Essay by Belana Marie Labra
Cinematics as a Superpower
“I remember as a kid I would always watch a lot of sci-fi movies because I thought it was cool, especially superhero movies like Spiderman because I always wanted to have powers or be a superhero,” answered Patrick Casella, a well-developed skill in film and cinematics connoisseur from Los Angeles, California. James Paul Gee would describe Casella’s skill with film as a secondary discourse, which is defined as something that “we acquire fluently to the extent that we are given access to these institutions and are allowed apprenticeships within them,” (Gee 527). Patrick’s introduction to film was as a child. He had a lot of interest in movies, and he was always watching them. However, he started to stray away from film and cinema as he grew older. Patrick was never interested in editing videos or video blogging until he discovered Youtube and other films because he realized that you could pick up a camera, shoot something, and make it whatever you wanted it to be. Because of Patrick’s great passion for film and cinematics, his experiences can well apply to writers James Paul Gee and Deborah Brandt’s concepts about discourses and literacies. With his own discovery for his love of videography, his literacy development is shown through the help of sponsors of literacy and the skills that he has learned in this secondary discourse.
Cinema and film is a broad subject with many different roles and jobs, and to name some: there are cinematographers, filmmakers, or videographers. Each of these three roles has very different purposes and objectives. To briefly define them, a cinematographer is similar to a photographer, but uses the technology to create motion-pictures (Britannica). A filmmaker uses moving images and words to tell a story in their film (Duncan). A videographer is someone who shoots events going on around them wherever they are (Duncan). Out of the three, Patrick would not call himself a cinematographer or filmmaker because it sounds really professional to him, and he has not obtained much knowledge in film theory. He considers himself as a videographer because he has not actually released a film, but his Youtube videos could be seen as small snippets of a film. In the future, he hopes he can aspire to be called one of the two.
Patrick took a considerable amount of time to immerse himself into cinematics because he doubted himself and thought that he would be horrible at it; so, he never really pursued anything seriously until his senior year of high school. Prior to his senior year, he started with basic audio editing. It began in Patrick’s religion class freshman year: he was assigned to do a podcast for a project. This project was where he was first exposed to the basics of editing audio and filming. The purpose of this assignment was to make a skit, or a video about a parable in the Bible. Although he does not remember the specific parable, his project ended up getting a good grade since it contained really hilarious freshman humor. Because of this simple religion project, he rediscovered his interest and passion for cinema and film. Patrick was able to find a love for English as well during his time in high school. The subject of rhetoric and literature allows you to convey emotion and move people, so Patrick wanted to apply these techniques to his videos. He found that it was one of the easiest ways to portray emotion and interactions in his discourse. This shows how he was drawn to express himself in his visual secondary discourse instead of a traditional reading and writing one because of the fact that cinema is more than just a video. It is more than just people being filmed on a screen and someone narrating. You are communicating and interacting with other people that is not reading or writing like in an English class, but you are conveying it through the screen. Patrick said, “Films are timeless and archivable.” Because they are timeless and archivable, everyone can always look back at them, and feel what they felt the first time they watched it. Film has the ability to move people with emotion and much more than just moving pictures on a screen. It has to do with how people will react to the video and how they will feel after watching the video, not just with reading and writing. Using his connection between English and film, he wanted everyone to view his videos as timeless works of art .
During Patrick’s last year of high school, he and his friend Nick, who currently studies film for his major in Boston, decided to ask two girls to prom with a rap video they designed and edited. They posted the video to Youtube, and it ended up getting over two thousand views. Because of this experience and others, Nick ended up becoming a sponsor of literacy who has largely influenced Patrick to continue cinematics. A sponsor of literacy as defined by Deborah Brandt is, “any agents, local or distant, concrete or abstract, who enable, support, teach, model, as well as recruit, regulate, suppress, or withhold literacy — and gain advantage by it in some way,” (Brandt 334). Nick is a huge movie fanatic, so his room was filled with posters signed by actors and directors of various movies. If someone asked Nick whether or not he watched this movie, Patrick said there was never a time where he had said no. Nick was very well-versed in the community of film. Whenever they would spend time together, they were always constantly talking about movies and analyzing and critiquing films. He ended up learning a lot about films from Nick, and the promposal only inspired Patrick to learn more about cinematics. Nick’s videos were usually shot on his iPhone, and he never purchased an expensive camera. He made use of what he had, and Patrick really admired that about him since it shows how you can film anything with the equipment you have. Nick was part of the film program at their high school, and Patrick’s connection to him allowed Patrick access to their school’s media room. From there, Nick showed him the ropes on basic editing, filming, and more. Patrick really loved how Nick was able to show him how to go from a script, to character, to casting, choosing a location, and shooting. He allowed Patrick to shadow him while he was filming and editing one of his bigger projects. Brandt tells us that sponsors of literacy can either “enable or hinder literacy activity, often forcing the formation of new literacy requirements while decertifying older ones,” (Brandt 344). This experience shows how Nick was a great sponsor of literacy because of how he was teaching Patrick about film, while also allowing Patrick to immerse himself into the world the Nick sees when he is working in the field. It let Patrick expand his knowledge on this literacy and what else he can accomplish on his own. Nick was a large influence on how he films his videos today.
