Lucie Formánková created this video essay in the Department of Film Studies at Charles University in Prague under the supervision of Jiří Anger and Kevin B. Lee. Originally published in Notes on Videographic Criticism on May 22, 2020.
What drew you to Tom Cruise? What were you able to capture about his performances in a video essay that you could not have captured in a written essay?
The idea came after making a short little audiovisual essay on the question: “Is Tom Cruise a good actor?” as a part of a seminar on audiovisual essays with Jiri Anger. Since I really enjoyed deep diving into Cruise’s career and analyzing his acting abilities, I decided to take the theme further and ask, “What kind of actor is he?” I found a study on acting techniques and found out which one he is allegedly using himself. What I love about video essay making is you can add a bit of humor into an otherwise serious piece of work. When you choose Tom Cruise as your material for an analysis you cannot take yourself too seriously. I think video essay is a great tool for acting analysis though because you can’t really describe various facial expressions with words as good as using actual footage.
Was it hard to distill a career down to an essay? How did you navigate that challenge? Did you know which films you were going to use before you made the essay?
Thankfully I did not need to include all his action movies because those are not that interesting when it comes to acting abilities. I went through movies where I knew he is making his famous poker face, wide smile and expressive hand movement. Surprisingly it was not too hard. I found distilling his career down to an essay actually quite easy. Combining different kinds of data with moving pictures could say more in a few seconds than a couple of sentences.
I found the layering technique very effective, and in particular how the comparisons just sort of appeared on screen. Why did you select this technique?
I selected specific scenes from movies that are considered to have his best acting performances according to American academy. Then I needed to show the similarities in his facial expressions and body movement, so I just tried to add them at the right time. The aim of the placement of these clips was also to have sort of comedic timing.
What was the most challenging part about making this video essay?
The hardest part was probably the explanation of the Meisner technique. Without voice actor I had to write everything down and somehow make it understandable and amusing. I still do not think I was successful in that intention. Next time if I decide to make another acting analysis I will definitely use a voiceover instead of written word. Playing around with music and clips is just added pleasure.