7 Film Essay Channels on YouTube You Should Be Watching8 min readReading Time: 6 minutes
The internet is one of the best learning tools of the modern era. Information is at our fingertips and learning something new has never been easier. There has, perhaps, never been an easier time to learn more about film too as film reviewers, critics, and filmmakers are now able to share their views with the masses with great ease.
YouTube has become a great place to pick up on information quickly and in an entertaining way. Video essays have become wildly popular as a means of sharing perspectives on film, television, games, art, and more. The beauty of video essays is in their ability to reach not only people who have an existing interest in the topic but also those who may not be familiar with the topic. They are a great window into the topic of discussion and people have come to understand the video essay format as an interesting and entertaining way of opening our eyes to something new.
Video essays work especially well for dissecting films and for those who are skilled in analysing film to share their views. They are incredibly accessible for both passionate film fans as well as casual viewers. Several channels which specialise in film essays have popped up recently due to the popularity of the genre. During our last livestream, we received requests for our recommendations on film essay channels, thus we’ve decided to scour the internet for the most informative and entertaining channels that you should be watching right now.
If Sinema.SG were to revitalise our YouTube channel, we would like to think it would look something similar to Accented Cinema for the topics covered. The channel have become hugely popular for their Asian and International film analysis videos. Although their videos on Hollywood movies get the most views, that does not stop them from also talking about Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and even Thai cinema. Most recently they announced that they are researching for a video on Indian cinema and are accepting suggestions for films to put on their watchlist.
The channel has bridged Asian cinema to mainstream western audiences and is a great watch for those who want to expand their horizons. They cover popular Asian films, anime, and more obscure films. Their analysis is accessible and injects an entertaining amount of humour to appeal to even those who are not already interested in Asian cinema. Check out this channel and you may be pleasantly surprised!
Nerdwriter is one of the most well-known film essay channels on YouTube and has been around for ten years. Run by a former editor at MSNBC and host at Discovery Channel, Evan Puschak has amassed a dedicated following on YouTube for his in-depth critiques and ability to dissect films and their techniques. He comments on both the technical aspects of filmmaking as well as the artistic aspects such as storytelling. His video essays are not limited to film, however, as he also talks about art, politics, philosophy, and even other YouTubers.
Nerdwriter’s style is defined by curiosity — you will notice him posing several open-ended questions throughout his videos and even his video titles are often phrased like questions. Rather than handing you the answers, he guides you with his own personal observations and inferences. Although he often gets grouped together with other informative channels like Vsauce and Kurzgesagt, Nerdwriter is not so much of an informative channel that creates videos exploring facts around a topic. Rather, Nerdwriter tends to be more philosophical and focuses on the journey of exploring the answers to the questions he poses in his videos rather than the answers themself.
Karsten Runquist is one of the newer channels on this list and only began creating video essays about four years ago but was met with great success almost right away. Karsten’s videos are more personal and weigh in heavily on his personal views. His style is also a lot more casual and his humour makes his already interesting essays even more entertaining.
His channel ventures a lot more into animation than the other channels on this list, which is a great way to demonstrate how animation is just as much of an art in filmmaking as live-action. His essay on Studio Ghibli’s first 3-D film, Earwig and the Witch, was a great resource when I was writing my own analysis of the film. Yes, he does feature Asian cinema, such as in his video on Korean cinema where he discusses modern classics such as Parasite and Train to Busan. Aside from video essays he also does monthly round-ups of films he saw.
Some film essay channels look at film in general, but Every Frame A Painting focuses on something very specific — visuals. The channel was created by editor Tony Zhou and animator Taylor Ramos, who were motivated by an issue they both faced — having to “discuss visual ideas with non-visual people”. A good portion of their video essays shed a spotlight on Asian directors and actors, including Jackie Chan, Akira Kurosawa, Satoshi Kon, Bong Joon-Ho, and more.
They closed the channel in 2017 and have not been active for a few years. Nonetheless, the channel still boasts a catalogue of almost 30 well-crafted essays which new viewers can take their time to peruse through. Zhou’s article in the Medium discussing the closure of the channel also provides a great insight into how the duo took apart the films that they analysed as well as the challenges in creating film essays on YouTube.
Lessons From the Screenplay is another channel that specialises in one aspect of film. As the name suggests, they look at screenplays or scripts. A movie’s script can reveal to us a lot about the film’s intention, and how its characters and narrative is crafted. As the channel’s creator Michael Tucker says: “I believe that a more informed audience raises the bar for storytelling. That examining the techniques used to tell great stories makes your own writing better and your appreciation for the stories deeper.”
By demonstrating how the written script translates into moving images, Lessons From The Screenplay can be a great tool for writers. However, the channel can also provide even casual film watchers a deeper appreciation of film and a better understanding of how to pick up on a film’s message.
Sideways only uploads once every few months, but boy are their videos worth the wait. Their channel focuses on music in film, something which many moviegoers would overlook. They talk about how music can be used effectively as part of a film’s storytelling — how music can change the emotion of a scene, subtly hint at something in ways that the visuals cannot, or be budget wasted on what essentially becomes background noise.
They are also well-versed in music history and theory and able to break down music theory for viewers who do not have a music background. They discuss a lot of musical movies and help give audiences the vocabulary to articulate why certain musicals do not feel as effective as others. In watching Sideways’ essays, one can learn how music in film has a greater impact than we realise.
Many of us love watching cinema as an escape from reality, but Cinema Therapy shows us just how real our favourite films can get. The channel has an extremely unique approach — they break down the psychology of characters and themes in films. Their videos are hosted by licensed therapist Johnathan Decker and filmmaker Alan Seawright, who each provide a perspective on the films from their area of expertise.
Mental health awareness has grown a great deal during the last few years and Cinema Therapy has explored topics such as relationships, coping with trauma, gaslighting, bullying, and much more using films as examples. Their videos tend to be a little longer than your average film essay and they lean closer towards a podcast style as the two hosts bounce off each other like friends having a conversation.
This channel does not have that many videos in its library but this video essay on Treasure Planet is easily one of the best video essays on YouTube.
Treasure Planet is one of Disney’s most underrated gems and is a film that I personally will always have a soft spot for (as you can tell from my writer’s bio). It was a passion project that turned into one of Disney’s most complex, well-written, and technologically ground-breaking films ever made. This film essay explains why Treasure Planet was cursed to be a commercial flop and all the reasons why you should still check out the film. It is a long video but it is incredibly well-researched. With each point that is raised, the essay demonstrates how phenomenal Treasure Planet is and all the more how disheartening it is that Disney did not put their faith in the film.
If you love talking about film, especially Singaporean and Asian film, check out our live show Red Hot Red Dot! We have a new topic every week and we have the opportunity to include our audience as part of the live discussion. We stream live on Facebook and Twitch so make sure you tune in and make your voice heard!
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