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Audiovisual Essays

Vincent Longo

Doctoral Student
Screen Arts and Culture


Vincent Longo, has been a GSI and undergraduate research mentor for two years. He is the recipient of both the Outstanding Research Mentor Award (UROP 2017) and the Outstanding GSI Award (Rackham 2018). His research focuses on the historical and aesthetic relationships between American theater and film during the mid-twentieth century and he holds a certificate in film directing from the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan.

Mr. Longo assists Professor Matthew Solomon with SAC 236, The Art of Film, a large introductory course for non-SAC majors. He discusses his experiences incorporating audiovisual essays that encompass both media studies and production techniques.


Resources

Browse resources for the audiovisual essay assignment and examples of student work. 

Course Details

Course:

SAC 236 The Art of Film

Related Learning Objective:

  • Master cinema studies critical vocabulary for audiovisual analysis.

  • Recognize specific elements of cinematic storytelling and expression.

  • Think critically and comparatively about cinematic techniques and representation.

  • Construct an audiovisual argument using audiovisual evidence.

  • Teach the technical editing and audio-recording skills and audiovisual rhetorical strategies.

Assignment Prompt/Description:

Motif Assignment:
In second of the course’s three major assignments, the students make an argument about the narrative, emotional, intellectual, and/or psychological effects created as a result of a motif within a film of your choice on the class screening list. They must use a clip of every instances of the motif in the film, no matter if there are three examples or two-hundred three. In an effort to decenter students’ reliance on traditional exposition they must make their argument without using narration. Instead, students rely solely on the organization and manipulations of clips and very brief instances of on-screen text.

Final Audiovisual Essay:
For the course’s capstone project, the students make an original argument about one of the films screened for class, using any of the skills and rhetorical strategies they have learned in the course. The terms of the assignment are left intentionally general to promote the creative audiovisual presentation of original arguments.

Assignment Rubric:

This rubric was used for all three audiovisual assignments in the course. 

 

Motif Assignment

Assignment Overview:

You will make an argument about the narrative, emotional, intellectual, and/or psychological effects created as a result of a motif within a film of your choice on the class screening list (i.e. any film that has been or will be screened in its entirety for SAC 236 this term). The nature of this assignment urges you to make your argument in a creative and potentially unconventional way, while still making an argument. Your audiovisual essay should be made according to following specifications:

Choose a motif that you argue effects the film in a significant way. Motifs can be understood broadly, anything repeated—from the use of long takes to a character raising her/his right hand. You will submit a sentence or two identifying your chosen motif and some indication of the role it plays in the film electronically or in writing to your GSI.

Peer Review of “Script”:

Given the short nature of this “script,” you should only focus on two questions: how might their thesis be stronger, more viable and/or more concise? How could you imagine this argument being made visually, with the way you edit and manipulate the clips together? Make concrete suggestions for examples from the film that the essay could include and audiovisual techniques that could support the analysis (such as graphics, text on screen, split screen, fast- and slow-motion, zoom, etc.

In the digital video editor of your choice (e.g. iMovie or Adobe Premiere), collect clips of every example of your chosen motif in the film. Plan to use every example in your audiovisual essay of between 90 seconds and 3 minutes in length. State your argument concisely—preferably in one short sentence near the beginning of your finished audiovisual essay in the form of text or voice-over narration (arguments will often evolve as you examine the clips and create the audiovisual essay, but be sure to consult your GSI with any questions about viable theses. Be original and systematic: choose something you noticed, no matter how seemingly minor, and try to use each and every example of the motif in your essay. Clips can be used in any manner or combination you choose: played sequentially, using a split screen, etc. Organize the clips to strengthen your argument, and manipulate them through editing, cropping, freeze-frames, changes of speed, zooming, annotating, diagramming, etc. to support your argument.

After the initial statement of your argument, do not use any further voice-over narration, but you may use onscreen text as much as you wish to support your argument or annotate the images for emphasis and explanation. Each instance of text can be no longer than seven words, and, generally, the shorter the better. Try to avoid always placing the text at the bottom of the screen like a subtitle. Experiment with how the placement, timing, font, and frequency of text can support your argument.

Use music of your own choosing or repurposed sound from the film to establish a tone that helps your argument, but pay attention to volume. End your audiovisual essay with an epigraph from the film or from a course reading. The epigraph should support or thematically connect with your argument and the motif you chose.

