Idaho Falls students recognized in national filmmaking competitionPublished at | Updated at
IDAHO FALLS — Two students at Compass Academy in Idaho Falls got some national recognition for a documentary they produced.
Addison Willis and Petra Christensen were awarded $250 in C-SPAN’s 2023 StudentCam competition for their film, “Creating a New Education for our Generation.”
StudentCam is a national video documentary competition that encourages students to think critically about issues that affect our communities and our nation, according to the contest’s website.
In this year’s competition, students were asked to make a video about which issue they would make their top priority if they were newly-elected members of Congress.
As videos across the country were submitted, Addison and Petra chose to focus on “encouraging the implementation of a greater variety of learning opportunities for students.”
“Addison and I wanted to shine a light on how much giving students opportunities like project-based school and early college can give students critical skills and a jump ahead into their schooling and careers,” Petra told EastIdahoNews.com. “Students work hard and do better in a school environment where the type of learning fits their needs and ambitions best, and we wanted to show that in our video.”
More than 300 students from across the country were awarded a total of $100,000. There was one grand prize, four first prizes, 16 second prizes and 32 third prizes.
Addison and Petra were among the 97 honorable mention prizes. Watch it here.
The duo never imagined their project would get that far, and they’re excited about the recognition.
“At first, we decided to enter the competition because our teacher was going to give us extra credit for doing it,” Petra joked. “C-SPAN was amazing to work with!”
This isn’t the duo’s first foray into filmmaking.
“Petra and I had to enter the international World of 8 Billion video contest last year for a project in our AP Human Geography class,” Addison recalled. “During the project rollout, we watched a video from two former Compass Academy Students…And that’s when the gears started turning.”
And they had some teachers who helped spark some inspiration.
“Ms. Dasher, Mrs. Taylor, Mr. Johnson, and Mrs. Smede (Compass Academy’s Director) were huge helpers on this project,” Petra said.
The girls knew they would need to choose a topic that had personal relevance to them. Drawing on their experience attending a project-based school that challenged them to learn skills, like communication and time management, helped them make their selection.
“It added a passion to our topic, and I think that showed in our end product,” Petra said. “We think it is important that students of all ages across the United States are given access to multiple ways of learning — traditional and hands-on.”
Though they look back on the creative process with fondness, they admit it was stressful.
They had to reach out to professionals and film them on a limited time schedule. They had a two-week holiday break in the middle of it.
Additionally, the documentary format wasn’t one they were used to.
It helped that they worked so well together, though.
“We each have strengths that complement each other,” Addison said. “Petra is fantastic at script writing and narration, while I handle the more technical side with video and audio editing.
They started by gathering statistics, and then started on the script.
Scheduling interviews with education professionals was tough, they recall.
“When we reached out to Debbie Critchfield (the state superintendent of education), we set up a day to meet with her, sent her a calendar invite and I added the address of our school. When the day came to meet with Debbie, we received an email that she had ended up at the Compass Academy in Boise instead of Idaho Falls.”
They rescheduled and it all came together, eventually.
The pair learned a lot from the experience and they encourage other students to give it a try next year.
“We learned we have a knack for this,” Addison said. “We already entered World of 8 Billion contest again this year in the Waste category and will find out May 9 if we place. And we are discussing tackling the Eastern Idaho “kNOw vape” video contest.”
“It is a fun way to be creative and make an impact on our society. It is a great way to learn new skills or expand on skills you have,” Petra adds. “The prize money didn’t hurt either.”
The 150 winning videos can be viewed here.