In April 2014, a YouTube channel named Every Frame a Painting was created and it changed the course of film criticism forever. Over the course of three years, Every Frame a Painting founders Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou released 28 video essays addressing everything in film from the style of Akira Kurosawa to the editing of Edgar Wright. But what happened to Every Frame a Painting? We’re going to explore why Ramos and Zhou stopped making video essays – but more importantly we’re going to take a look at what made their video essays so special.

Every Frame a Painting Analysis

A note on film criticism 

Film criticism is as old as film itself – as such, one could say criticism plays an integral role in the ubiquitous relationship between artist and audience. Some filmmakers argue that critics overstep their bounds in assuming too much about the films they make. But there’s no denying that critics are an important part of film discourse. Just take what Quentin Tarantino had to say in an interview whilst promoting Inglourious Basterds:

“I don't have any bone to pick with critics. In fact, if I wasn't a filmmaker I would probably be a film critic. Most of my bone is that I would be a better film critic than most of the film critics I read.”

And Tarantino is a critic: he’s frequently written about classic films and is even writing a book about 70s cinema with critic Pauline Kael. So, there’s no denying criticism is an important part of the aesthetic of cinema.

Moreso, the best critics are often regarded as cinema historians – and Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos (formerly of Every Frame a Painting) are certainly some of the best.

EVERY FRAME A PAINTING DEFINITION

What is Every Frame a Painting?

Every Frame a Painting was a video essay series that explored various technical, creative, and historical aspects of filmmaking. Created by Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou, Every Frame a Painting video essays were structured to work around YouTube’s stringent Content ID system – arguing (rightfully so) that their analysis constituted fair use.

Top 3 Most-Viewed Every Frame a Painting Videos

  • Jackie Chan — How to Do Action Comedy
  • Edgar Wright — How to Do Visual Comedy 
  • The Marvel Symphonic Universe

Every Frame a Painting Kurosawa to Bong Joon-Ho

Emerging from humble beginnings

In 2014, Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou  released their first video essay for the Every Frame a Painting channel. It was a short 4 ½ minute analysis of “the telephoto profile shot” in Bong Joon-ho’s film Mother.

Check out EFAP’s first video essay below.

Analysis of Bong Joon-ho’s Mother

This video essay is significant for a few reasons. The first reason is that it established the basic structure and pace of the typical “Every Frame a Painting video essay.” The second is that it succinctly focused on one key element of a film (the telephoto profile shot) and analyzed it to perfection. The third is that Ramos and Zhou talked about Bong Joon-ho before it was cool. Well, Bong Joon-ho was always cool but you know what I mean.

Jackie Chan Every Frame a Painting Success

Finding major breakthroughs

Every Frame a Painting hit a major breakthrough later in 2014 with the video essay “Jackie Chan — How to Do Action Comedy.” You can check it out below.

Jackie Chan Every Frame a Painting Video

To this day, the Jackie Chan video remains the channel's most popular work. So, what makes it so good? Well, first and foremost the video addresses a unique subject. Jackie Chan may be a household name throughout the world, but few people have analyzed his style with a critical eye. Second, the subject has international appeal. 

A lot of Every Frame a Painting video essays were focused on international directors such as Satoshi Kon, Akira Kurosawa, and Bong Joon-ho. As an American, it’s refreshing to see critical analysis of worldwide filmmaking tactics and techniques.

F for Fake Every Frame a Painting Analysis

Constructing the art of the video essay

Video essays play a huge role in contemporary film discourse. Here at StudioBinder, we use video essays to highlight the art of filmmaking in an educational and entertaining light. If you haven’t already, check out our article on The Art of Video Essays. And watch our best video essays of 2020 – a StudioBinder Year in Review below.

Best Video Essays of 2020  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Now that we’ve reviewed our perspective on the art of the video essay, let’s look at how Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos dissected it in one of Orson Welles best movies, F for Fake.

F for Fake is a masterclass in how to make an essay film. But what is an essay film? An essay film is a video essay extrapolated for feature length. Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting argued that F for Fake created the perfect template for making video essays. Check out his take in this next video.

F for Fake Every Frame a Painting

F for Fake is an obtuse movie with rampant, at times seemingly “over-editing.” But I like how Tony brings in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s theory of “therefore and but” to explain why Welles’ work is masterclass. Remember when writing a screenplay that there should never be any “and then” moments but rather always a “therefore this happens” moments. Consequences are the key to every great screenplay – or in this case every great essay.

Every Frame a Painting Marvel Analysis

Reminiscing on the end of an era 

In September 2016, Every Frame a Painting released its final video essay titled “The Marvel Symphonic Universe.” The essay explores why a lot of the music in the Marvel Cinematic Universe feels so forgettable. You can see the video here:

Every Frame a Painting Marvel Symphonic Universe

So, why don’t we remember Marvel music like we do Star Wars music or Harry Potter music? Well, I’d be remiss to ignore John Williams and the fact that studios gave him complete creative control – but it also has something to do with the lack of emphasis directors put on the music.

Music is constantly drowned out in the MCU; even leitmotifs, like the one from Captain America that Tony alluded to, was drowned out by narration, sound effects, etc. Every Frame a Painting made a great point with its last video essay – it’s just a shame it was its last.

Channels Like Every Frame a Painting

The end of Every Frame a Painting

Taylor and Tony decided to end Every Frame a Painting in 2017, saying “Every Frame a Painting is officially dead. Nothing sinister; we just decided to end it, rather than keep on making stuff.” Here’s a link to their full explanation, titled Postmortem: Every Frame a Painting.

Ultimately, Taylor and Tony decided that the work required to make Every Frame a Painting video didn’t reap enough financial rewards to make it financially feasible. The channel began as a hobby for the duo – but then it became something much more. But even with the widespread success of their channel, Taylor and Tony weren’t making enough because of YouTube’s revenue sharing model.

It’s a shame — Every Frame a Painting was a valuable part of film discourse during its short life and its influence reverberates in the filmmaking community to this day. Similar channels like Every Frame a Painting continue to do the work Taylor and Tony did. Here are some channels like Every Frame a Painting you may be interested in:


On a personal note, Every Frame a Painting has inspired me (along with other video essayists here at StudioBinder) to research rigorously when creating educational film content. Their videos have taught us to talk about our love for cinema just like we talk about our criticisms.

In the end, we criticize film because we love it – and there’s nothing better than when a filmmaker loves their craft too. 

UP NEXT

StudioBinder Video Essay Archives

Want to check out more video essays about filmmaking? We have dozens and dozens of video essays on our site that explore everything from technical filmmaking craft to screenwriting and everything in between. After exploring our archives, you might be inspired by the filmmaking greats to create something of your own!

Up Next: SB Video Essay Archives →
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