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Video essay filmmaking


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Jeremy Kaye

5 filmmakers that have mastered the art of the Video Essay

What is a video essay, and who’s making them on YouTube?

A regular series to highlight great channels on YouTube

Videos Essays are a creative format of investigative analysis that are popular with film critics, art analysts, educators, and storytellers of all types.

The ‘Video Essay’ structure resembles written essays: thesis, introduction, body sections, and conclusion. Video Essays take a structured, in-depth, analytical, and sometimes persuasive approach, as opposed to the quick ‘explainer’ video style of ‘xyz subject explained in .59 seconds’ that is also popular on YouTube.

Narrated and mixed with images, sound, and video clips, the Video Essay format is gaining popularity with all types of filmmakers. Let’s take a look at several of the best:

Tony Zhou —  Every Frame a Painting

“Dedicated to the analysis of film form. Pictures and sound all the way, baby”

Tony Zhou is a filmmaker and freelance editor, but in his spare time he crafts excellent video essays that examine films and how they are constructed. He even has a video on what makes a great video essay here .

In his video essays, he explains the art behind writing, editing, directing, and camera work, and has attracted a sizable audience of filmmakers, moviegoers, and students. Learn more about Tony in an interview he did on reddit here .

Evan Puschak —  The Nerdwriter

“A video series that aims to cultivate worldview: a particular philosophy of life, and a commitment to the well-rounded, intellectual individual.”

Evan Puschak studied film production at Boston University, and has been making videos as The Nerdwriter since 2011. After writing/hosting Seeker Daily on Discovery’s Digital network, he left to pursue The Nerdwriter full time.

The Nerdwriter covers a wide variety of topics: philosophical, political, moral, psychological, financial, artistic, and scientific. Evan also does a series called Understanding Art: analyses of artworks, films, paintings, and poems.

Adam Westbook —  Delve

“Video essays that tell stories about our past and our future, using the fabric of film form to convey fascinating, surprising ideas.”

Adam Westbook is a British filmmaker who has been making videos on the web since 2009. His videos have been featured on Brainpickings, The Verge, Kottke, Aeon and Fast Company, and he was named an honoree nominee in the 2015 Webby Awards.

His current project,, covers a wide area of subjects. From the causes of World War 1 to Leonardo Da Vinci’s creative journey, he takes stories from our past and shows their relevance and importance to the present and future.

Stuart Brown —  Ahoy

“A retrospective and insightful look at gaming content and its place in history”

Stuart Brown has a background in professional web development, a degree in interactive media, and has been making videos since 2009. His video essays are presented with a distinct visual style, and go beyond typical gaming content to showcase a historical perspective that draws interest from gamers and non-gamers alike.

He creates video essays related to video games in different ways. They include topics such as the Cold War’s influence on video games, and how changes in technology improved game graphics over time.

Jack Nugent —  Now You See It

Exploring film themes and tropes. It’s like a college film analysis class minus the lecture halls, essay assignments, and student loan debts.”

Jack is a student at University of Virginia, and makes video essays during his spare time. His videos cover thematic techniques in film, looking at how those techniques, symbols, and themes create patterns.

Sometimes you want to sit back and watch something that takes time to really explain and teach you something. Video essays are the perfect format.

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