StudentCam 2015 - How to Get Started

StudentCam Competition Tips


Three former C-SPAN student interns, who are each pursuing degrees in journalism, prepared a series of short video tutorials with tips on creating a StudentCam documentary.

Our thanks to Michelle Chavez, Amon Jones, and Lezla Gooden for their work. We hope that you find their suggestions helpful as you plan, shoot, and edit your documentary.

1. StudentCam Competition Tips Introduction

2. Choosing Whether to Compete Individually or as a Group

3. Choosing a StudentCam Topic

4. Researching Your StudentCam Topic

5. Finding Experts to Interview

6. Contacting and Setting Up Interviews with Experts

7. Preparing for your Interview

8. Technical Preparation and Setup the Day of your Interview

9. Conducting Your Interview

10. Storyboarding and Planning Your Documentary Content

11. Planning and Writing a Narrative Script

12. Shooting B-Roll Video Footage

13. Video Editing Software

14. Video Editing Tips

15. Copyright and Fair Use

16. Citing Your Sources

17. Final Edits and Soliciting Feedback

18. Final Checklist and Submitting Your Documentary

19. The Judging Process

21. The Announcement of the Winners

Here are some additional tips that you may find helpful as you plan your StudentCam entry.

The Format
The contest calls for a specific format for your video--a documentary. A documentary could be described as a type of "non-fiction story." The video should "document" the issue that you most want candidates to discuss during the 2016 presidential campaign. The video elements (content, editing, voiceover, B-roll, music, titles) should be combined to explore the topic. It may include entertainment, instruction, or news, but the end product should tell a non-fiction story.

Team Work
Before you get started, if you are working in a team, you should consider how the team is going to divide up the responsibilities. Typical roles may include: writer, editor, director, and videographer. Of course, one person can play more than one role.

Research facts and opinions on your topic. Brainstorm a list of potential interviewees and contact them to schedule interviews. Explore locations and events that you may include to illustrate your topic. Organize your information and properly cite your sources. Be consistent in your citation format.

At this stage you may wish to write a "treatment"--a one-two paragraph synopsis of your documentary's topic. You can refer to the treatment throughout the production process to keep the project focused.

Outline the Content
Before production, you may wish to create a script outline, including storyboards illustrating specific shots. It should include: locations to explore, people to be interviewed, events to capture, situations to show, documents or still photos to include, artwork, quotations, C-SPAN video clips to insert (Take a look at our FAQ page for suggestions on accessing C-SPAN video). **Be sure any copyrighted material is used sparingly under "fair" use guidelines.

Video Equipment
This is the production phase. If you do not have video equipment readily available, consider asking your school or public library, your school district's technology department, local cable provider (try their community relations or public affairs divisions), or public access channel for help with resources.

Shooting Video
There are some basic rules to follow when shooting your video footage. You should consider lighting, framing, positioning, camera steadiness, speed of camera movement, sound, how many seconds you hold a shot, etc. A note about interviewing--think carefully about the questions and answers, the preparation, position, location and appearance of the interviewee. Careful planning can lead to better video footage for your final product.

Editing is a critical phase of creating your video. Think of the editing process as similar to the writing process, and your video footage as the words you will use to tell your story. In what order will you arrange the story? What pieces work well together? What piece should be left out? How will it end? You may also realize you are missing some pieces and need to shoot more video. Determine your strategy of transitioning between scenes and which segments need voice-over narration.

Ask a friend, family member, or teacher to watch your video and give you feedback about what worked well and what needs improvement.

Free Book on Filmmaking

Former StudentCam Grand Prize winner, Matthew Shimura, has written a FREE book with his perspective and insight on the process of creating educational films. Downloads are available exclusively through iTunes, and require a Mac or other Apple products in order to view.
Filmmaking for Students by Students

Making a Documentary

Mark Farkas, a C-SPAN Executive Producer, talks about the process of creating a documentary, and gives some helpful hints for young documentarians.

All eligible entries must be uploaded and received at C-SPAN by midnight on January 20, 2016.