagining your audience as your subjects (and not me, or even your peers), that demands new forms of expression and explication, yes?

  2. Andrew says:

    Amanda, I really appreciated your use of multiple means of communication in your video essay. I thought you made great use of text, sound, and different types of imagery to make your argument. I honestly can’t think of anything to suggest other than to say you should make more videos!

  3. Amanda, your technical proficiency and command of visual language is really impressive! Your use of the split-screen footage is so powerful that I don’t think you need the “putting on makeup” “taking off makeup” labels for that part of the video; it speaks for itself. I also thought the way you fade in and out of focus on those background images when you present other visuals was a smart, fluid way to keep the audiences attention exactly where you wanted it without losing the flow and impact of the background footage. Great job making a strong, clear point in a short amount of time. Congratulations on a fantastic project!

  4. tianyuxiao says:

    Amanda, your video essay is impressive from contents to the structure. I think it is great to use the contrast of a girl’s making up and taking off as a backgroud, with the beautiful song!With the backgroud, the audience will be likely to understand your questions, and it’s just surprise that the woman is the same person in the end, which will make the audience regret if they didn’t notice when viewing, so they would rather watch again!!

  5. Amanda, sorry it took me so long to comment. But, I just wanted to say that your video essay was awesome. I know it was a struggle to make but the results of your hard work really shows. I loved the way you were able to incorporate the split screen of the girl putting on and taking off her makeup. For me it really brought home your point of performing femininity without even knowing that your are. I look forward to seeing the documentary today!

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