I’ve made a few video essays about TV shows before, all for my YouTube Channel, “Overthinking it.” Given YouTube was where I first discovered video essays, the style of videos I made was similar to those you’ll often find on YouTube: all used extensive voiceover or to-camera explanation of pre-written points. In some ways, these videos were more typically “academic” in presentation, given the main argument came in the form of a written (or in this case performed) thesis.
When I came to study my master’s in Digital Media, I found out more about videographic criticism in academic circles and began to watch more experimental video essays, without words or narration. In my own practice I began playing with the affordances/modalities of the moving image beyond narration (editing, sound, imagery, etc.) to both research and present (or perhaps perform) a critical stance of some kind.
I was deeply moved by I May Destroy You, and fascinated with its nuanced, exploratory story structure that represented a full circle of dealing with or “handling” a traumatic incident. I knew I wanted to make something about this show, and the TV Dictionary acted as the perfect catalyst. My love for and connection to the show were also informed by my own identity and experiences as a woman.
I chose the word “handle” to sum up the show because of the way the various definitions (“to manipulate physically,” “to confront,” “to overcome,” etc.) could be used to tell the story of this circle of trauma and healing that the show draws so well. The result, I hope, is a kind of mini-retelling of the show and my own interpretation of it.
Making video essays, particularly when messing around with footage in editing software, feels like I’m breaking into the shows I love, which I find rewarding simultaneously as a fan, artist and critic. I dislike tendencies that assume the fan and the critic or academic are profoundly different. I agree with Mulvey that the affordances of digital editing software have inspired a “new wave of cinephelia,” and that “there is always a personal edge to the mix of intellectual curiosity and fetishistic fascination.” (Mulvey, 2006, pp. 144-145) I have found this blurring to be true of my own practice.
I also enjoyed bringing music to the centre in the process of this project, and I used the song “It’s Gonna Rain” by Rev. Milton Brunson and The Thompson Community Singers, which was featured on the soundtrack of the show. As I made the video, I began editing clips in time with the song, which links to some of Grant’s work on the potential of film studies “in the groove,” where music allows you to “enter more fully (corporeally, carnally) into a rhythmic engagement with what [we] see and hear, in order to feel more on track, in a groove, as part of a greater sympathetic engagement with the visual matter,” (Grant, 2015) allowing makers like myself, and hopefully viewers too, to reach a kind of “bodily understanding” (Roholt, 2014, p. 135) of the texts they consume.
Grant, C., 2015. 'Film Studies in the Groove? Rhythmising Perception in Carnal Locomotive.' NECSUS, June.
Mulvey, L., 2006. Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image. London: Reaktion Books.
Roholt, T., 2014. Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic Nuance. London: Bloomsbury.
Joy Hunter is a video essayist and Master’s student in Digital Media and Education at the UCL IOE.