Annika VanSandt is a student at Occidental College and created this video essay under the supervision of Allison de Fren. First published in Notes on Videographic Criticism on May 29, 2020.
Your voice over in this piece is brilliant. What was the recoding process like? Do you have any tips for people who may be interested in making a voiceover video essay themselves?
First I wrote a basic script out. I broke my argument into sections that would explain and build upon each other. Once I had the meat of my argument written out, I would record the voiceover for each section. I don't have a professional mic to record with at home, so I used my iPhone's voice memos. As long as you speak clearly and loudly, fancy recording equipment isn't necessary! Recording the voiceover itself is an intuitive process. You don't want to read out a script word for word, yet you don't want to become too chatty either. I would recommend speaking informally, so it doesn't run the risk of sounding like a lecture. I made sure to speak slowly and added inflection in my voice as if I were having a conversation with someone.
What was the process like for writing the script? How did you balance the writing and the visuals?
In the initial script/recording, I found myself over-explaining. So it was during the editing process that I cut down my dialogue to a minimum and relied more heavily on the visuals to explain my ideas. For example, I cut out almost all descriptive dialogue, as a 3 second clip could better show what I was talking about. Use the video to explain what you don't verbalize.
I assume you have watched other video essays on Miyazaki before and during the process of creating this essay. Were you influenced by any of those essays? How did you provide your own unique take on his work?
I was actually influenced by Nerdwriter's Ghost in the Shell video essay on YouTube. Most of the video essays I had seen on Miyazaki focused on narrative themes, but I wanted my project to look at the animation techniques that he uses. So this Ghost in the Shell video essay closely aligned with what I had hoped to discuss. I referenced this video when structuring my argument. I had so many things I wanted to talk about, but I was struggling to condense it into an eight-minute argument. So this video essay provided me an example of how to interweave analysis of specifically Japanese animation technique and the film's narrative theme.
Is there something about Miyazaki that makes his work so suitable for videographic criticism? What drew you to his work, and this film in particular?
Miyazaki films have been a childhood favorite of mine, but there is something distinct about the style of animation that sets his work apart from other Japanese animations I have seen. There is a whimsical, bounciness to the movements in his animation and I have always wondered if there was a purpose to it beyond just aesthetics. After reading Thomas Lamarre's essay "From animation to anime: drawing movements and moving drawings" a few years ago, I was curious to find out how limited animation had been used in my favorite Miyazaki film of all time, My Neighbor Totoro. Lamarre discusses how limited animation is used to shape a narrative around gender and genre in Castle in the Sky, but to me MNT was all about critiquing a specific era in Japanese history. I wanted to see just how versatile this limited animation style was on a thematic level. Miyazaki's unique art and animation style is both an aesthetic choice and a philosophical process, and he uses it to promote different messages in each of his films. Because his films are so visually stylized, they are great subjects for videographic criticism.