Because of Nick and the prom rap video they filmed together, Patrick really enjoyed making it. He loved all the challenges and difficulties of how to edit and process videos, especially with this experience with his sponsor of literacy. He struggled in the past before to find something that he was passionate about so that he would not lose interest in it. Film ended up being the one thing he could do all the time, and he never got tired of it. Patrick is mostly self-taught, with the help of Nick. He has never taken a film class or a core curriculum on the subject. “You don’t want to reinvent the wheel and go out and not know what you’re doing, you know?” he explained. Patrick is not opposed to taking a class, but thinks that it is fun to learn on your own since you can figure things out for yourself at your own pace.
With Nick being his sponsor of literacy, Patrick also considers some of his favorite Youtubers his mentors as well. Even though they do not have a direct connection to him, Patrick is connected to them by watching their videos and learning from them. To name a few, Casey Neistat, David Dobrik, and Justin Escalona are the three Youtubers that he looks up to greatly. According to Patrick, Neistat is a really good role model to him because Neistat has been making films for a majority of his life. His videos consist of really entertaining videoblogs about almost anything. Neistat’s videos really show how he feels about the world in his films and breaks all the social standards about what is going on in society. With Dobrik, Patrick is inspired by him because his content appeals to those who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. Because of the social climate that we are in now, Patrick was telling me how almost everyone has a small bit or some sort of short attention span. Dobrik’s clips are only about two to four seconds long, shot over a span of two to three days, and the videos are about four minutes and twenty seconds long. Despite it being short and somewhat choppy, the videos do a fantastic job of keeping people’s attention. Patrick really loves how videos can grab people’s attentions, and he constantly questions why in our world today we always are watching videos and looking for what is next. Dobrik does a good job of showing the world why we do that, and he inspires Patrick to have his videos appeal to people and keep their eyes on the content. His last favorite Youtuber is Escalona, who is a film student at University of Southern California, or USC. The content Escalona films are usually daily videoblogs of his life at USC or some short films as well. Patrick looks up to him a lot because he is also a college student, and someone from his hometown. Escalona is a big inspiration for him because he was one of the first Youtubers that made Patrick think, “Wow, I really want to live that kind of lifestyle later on.”
Although Brandt describes sponsors of literacy as someone who is in close range to us or a person we know in real life, Patrick shows that sponsors of literacy do not always have to be someone we know or are close to. They can be Youtubers or influencers in our world who can inspire us to expand our literacy. Patrick’s inspiration not only stems from his friend Nick, but from these influencers on Youtube as well. You do not have to personally know them if you can learn and gain inspiration from them.
In addition to applying what Patrick has learned from Nick and his Youtube role models, a big part of the editing and filming process for him is the content of the video itself. Within this, comes something called literacy that is defined by Gee as “the mastery of or fluent control over a secondary Discourse,” (Gee 529). For Patrick, he gained this literacy from all of the things he has learned from Nick and his favorite Youtubers. With those sponsors of literacy, he has also discovered his own skills for his literacy as well. Some of the skills he has learned planning out what you want to create in a video. He learned that by planning ahead of time before filming, and filming multiple shots of the same scene allows you to piece the video so that it flows well. “Film is everything that you see, and if you just throw it randomly into [Adobe] Premiere, it’s not going to make any sense. If you go without thinking about it, with no planning, you’re going to end up with something that you don’t like,” Patrick explained. It becomes easier if there is a preconceived idea of what you want since you will have a higher chance of executing it successfully.
The aspect of planning for the film is his most favorite part of this literacy because he loves seeing his idea come to life and solidify in the final version. Out of all the videos he has created, he struggles to choose a particular favorite one because each and every one of them has different features are unique. Patrick mastering his non-traditional literacy does not stop now though. With each new video that he makes, he always gaines a new skill such as a different way to edit the background or how to create a special effects. The world in this secondary discourse is broad, and learning these new editing techniques allows him to expand his horizons on what he can film and gain knowledge in with each new creation.
