“Sound like a genius in 60seconds”- 60second Recap
Jenny, from 60second Recap, has answered some questions for me about the short one-minute-each series of videos about Pride and Prejudice! 60second Recap is the newest study tool, and I have a feeling it might actually work. The videos summarize a whole tonne of classics (Austen, Shakespeare, Bronte et cetera) into funny short clips that are easy to understand. The videos are all incredibly upbeat, energized and… on youtube!
60second Recap was started in September of 2009, and has since had tens of thousands of views on youtube.
The presenter, Jenny, seems to be lovely and a complete book-worm which is always heartwarming. Unlike some study tools, 60second Recap seems to base the idea around the student having already read the book- rather than a “cheat” way to understand the text.
The videos are based on several key areas of learning. The overview, themes, characters and symbols are all touched upon. They are simple, and a complete joy to watch.
So, here is what Jenny had to say about it:
What is the aim of 60second Recap?
To get teens (of all ages!) excited about the classics by speaking to them in a language they understand–the language of video. If I can help them see–even to some small degree–that these books aren’t just dry, dusty old tomes, but stories that are actually relevant to their lives, then I feel like I’ve done my job.
Do you think 60 seconds is too short a time to present an aspect of a novel?
It definitely requires focus! In most cases, I do think that 60 seconds is long enough to convey the most important points (and a relevant example or two) on a symbol or theme or some other aspect of a novel. But the Recap also isn’t meant to be exhaustive. It’s supposed to convey enough information to generate interest–and hopefully to provide some new insight and clarity–but it’s also supposed to be a jumping-off point for the reader. We aren’t trying to tell you everything, but we are trying to give you 60 seconds-worth of understanding.
What sort of response have you been getting from teens about 60second Recap?
Teens love the Recap! It’s been a lot of fun to hear from them–to see the kind of books they’re requesting and the kind of questions they’re asking (many of which have to do with where I buy my clothes). I’ve also been surprised how many write to request a Recap after they’ve read a book. Quite a few teens who’ve written to me have been adamant that they are doing the reading–i.e. they’re not trying to cheat–but that they’re looking for more insight than they’ve gotten on their own or in school.
How many people are involved in the production of these videos?
To shoot the videos, we have about five to seven people involved, depending on the day–including director, script coordinator, cameraman, and so on. We also have an amazing team of rotating editors who work with the content after it’s been shot–turning the raw footage into the lively 60-second videos that end up on the website.
What would you say to people that think the videos are over-simplified?
I would stress that the Recaps are meant to be a starting point, not the be all and end all. My number one priority is to generate enthusiasm for these classics, which are too often seen merely as homework assignments. I do believe that 60 seconds is plenty of time to spark someone’s interest–and to remove the barriers that are turning some of these classics into relics. At that point, it’s up to the reader to embrace the book and to engage with it more deeply.
When it comes to a book like Pride and Prejudice, that has so many fans worldwide, does the team at 60second Recap have any worries about turning it into a succession of short videos?
Pride and Prejudice was definitely a harder book to script, not so much because it has so many fans, but because I loved it so much … which made it a lot more difficult not to gush! (Alas, 60 seconds is generally not enough time for gushing.) And though die-hard fans may or may not gain any new insight from watching the Pride and Prejudice album, what I do hope they will take away from it is the reassurance that someone out there (who also loves this book) is committed to getting the non-fans to dig into it … and perhaps even to fall in love.
How can our viewers watch the videos, and get in contact with you?
They can watch the videos at http://www.60secondrecap.com, in “The Library” section of the site. There are options to get in touch throughout the site, including the “Request a Recap” function and also “Contact Us.” We’d love to hear from them!
What is it like presenting these novels on camera?
Thrilling, challenging, and fun–all at once. The scripting can be very difficult. 60 seconds is not a lot to work with, and I want to give as much meaningful information, as clearly and enthusiastically as possible, in that amount of time. Also, unpacking some of these symbols and themes and motifs can be difficult–especially if you’re not sure if your viewer has even read the book. So I need to find ways to make my explanations accessible, even to those who aren’t lit nerds, like I am. Once I’m in front of the camera, though, it’s pure fun. I like to try and picture my viewers sitting right behind the camera lens–that way, it’s easy to get excited … and to stay excited, even after multiple takes!
What is your favourite book, and why?
Besides Pride and Prejudice? 😉 I definitely go through phases, but a recent favorite has been John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Everything about this novel–from the characters to the setting to the philosophical questions the book wrestles with–is so compelling. And I always love stories that take age-old themes–in this case, the struggle between good and evil–and put a completely fresh, completely absorbing twist on them. A beautiful book!
How did you feel when trying to condense each part of Pride and Prejudice into a minute?
Well, it was definitely hard to rein myself in. There was so much I wanted to tell my viewers about this book! But one thing that helped–and that’s always helpful, whether I like a book or not–is that I do try to create a narrative thread for all my scripts. I ask myself: What’s the one main idea I want my viewers to take away from this album? If my viewers remembered only one thing about this particular classic, what would I want them to remember? Whatever that “one thing” is sort of feels like this gem to me. And I feel like if I can hand my viewers that gem, then I’ve accomplished something. Knowing that I had a gem to share about a book as wonderful as Pride and Prejudice was a really good feeling–even if I couldn’t touch on EVERYTHING I wished I could.
Do you think it is important for youth to read a book like Pride and Prejudice?
Oh my goodness … YES! If you want to know how to navigate relationships of all kinds–not just romantic–there’s no better guide than Pride and Prejudice. I think it’s one of the most applicable classics out there. (Not to mention one of the most comically and socially brilliant.)
What has been your favourite moment working with 60second Recap?
Definitely performing some of the Teaser Trailers! (If you look at the albums on 60secondrecap.com, you’ll see that each one opens with a “Teaser Trailer”–a fun and zany 60 seconds meant to get my audience interested in checking out the book.) Of all the Recaps in an album, the Teaser Trailers are almost always the wackiest–and the most fun to perform. Some of my favorites include my Teaser Trailers for Much Ado About Nothing, Animal Farm, and definitely Pride and Prejudice!
So you have a great novel … how do you go about cutting that down into such a short amount of time?
Before I even begin writing, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I feel the author’s main point or points are and how the various Recaps–plot, symbols, themes, and so on–support or explain those main points. I also try to look at popular culture and see how the author’s main points connect with things going on today–especially things that are particularly of interest to teens. From there, lots of inspiration and perspiration!
If you want to hear more about Jenny’s experiences behind the camera and getting involved with 60second Recap, then you can watch her discuss it on the 60second Recap website. You can also check out the Recaps that have already been done, request Recaps, check some resources for writing essays and look at a glossary of terms. This is studying with a difference!