Tony Zhou: Every Frame a Painting

It can be hard to escape the world of film. From ALS ice bucket challenge videos to Star Wars plot rumours, cinema and its proponents can be found everywhere we browse. Truly understanding the nuances of films, filmmaking and the techniques used is a little trickier, however. True, not all of us have the time or resources to invest in a filmmaking course, but taking films and characters at face value – something we’re all guilty of doing – is somewhat missing the point.

Thankfully, for all those unenrolled in film school, there is Tony Zhou, a man who has seemingly made it his mission to school millennials in the finer art of filmmaking. Case in point ? Every Frame a Painting. Available on YouTube and Vimeo, the series consists of video essays, each between 5-8 minutes in length, that dissect the world of film with insouciant ease – featuring director spotlights, individual film reviews and filmmaking technique analyses. That said, here’s a roundup of some of our favourites:

Spiking the Lens

In one of the earliest additions to the series, Bart Layton’s excellent documentary on the life of Frédéric Bourdin, ‘Imposter’, is analysed and critiqued. We won’t spoil it for those new to his story, but we will say that Zhou offers a refreshing insight into both the techniques of Layton and documentary filmmaking.

The Spielberg Oner

The ‘oner’, or long take, is an uninterrupted shot beloved of many filmmakers, one of them being Steven Spielberg – not that you’d realise at first glance. Watch here for Zhou’s unveiling of the secret habit of one of the most acclaimed directors in recent history.

The Lateral Tracking Shot

Mercifully spoiler free, Zhou’s Mother’s Day (d’aw) themed short takes on the magnificent lateral tracking present within ‘Wolf Children’, and the many uses of the lateral tracking shot itself. Fascinating stuff.

How to Do Visual Comedy

Edgar Wright is a king amongst visual comedians, and doesn’t self-confessed fan Tony know it! Dedicating a full 8 minutes to dissecting the filmmaking riches that lie within ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’.

The Art of Silence

Scorsese’s film career, dating back to 1967, is undoubtedly impressive. Luckily, Tony Zhou thinks so too, and he’s here to spill the directorial beans on Martin’s use of ‘the silence’ in his work. Intrigued yet?

Editing Space & Time

Satoshi Kon is arguably one of the greatest Japanese animators around, with Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan citing him as major influences on their work. In this video, Zhou digs deeper behind the reality-blurring editing techniques that inspired films like ‘Requiem for a Dream’ and ‘Inception’.

Texting and the Internet in Film

In a slight departure from his earlier video essays, Zhou tackles the problems filmmakers have faced when depicting text messages and emails on the big screen, and the innovation directors have shown to combat the enduring annoyance of 60 close-up phone shots in a single movie.

The key to Every Frame a Painting’s success lies within Tony Zhou’s skill set. The research for each video essay is always meticulous, and his ability to enhance the effectiveness of his storytelling through sharp editing is – much like his idol Edgar Wright’s work – bang on. What’s more, he delivers his essays thoughtfully and intelligently, piquing the interest of both film newbies and enthusiasts alike. With features on Gizmodo, Gawker and the AV Club already on his résumé, we think the future’s bright for Zhou and his unique brand of film critique.