Stephanie Lam is a Ph.D. student in Film and Visual Studies at Harvard. Her research interests are in the “video essay” and in environmental film and and media.
As a Media Fellow and member of the Bok Center’s Media, Literacy, and Visualization Team, Stephanie has collated resources related to the “video essay,” including both scholarship on the form as well as practical models of it. She has organized workshops for Teaching Fellows and faculty on how to assign and evaluate creative projects, and has developed curriculum materials for faculty interested in incorporating film into their syllabi including sample prompts, resource lists, and a consult of best-practices. In addition, she has worked with Learning Lab students to gather feedback on the design of annotation tools as well as various “scaffolding” assignments intended to introduce students to the various elements of a complex visual essay. In combination with her role as an MLV fellow, as the Head TF for the course AIU 63: East Asian Cinema, Stephanie worked with Professor Jie Li to incorporate the video essay as an additional option for the final assignment in the large, introductory course.
AIU 63: East Asian Cinema
Stephanie worked with the course head, Professor Jie Li, to facilitate the inclusion of a “video essay” as a possible creative mode in which students could submit their weekly responses to the course material. In addition to adjusting each response prompt to include a film-specific assignment, Stephanie created a multitude of resources for students, including practical “how-to” guides that provided technical guidance on iMovie and Final Cut, tip sheets, examples of model assignments, and contextualizing readings to ensure that even those with no experience in film had the tools necessary to work in this mode should they choose. In collaboration with Professor Li, Stephanie also organized a workshop to train the course Teaching Fellows in evaluating and providing feedback on creative assignments. The combination of these tools aided in the course’s successful scaling up from a mid-size lecture of 45 students to a large open-enrollment course offered as part of the General Education program.
Perhaps most importantly, however, the addition of the video essay created a middle ground in which the students could express analytical ideas by means of the exact medium relevant to the class—film—in this way bridging what had previously been two distinct modes of interacting with course material.
VES Teaching Workshops on The “Visual Essay”
In collaboration with VES Pedagogy Fellow Lindsey Lodhie, Stephanie organized a series of three workshops for VES Teaching Fellows and faculty on teaching the “visual essay.” The workshops covered a) the filmic elements necessary delivering criticism in this new mode, b) examples of student work and evaluation models, and c) how to develop a filmmaking assignment that will maximize student learning. As the VES department worked to restructure its film history and theory curriculum to incorporate practice-based assignments, these workshops aimed to distill and deliver teaching methods that will aid teaching staff in successfully realizing this new curriculum, in this way ensuring that future students will have the opportunity to produce criticism in the very same medium that they have chosen to study.
Taxonomy of Multimedia Assignment Types In order to effectively teach the visual essay, Stephanie developed a curriculum designed to introduce students step-by-step to the various elements necessary to craft a complicated argument in film. She developed a series of “scaffolding assignments” that provided a taxonomy of possible elements of a visual essay. The taxonomy that she developed is included below:
Supercut: A series of short clips of a single type of event—sonic or visual. A supercut can be used to identify patterns over the course of a single film or many films. Works by means of repetition.
Remix: A modification of the source material.