C-SPAN, the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, is an American cable and satellite television network that broadcasts government activities.
Every year C-SPAN hosts an annual video documentary competition, Student Cam, where students in grades 6-12 are encouraged to create a short (5-6 minute) video documentary on a topic that relates to that year’s competition theme- with 2024’s being "Looking Forward, While Considering the Past".
If you are passionate about filmmaking, documentaries or journalism by and large, then this might be right up your alley.
Who is eligible to participate in Student Cam?
The competition splits the grades of those competing into two categories: with 6th-8th graders in the Middle School category, and 9th-12th graders in the High School category. Students may compete individually, or in teams of either 2 or 3 members.
There are a few more requirements for competition submissions (that can be found here) that cover the length and content of eligible documentaries.
What is the submission deadline?
To be considered, all entries must be submitted by Friday, January 19th, 2024, at 11:59pm PST.
What prizes does Student Cam offer to its winners?
C-SPAN bestows cash rewards amounting to $100,000 annually, recognizing the top 150 student documentaries. Starting in 2004, C-SPAN has granted more than $1.5 million in cash prizes to both students and teachers.
A list of past Student Cam documentary winners can be found at this link: C-SPAN StudentCam 2023 Prize Winners
Is Student Cam prestigious?
Over 3000 students from over 40 states participate in the contest each year, with only 150 students receiving awards for their documentaries. Even though only 5% of students’ films receive awards, only the top 21 films (0.7%) are even broadcasted on C-Span’s network.
Past winners have gone on to achieve great things. The students who created some of the top films from the 2020 competition, (with the theme of “What's Your Vision in 2020?”, where they researched the issue they most wanted the presidential candidates to address), were accepted into many prestigious universities that included the Ivy League and multiple UC’s.
8 Reasons to Participate
With an understanding of the Student Cam competition hosted by C-SPAN and its significant rewards and history, this article will now dive into eight reasons for why you should submit a documentary and participate in this annual video documentary competition.
1. You will get the chance to work on your research skills: Submitting a documentary to Student Cam would not only improve your ability to explore a variety of viewpoints related to your chosen topic, but further your understanding and knowledge of it. Not to mention, the opportunity to hone your researching skills, something that any college-level class will require.
Creating a documentary requires in-depth research, promoting your ability to analyze and present information effectively. This college-level skill will be useful for any university or major you decide to pursue. You will strengthen your analysis and communication skills simply through the work it takes to morph your data and information into a clear and concise point, and then transferring that point into video form.
2. You can enhance your portfolio when applying to college: Participating in the Student Cam competition would not only enhance your capacity to examine diverse perspectives concerning your selected subject matter, but also showcase those efforts. The effort required to create and submit a film would not go unnoticed- whether you win an award or not. Including your participation in the Student Cam competition on your college applications will illustrate your research and critical thinking abilities.
A well-produced documentary can become a valuable addition to any portfolio or resume, showcasing your skills to future employers or educational institutions. Even if your documentary is not chosen for a prize, you will be able to include it on applications and resumes for years to come, showcasing your talents and work ethic.
3. The competition gives you a chance to showcase your creativity: Another reason to participate in Student Cam is for the chance to express your creativity and storytelling skills through the medium of video. Oftentimes, extracurriculars for college applications do not allow space to showcase your creative side. By creating and directing your very own film, and submitting it to a platform like Student Cam, you add another personal layer onto your college applications.
Take a look at the work done by the past winners here!
4. Your documentary can help voice important social issues: Student Cam is a platform to share your perspectives on important topics, allowing your voice to be heard on a national stage. If there is a topic in today’s America that you feel is overlooked or underrepresented, this is your opportunity to raise awareness; Especially if there is a subject that is more personal, or close to your heart.
5. You can work on your communication skills through media: Another reason to create and submit a film is the development of your communication skills. Crafting a compelling and persuasive narrative will help improve your communication skills, enabling you to convey complex ideas clearly both on and off the screen. Your film will also showcase this talent in a public way, potentially taking some of the weight off of your shoulders for in-person admissions interviews.
6. Engage in Civic Discourse: In your film, you will be addressing current affairs and cultivating your engagement in critical conversations about society, governance, and public affairs. By educating yourself on these topics and furthering your knowledge of the world around you, you may not only change your mind on previous beliefs, but through your documentary, provide others with the same opportunity. Your voice and opinion will be heard through a public platform, raising awareness on both your topic, and your name.
A great example of how Student Cam will encourage your engagement with civic conversations is the grand prize winner of the 2023 Student Cam competition, a video titled “Where’s My Data? Data Privacy and its Real World Impact”. The two students behind the winning video, Parim Shah & Nimay Sharma, addressed the threat to data privacy on international social media platforms and discussed how apps like Facebook had sold the personal information of its users and the danger behind this.
7. You stand a chance to earn recognition at a national level: If your documentary stands out, you have a chance to be recognized and rewarded among the top entries. With C-SPAN’s name and reputation, you will be recognized on a reputable and prestigious public platform, which could create chances to connect with new people, and possibly introduce you to influential figures within the industry.
Here is the 2023 winner announcement.
8. Student Cam offers attractive prizes: On top of all these reasons, there is extra incentive to filming and submitting a film to Student Cam. For those top films of the two categories, there is an opportunity to win cash prizes in order to provide an extra incentive (and reward) for your hard work and dedication to the project.
Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you are passionate about research in media studies, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Mandy Brenner is a current junior at Harvard University. She is concentrating in History and Literature and loves to read and write in her free time.
Image Source: Student Cam logo