Another Class Video Final: “What Makes an American?”

Here is another 205 Early American Lit class video essay:  “What Makes an American?”

From the group:

“The United States of America was founded on a number of principles derived from a group of men now called the ‘Framers’ or ‘Founding Fathers’. The documents they authored set up a new nation based on their beliefs. Those same beliefs are engrained into the society that functions within that framework. So, after 200 years, have the American people stayed true the founder’s beliefs?”

“We interviewed 6 people on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus and at Caffe Cottage in Lafayette.”

This group chose an interesting middle ground between how the first two group’s videos made use of cuts between the interviewees. In the previous post, I was wondering about how creating and editing videos might inform students rhetorical strategies within their own writing. It seems as if this group went into making their video already with a written essay in mind, using it to structure their video.

There is a voice-over introduction that opens with a terrific question that was greatly influenced by our classroom discussions of different early American writing: “Have we become the culture the founding fathers envisioned?” Rather than focusing on one interviewee at a time, or switching back and forth between them, they used “a few related questions” to organize the rest of the video. Although there is a lot of strong visual rhetoric taking place in the introduction and conclusion, they went a different route to divide up the interviews themselves.

They used just plain white text of the questions against a black background, creating a sense of section headers, before displaying the responses to them. The responses were also “punctuated” by the group’s clever first question which asked the people for three words to describe what to them was an American.  Rather than using again the white text on a black background when they dug deeper by asking the interviewees why they chose those particular words, they instead focused on one word at a time per interviewee, displaying the word at the bottom of the video within a transparent, graduated section/block. This served to keep the word in the viewers’ mind all during the interviewee’s response. It also helped to contrast the different as well as similar responses from the other interviewees.

The group then followed up by asking how the interviewees thought the founding fathers might have described an American. They again displayed the question using white text on a black screen which created the sense of a different section or paragraph. The effect of contrasting their own current opinions against their own perceptions of the founding fathers’ opinions is telling and could lead to even more interesting questions.

Like the concluding paragraph of an essay, this video, in the form of a voice-over, provides a concise, thoughtful conclusion while using the image of the American flag to bookend its use in the beginning, creating a great sense of cohesion.

UPDATE: The next video…

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