With gaining new skills for his literacy, the way he creates ideas for projects are a big asset to his secondary discourse as well. Patrick’s ideas stem from almost anything. Whether it be watching other films or pieces of work, he can definitely gain a lot of information from it and apply it to the ideas he wants to execute. Patrick also holds creative sessions in his dorm room or the media room with his friend Kenny, which are sessions in which the environment he’s in is solely for creativity. The creative sessions allow him to bounce off ideas from Kenny, who is an artist in music production, or the other way around, with Kenny bouncing off ideas from Patrick. When the ideas are bouncing off of each other, they can mesh together to create a completely new idea that could work for a video. Even without creative sessions or analyzing films or Youtubers, Patrick’s ideas come at anytime and anywhere. It could happen while he is listening to a lecture in class, or when in his dorm doing homework. In his dorm, he keeps a notebook to write down his ideas that pop up there as well. When out of his dorm, he keeps a note document on his phone for his ideas so he can type them on the go. Alongside this, he texts himself ideas so that the notification is there for him to look at, so he is able to remember the ideas that come off. Patrick finds it hard for him to describe how this process specifically works because the ideas just pop up to him randomly at any given moment.
With all that inspiration, there were a lot of creations that were made with this inspiration. Some were for school projects, just what he was feeling, video blogging, skits, some music videos, and others. He has not posted online or shown a lot of people them, but really enjoys making his own projects. With the creation of his Youtube channel, he started to produce more video blogs from his experiences here at San Diego and the other places he travels. A lot of the reason why he produces so many different types of videos is because of how social media plays a big part in our society since there are a lot of creative ways to express what you do and how you feeling.
Even though Patrick gains inspiration from his ideas and the things around him everyday, he has hit a roadblock in his literacy development. He calls it his “creative block” which is similar to the traditional writer’s block of the writing world. Sometimes Patrick’s creative block can be everyday, or there will be weeks where he is having trouble coming up with new ideas for videos. Usually after one of these creative blocks, it is one of the best weeks for him to have a creative session to make and edit a video since it all the inspiration comes flooding in to him. Especially this past year for Patrick, he has been very inspired to make videos since he does not film as consistently as some conventional videographers on Youtube. He usually films when he wants to, but switched to filming as a discipline to better his skills so that he can improve at a faster rate. Patrick’s creative blocks may have hindered his literacy development because of the lack of ideas around him, but when he overcomes them, he is allowing his literacy to expand and grow with more new skills than before.
With Patrick’s love for videography, his journey through his literacy development was full of many obstacles but also accomplishments, and he is still improving a lot to this day. Gee and Brandt’s concepts all very well apply to his experiences through his development in this secondary discourse of film and cinematics. Many of his literacy sponsors and his love for certain subjects has allowed him to turn videography from something that seemed so out of his reach, to something that he can accomplish with passion and dedication, which is much like his own superpower. It is often the impression that viewers use the different worlds shown in films, like the universe of superheroes, in order to feel like they have powers too, even though it may not be real. However, individuals can use the materials available in the real world in order to give themselves their own kind of superpower. As Patrick explained for himself, “If I couldn’t have superpowers in real life, I could give myself superpowers in cinematics. I could edit Spiderman's web shooters on myself in a video if I wanted to. So, that’s why I’m into film because in the context of it, it shows how powerful it can be. You’re only limited by your own creativity.”
Belana Marie Labra is a first-year student at the University of San Diego. She plans to major in Business Administration with a minor in Visual Arts. Her hobbies include photography, digital arts, and traditional arts. She also enjoys playing video games such as Overwatch or League of Legends and listening to music while she draws.
Links to Patrick Casella's Social Media:
YouTube: Patrick Casella
Brandt, Deborah. “Sponsors of Literacy”
Writing about Writing, edited by Elizabeth Wardle, Douglas Downs, pp. 328-353.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Cinematography.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 Nov. 2011, www.britannica.com/topic/cinematography.
Duncan, Jayson. “Miller Farm Media - Orange County Video Production.” Miller Farm Media Orange County Video Production What Is the Difference between Videography and Filmmaking Comments, Orange County Video Production Services, 1 May 2013, millerfarmmedia.com/what-is-the-difference-between-videography-and-film-making/.
Gee, James Paul. “Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics and What is Literacy?”
Literacy: A Critical Sourcebook, edited by Ellen Cushman et al, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001, pp. 525-544.