Submit a draft audiovisual assignment #2 through Canvas in the form of a playable .mp4 video file between 90 seconds and 3 minutes in length. The file name should begin with your last name.

Peer-Review of Video Draft:

Students will be assigned peer reviews to complete through Canvas. Follow the peer-review prompts listed on the Canvas peer-review assignment. Full points will be allocated for providing timely and meaningful feedback on the work of other designated students in one’s section.

Submit the final audiovisual assignment #2 through Canvas in the form of a playable .mp4 video file between 90 seconds and 3 minutes in length. The file name should begin with your last name.

 

Final Audiovisual Essay

Assignment Overview:

Create an audiovisual essay approximately three to five minutes long that makes an argument about one of the audiovisual works that was screened in its entirety for SAC 236 this term. While you may choose to use outside sources if you wish, this is not necessary—and in fact may be counterproductive—for producing a successful audiovisual essay. Indeed, we strongly suggest that you look again at the film/video that you have selected and think critically and creatively about what you see and hear instead of looking online! Avoid all extraneous background information, plot summary, description, and illustrative matter—focus on making an original and persuasive audiovisual argument. Your name and the title of your audiovisual essay (all audiovisual essays must include a title) should appear legibly on a title card at the beginning of the video. A title card at the end of the video should contain full citations for any and all outside sources you used in preparing your audiovisual essay.

The terms of the assignment are left intentionally general to promote the creative audiovisual presentation of original arguments. You are free to choose any clips from the film and manipulate them (edit, crop, freeze-frame, zoom, annotate, diagram, et al) in the ways that best support your argument. In order to make an argument, your audiovisual essay will necessarily make use of voiceover narration and/or on-screen text, while employing terms and critical approaches you learned about in this class.

The final audiovisual essay consists of three steps that will each be assessed individually, followed by a film festival to showcase exemplary work. These stages correspond with the standard approach to producing audiovisual media: scriptwriting, visual pre-production, and production.

Script:

Compose a written draft of your final audiovisual essay (approximately 500 to 750 words). Your first page—likely your first paragraph, if not your first sentence—must include a clearly stated and well-phrased thesis statement that conveys your argument. Assume that the audience for your audiovisual essay has seen the film or video you are analyzing. The first page should also include a brief outline of three or more specific supporting examples that you will consider in the audiovisual essay that follows. Use terms you have learned in this course to support your argument, which should be partially—if not entirely—based on what we see and hear on screen in your chosen examples. Submit your script to Canvas by the due date. During section, your classmates will use the audiovisual essay rubric to peer review your script and storyboard; you, in turn, will help peer review theirs. Additional comments on your thesis will be provided by your GSI.

Script Peer Review:

Students will be assigned peer reviews to complete through Canvas, following the peer-review prompts listed on the Canvas peer-review assignment. Full points will be allocated for providing timely and meaningful feedback on the work of other designated students in one’s section. Your will receive up to 5 point for a workable rough draft (one able to be appropriately peer-reviewed) and up to 5 points for helpful feedback.

Draft Video:

Submit a draft audiovisual assignment #3 through Canvas in the form of a playable .mp4 video file. The file name should begin with your last name.

Draft Video Peer Review:

Students will be assigned peer reviews to complete through Canvas, following the peer-review prompts listed on the Canvas peer-review assignment. Full points will be allocated for providing timely and meaningful feedback on the work of other designated students in one’s section. Your will receive up to 5 point for a workable rough draft (one able to be appropriately peer-reviewed) and up to 5 points for helpful feedback.

Final Audiovisual Essay:  

As before, submit a .mp4 file to Canvas. The file should be named according to the following convention: [Last Name]_AVFinalEssay.mp4

The Art of Film, Film Festival

Six exemplary videos from each GSI’s collective sections, chosen by the GSI, will be chosen for the festival. The winning essays from each section will then be screened in a film festival during the final exam period, where they will be candidates for a series of awards, including the “Best-in-Show,” “Best Editing,” “Best Sound Design,” “Best Use of Text,” “Best Original Argument,” and “Most Enjoyable to Watch.” These awards will be chosen by an audience vote commencing immediately after the screening of the last essay in the program. Awards will be announced immediately following the vote and formally conclude the festival.