First/Final Minutes

A new video essay experiment which owes much to the ‘First and Final Frames‘ project created by Jacob T. Swinney. Check out the original ‘First and Final Frames’ video here. SPOILER ALERT – this video includes the last minute of a small selection of films (list at the bottom of the page).

I have been thinking for some time about how good the Videographic PechaKucha is as a deformative excercise (if you want to know more about the PechaKucha you can read this excellent piece by Jason Mittell, and watch a selection curated by The Video Essay Podcast here). The instructions for making one are reasonably straightforward;

Our videographic variant consisted of 10 video clips of precisely six seconds each, coupled with a continuous minute-long audio segment, all from the same film.

From ‘Scholarship in Sound & Image: A Pedagogical Essay’ by Christian Keathley and Jason Mittell

And yet the permutations arising from this brief description are many. I enjoy immensely that it deals with an uninterrupted minute of audio and have been mulling on how I might adapt or adjust the format in some experimental fashion in keeping with the sound led goals of this lab. First/Final Minutes is something of that response, where I’ve paired a film’s first minute of sound with the last minute of picture, or vice versa (basically whichever combination I found most interesting). I’ve selected the minutes based on when I felt meaningful sound or picture was starting/ending. Generally the selections avoid credits, opening or closing, but it is very much my personal take where the cuts happen.

The exercise reminds me of (and perhaps is also partly inspired by) one of the first pieces of undergraduate film writing I did about Peter Weir’s ‘Dead Poets Society‘. As part of a rambling, and somewhat aimless discussion about the film I mentioned that Ethan Hawke’s character Todd has to be encouraged to stand up at the start of the film, but chooses to stand on the table by the end. It’s funny to me now that this is a perfect videographic moment, and yet at the time I was limited to one VHS player and one TV screen, so I never got to see the moments occur side by side.

First/Final Minutes features the following combinations of sound and picture.

Terminator 2 – First minute sound, last minute picture. Any sync in this is entirely accidental (and a little creepy)

The Worst Person in the World – First minute picture, last minute sound. The songs lyrics seemed to suddenly mean something else as I watched and listened.

Minority Report – First minute sound, last minute picture. Cruise’s expression shifts dramatically for me in this one.

All the President’s Men – First minute picture, last minute sound. The teletype and the helicopter.

Berbarian Sound Studio – First minute sound, last minute picture & first minute picture, last minute sound. There is so much I love in this; the tape reels melding, the tape click which starts and stops the clips, the journey Toby Jone’s character makes through the 2 minutes.

The Double – First minute sound, last minute picture. Again, sync is accidental and ominous.

The films included are those which happened to be on my editing computer at the time. I imagine many more interesting combinations await out there.

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