Documentary made by Ann Arbor Public Schools students recognized by C-SPAN

Documentary filmmakers Eli Kirshner, Arden Seigel, and Ricardo Moreno celebrate their film with some of the experts interviewed in the film and representatives from Skyline High School, Comcast, and C-SPAN.
Documentary filmmakers Eli Kirshner, Arden Seigel, and Ricardo Moreno celebrate their film with some of the experts interviewed in the film and representatives from Skyline High School, Comcast, and C-SPAN.

Skyline High School’s unique Communication, Media, and Public Policy Magnet program helped three students produce an award-winning documentary focused on how the federal No Child Left Behind legislation is actually impacting schools here in Michigan. The team of Eli Kirshner, Arden Seigal, and Ricardo Moreno claimed second place in the region in C-SPAN’s Student Cam Competition with their short documentary, “Still Left Behind?

The documentary uses interviews with state lawmakers, members of the Board of Education, Superintendent Jeanice Swift, and other education leaders to highlight the differences between how No Child Left Behind has impacted schools in Ann Arbor and Detroit.

Team members say the access to quality production equipment and knowing how to use it correctly played a big role in their success. Still Ricardo Moreno says editing was a lot more time consuming than he estimated. He thought it would take about a day, but it took about a month to go through the difficult process that he compares to putting together a puzzle.

“You can take footage of anything, but chopping down seven hours of footage into seven minutes that’s just hard. It’s really hard but you have to stay with it,” Moreno says.

Eli Kirshner agrees the CMPP magnet program prepared them for the technical aspect of making a documentary, and in several other ways. He says the program was useful in connecting high school students with members of Ann Arbor City Council, the Board of Education, and even State Representatives.

The program’s focus in tenth grade on developing skills in policy analysis was also important to Kirshner. He says this knowledge, combined with interviews with education experts helped them understand what type of shortcomings No Child Left Behind isn’t addressing. “You can’t just sort of go in and expect everyone to meet the requirements without any additional aid or resources.   Nutritional, so kids have something to eat during the school day, you need extracurricular support, you need child care support for teens who have kids,” Kirshner says.

This ability to understand and present a complex issue in a short documentary was one of the reasons “Still Left Behind?” did so well in the Student Cam Competition. C-SPAN Marketing Representative Sara Zou says the documentary is more than just a technical success.

“You can see that they have skills in video editing and the technical side of things, but the content that they produce is what we’re looking for. That’s what C-SPAN is about, we’re not about fancy editing, or clips, or cutting, we’re more about what’s being said in the video and what’s happening and you can tell the students did a really great job of coming up with a topic, and then developing that,” Zou says.

The CMPP magnet program’s lead teacher is thrilled the documentary is receiving acclaim. Pat Jenkins says the film shows the students understand the technical skills needed for multi-media production. She’s also excited they learned the valuable life-long skill of working together.

“That it really does take a team often to create some of the best work. That you get three creative minds it’s often better than one. Three people working together to do the editing, to do the production it’s often better than one. That’s a skill that will take them beyond high school,” Jenkins says.

Before these juniors leave school though they will get the chance to put their talents to work for area non-profits. Seniors in the CMPP magnet program provide a variety of public relations work for organizations such as Peace Neighborhood Center, the Humane Society of Huron Valley, the Huron River Watershed Council, the Michigan Department of Public Health, and the Ecology Center.

Already Arden Seigel believes the magnet program has changed her life plans.

“This magnet I think inspired me. I never really knew what I wanted to do until like this year really, especially with this project,” Seigel says. “I want to go into film. I want to be a documentary filmmaker. I want to film mostly nature documentaries. I’ve always loved the oceans so I would love to do something about the pollution in the ocean,”

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