A.J. Chambers knew there was something special about his students’ documentary when he watched it.
Chambers is the media technology teacher and WAVE-TV adviser at Summerville High. His level two students, divided into three groups, recently participated in C-SPAN’s 2015 StudentCam documentary competition, which asked students to create a short documentary on the theme, “The Three Branches & You.” C-SPAN received 2,280 films from almost 5,000 students – the most student participation ever in the 11 years of the competition, according to C-SPAN’s website. Entries came from 45 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Taiwan.
One hundred and fifty prize-winning documentaries were selected this year – including one group from Chambers’s class at Summerville High.
Senior Raven Lewellen and juniors Jack Hazel and Isaiah Schmidt’s seven-minute video on student visas is one of eight high school third-place winners in the East division of the competition.
The students’ video focuses on problems with student visas, the lengthy process international students go through to attain visas and how international students provide educational experiences to multiple cultures.
Schmidt and his family have hosted seven exchange students in the past five years, and he is about to go to Germany himself. Schmidt said doing the video taught him how strict the regulations are for international students to attend school in the United States.
Overall, though, Schmidt said the opportunity is beneficial to international students.
“You really combine cultures, and I think it’s something really special to both sides,” he said.
The group interviewed three exchange students for their video, and also interviewed state Sen. Sean Bennett, R-Summerville. In terms of international students, Bennett touched on the benefits of giving people the opportunity to work together on a global scale.
“I think if we can do that, then we’re not only going to enhance not only those folks coming in to our country, but expose people in our country to other parts of the world,” Bennett said in the video.
The students were also required to incorporate footage from C-SPAN’s website into their video. Documentaries could not go beyond a seven-minute duration.
Time management proved to be the biggest obstacle for the students as they worked on their video.
“We had to not only calculate that time together but then we had to calculate other people’s time into it,” Lewellen said.
Editing was a challenge too. On top of time management the students said they learned how to effectively interview – like what kind of questions to ask and the importance of having enough interview footage to make the documentary. “I feel very proud of how we worked,” Hazel said.
Schmidt has aspirations to become a director. Hazel said he wants to make movies and Lewellen wants to be a news anchor.
Another video from the class, called “Locked In,” placed third at a recent QUEST competition. The third video submitted by Chambers’s class focused on gun control.
Chambers said his students were the only group in the state to place in the competition.
“The rocked it out,” he said. “The coolest part for me was how passionate they were about the topic. They worked hard on the video.
“I’m really proud of my kids,” he added. “I think Summerville in general is really proud of them.”
Image: Raven Lewellen, Isaiah Schmidt and Jack Hazel are part of Summerville High’s WAVE-TV production class. The three students just placed in a national video contest.