Video essay

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A video essay is a genre of video content that, much like a written essay, advances an argument. Video essays take advantage of the structure and language of film to advance those arguments.[1]


While the medium has its roots in academia, it has grown dramatically in popularity with the advent of the online video sharing platforms like YouTube and Vimeo.[2] While most of such videos are intended for entertainment, some argue that they can have an academic purpose as well.[3] In 2021, the Netflix series Voir premiered featuring video essays focusing on films like 48 Hrs and Lady Vengeance.[4][5]

Notable video essayists[edit]

Frequently cited[6][7][8][9] examples of video essayists and series include Every Frame a Painting (a series on the grammar of film editing by Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos) and Lindsay Ellis (an American media critic, film critic, YouTuber, and author formerly known as The Nostalgia Chick) who was inspired by Zhou and Ramos's work.[10] Websites like StudioBinder, MUBI, and Fandor also have contributing writers providing their own video essays. One such contributor, Kevin B. Lee, helped assert video essays' status as a legitimate form of film criticism as Chief Video Essayist for Fandor from 2011-2016.[11] Other video essayists include Korean-American filmmaker Kogonada, British film scholar Catherine Grant, and French media researcher Chloé Galibert-Laîné.[12]

In 2017, Sight & Sound, the magazine published by the British Film Institute (BFI), started an annual polls of the best video essays of the year. The 2021 poll reported that 38% of the essayists whose work received a nomination are female (which implies an increase of the 5% from the previous year), and that predominantly the video essays are in English (95%).[13]

In 2020, curator Cydnii Wilde Harris, along with Will DiGravio and Kevin B. Lee, collaboratively curated The Black Lives Matter Video Essay Playlist, highlighting the medium's activist potential.[14] Because the video essay format is digestible yet often emotionally impactful and can be created without requiring expensive equipment, it has served as a crucial tool for filmmakers and community organizers who have been marginalized from mainstream film criticism and media production.[15]


Some have argued that essays from YouTube personalities, while well-produced, can be gussied-up opinion pieces and the analysis of said videos can be taken as fact by the viewer due to their convincing academic deliveries.[16]


In 2014, MediaCommons and Cinema Journal, the official publication of the Society for Cinema Studies, joined to create [in]Transition, the first journal devoted exclusively to peer reviewed publication of videographic scholarly work. The journal is designed not only as a means to present selected videographic work, but to create a context for understanding it – and validating it – as a new mode of scholarly writing for the discipline of cinema and media studies and related fields.

Since 2015 under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and under the auspices of Middlebury’s Digital Liberal Arts Summer Institute, Professors Jason Mittell, Christian Keathley and Catherine Grant have organized a two-week workshop with the aim to explore a range of approaches by using moving images as a critical language and to expand the expressive possibilities available to innovative humanist scholars. Every year the workshop is attended by 15 scholars working in film and media studies or a related field, whose objects of study involve audio-visual media, especially film, television, and other new digital media forms.[17]

In 2018, Tecmerin: Revista de Ensayos Audiovisuales began as another peer-reviewed academic publication exclusively dedicated to videographic criticism. The same year Will DiGravio launched the Video Essay Podcast, featuring interviews with prominent video essayists.[12]

In 2021 the research project Video Essay. Futures of Audiovisual Research and Teaching funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation started, led by media scholar and video essayist Johannes Binotto, with Chloé Galibert-Laîné, Oswald Iten, and Jialu Zhu as main researchers.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bernstein, Paula (3 May 2016). "What is a Video Essay? Creators Grapple with a Definition". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  2. ^ Bresland, John. "On the Origin of the Video Essay". Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts. Department of English at Virginia Commonwealth University & New Virginia Review, Inc. ISSN 1540-3068. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  3. ^ Higgin, Tanner (2018-01-23). "Why and How to Use YouTube Video Essays in Your Classroom". Common Sense Education. Retrieved 2018-03-25.
  4. ^ Stream It or Skip It: 'Voir' On Netflix - Decider
  5. ^ Netflix's Visual Essay Series Voir is Worth a Look|TV/Streaming|Roger Ebert
  6. ^ Liptak, Andrew (2016-08-01). "This filmmaker deep-dives into what makes your favorite cartoons tick". The Verge. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
  7. ^ Oller, Jacob (2017-12-14). "The 17 Best Video Essays of 2017". Film School Rejects. Retrieved 2020-12-24.
  8. ^ Shields, Meg (2018-12-13). "The Best Video Essays of 2018". Film School Rejects. Retrieved 2020-12-24.
  9. ^ Lee, Kevin B.; Verdeure, David (10 January 2010). "The best video essays of 2017". British Film Institute. Retrieved 2020-12-24.
  10. ^ Raftery, Brian. "How YouTube Made a Star Out of This Super-Smart Film Critic". Wired. Conde Nast. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  11. ^ "Kevin B. Lee". British Film Institute. Retrieved 2021-02-01.
  12. ^ a b Avissar, Ariel; DiGravio, Will; Lee, Grace (14 January 2020). "The best video essays of 2019". British Film Institute. Retrieved September 4, 2020.
  13. ^ Avissar, Ariel (2022-01-18). "The best video essays of 2021". The best video essays of 2021. Retrieved 2022-06-18.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ Harris, Cydnii Wilde (2020-08-13). "Video Essays That Address Race, Inequality, and the Movement for Black Lives". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 2021-02-01.
  15. ^ "Seen and Heard: Selections from the Black Lives Matter Video Essay Playlist". Open City Documentary Festival. Retrieved 2021-02-01.
  16. ^ Neilan, Dan (2018-04-24). "Here's a video essay about why video essays are bad". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2020-12-24.
  17. ^ "What is Videographic Criticism?". The Middlebury site network. Middlebury College. 22 September 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2020.

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