In an article titled “Film Analysis as Annotation: Exploring Current Tools,” the authors use two different commonly employed annotation softwares—ELAN, most often used to annotate video in the field of linguistics, and Nvivo, a qualitative analysis tool usually used for textual annotation in the social sciences—to annotate the opening sequence of a Weimar-era German silent film, People on a Sunday written by Billy Wilder. The authors suggest that using these digital annotation tools might allow them “to demonstrate empirically the normal aspects of film that are perceived intuitively” (Estrada et al.); that is, the researchers assert that digital annotation tools allow one to concretize otherwise “intuitive” or qualitative claims about film form—the duration of a seemingly endless long take or the number of recurring motifs or types of shot. Their experiment, an interdisciplinary project merging the fields of information science, archivism, and film scholarship considers the ways in which employing a digital method to annotate an audiovisual artifact may shift or elucidate formalist film analysis. Their artifact of study, People on a Sunday, which the authors describe as a city symphony film and a precursor to New Wave cinema, is exactly the type of European counterclassical cinema that launched formalist film analysis in the context of American film criticism (Estrada et al. 49-50). After comparing the two different annotation tools for the types of film analysis they facilitate, the authors conclude that “T]he tools ask the users to conceptualize more precisely the methods they employ…[w]hile this capability might be disparaged as the “scientification” of a scholarly practice, we argue that the new digital tools encourage more self-reflection about scholarly work” (Estrada et al. 62). For these researchers, it seems that the chief benefits of using digital tools to annotate film include methodological transparency for both scholars and academic readers, but, also a way to concretize their claims.
While I agree that using digital tools for annotating film facilitates scholarly “self-reflection” and, by design, a greater need for methodological specificity, I am less interested in promoting a more “empirical” approach to film analysis; instead, in this essay, I will discuss how creating a research use case for the AudiAnnotate workflow—developed by Dr. Tanya Clement and Brumfield Labs for sharing, preserving, and presenting the annotation of audiovisual artifacts—shaped my argument in my dissertation chapter “Right Voice, Wrong Body, The Kindergarten Teacher, “Ellen West,” and Poetic Voice” and resonates with my overall theoretical project in my dissertation, “Shooting Script: Poetry, Film, and Form.” While using digital annotations as evidence may help scholars to concretize preconceived claims about particular films, my research use case for AudiAnnotate and annotating scenes from Sara Colangelo’s film The Kindergarten Teacher (2018) in AdobePremier, reveals unforeseen theoretical resonances that helped develop my argument in the chapter. My work dovetails with Estrada et.al’s sense of digital annotation as facilitating critical self-reflection since AudiAnnotate’s workflow that allows users to upload their digital annotations for presentation and collaboration. But this self-reflection and transparency applies not only to the analysis that shaped my argument, but also to my completed AudiAnnotate project that connects my annotations to the clips from The Kindergarten Teacher I analyze. My annotations are not only a digital blueprint for my project, but also an interactive part of its audiovisual engagement. By using the AudiAnnotate workflow to share my annotations alongside scenes from the film and display this essay in its pages, I hope that my writing about film begins to approach the experience of film viewing.
My annotations in the AudiAnnotate workflow not only serve as a blueprint for my own analysis, but also a way for my readers to draw together the experience of film viewing and writing about film. These annotations can be considered a companion piece to my completed dissertation chapter. While my chapter uses film stills to focus the reader’s attention on particular frames, the experience of watching film is generally more continuous and flowing between sequences. Stanley Cavell critiques film scholarship for “the paucity of humane criticism dealing with whole films and in the lack of fit between their technical description and a phenomenological account of them” (12) in the beginning of The World Viewed. I believe that my digital annotations for AudiAnnotate may allow for such an approach that merges the “technical description” of film form, a poetics informed analysis, and the experience of watching a scene unfold by attaching my annotations to the scene’s continuous movement.