Austin teens win C-SPAN competition - againby Sea Stachura, Minnesota Public Radio
For the second year in a row, two Austin teens have won C-SPAN's "Student Cam" documentary competition. Videos about current political issues have to be 10 minutes or less and include C-SPAN footage. Last year Anthony Hernandez and Dustin Gillard won the grand prize for their documentary on illegal immigration. This year they took first for their Iraq war video.
Austin, Minn. — Hernandez and Gillard open their film, "Our Duty," with U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, giving a speech about Iraq. She said a local legislator gave her a message for Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., a retired Marine who supports troop withdrawal. She said, "Cowards cut and run, Marines never do."
The House went into an uproar.
"The House will be in order. The House will be in order," the speaker yelled.
Dustin Gillard and Anthony Hernandez are into politics and filmmaking, so the C-Span contest was a natural. This was the high school juniors' third documentary.
Hernandez says they shot footage in Iowa, Minneapolis and Austin. They talked with the usual suspects -- that is the usual suspects for a national reporter -- John McCain, Barack Obama, and Cindy Sheehan.
Hernandez says they also interviewed relatives of local soldiers.
"It was intriguing to find they all had their doubts," Hernandez says. "They all had their worries. And I don't know if I really expected that, because they doubted the president at times, they doubted the mission, but they still support the war."
The documentary only shows a brief clip of the discussion with the soldiers' relatives. In it, one woman says she finds it offensive when people say they don't support the war. To her, she says, you aren't supporting her soldier.
"You may as well say, 'You got shot at, you got bombed, you got bombs going off alongside you, it was all for nothing.'"
Another woman responds, "But what do you do for the ones that died?"
Gillard says filmmaking can take you to places you wouldn't normally go. For him, it was to the anti-war rally in Minneapolis where Cindy Sheehan spoke. He says he'd never heard someone speak so ill of the government, but then he could see her point as well.
Then he admits he being thrilled to be standing with the national press.
"It's like, wow! This is democracy. It's like a race," Gillard says.
"At the John McCain event, there was ABC News, CBS local affiliates with their huge tripods and their mondo cameras," Hernandez adds. "And here I am in the corner with my dinky tripod and my fist-sized camera, but I get to stand there with them."
Gillard and Hernandez spent every weekend for months pouring over tape, editing and writing the script. They feel this year's entry is much more professional than last year's.
But C-Span Educational Program Specialist Meredith Rapp says the panel doesn't judge documentaries on technical prowess.
"Because we'll have students who don't have access to high-tech equipment. So they may have to literally point their video camera at the television screen to capture C-SPAN programming," she says.
Instead, Rapp says the panel judges films on how well a documentary covers all sides of the issue, and how well it uses C-SPAN footage.
This year's grand prize went to a group from Jupiter, Florida, which produced a film about immigration.
Gillard and Hernandez had hoped for the grand prize again, but they'll try for it next year. Now they're focusing on YouTube and quirkier videos. Hernandez says he and Gillard recently videotaped a junior class prank.
"We have an annex where the band rooms are, and there's a tunnel underneath and then a crosswalk," Hernandez says.
"So we had people cycling through one way and then underneath the tunnel," Gillard finishes.
Gillard says the entire junior class took part, a couple dressed in cow and chicken costumes. They then set the video to The Pretenders' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)."
Gillard says traffic was backed up several blocks at least. The school's administrator was a little ticked, but they actually didn't get in that much trouble.
And really, after a long year of making political films, anybody would need a little fun.
- Morning Edition, 06/13/2007, 8:20 a.m.