Leila Giles of Vienna and Elizabeth Angel of Fairfax have been friends since they were 6. Home-schooled together, the two 13-year-olds had just finished the TV and Me and Co. television production class at the Packard Center in Annandale, when they heard about the Campaign Cam video contest sponsored by C-SPAN.
Leila and Elizabeth brainstormed many ideas until they came up with one about voting machines.
"We borrowed a video camera and a tripod from TV and Me, and also used computer editing software to make the film," said Leila. "We both learned how to use the camera and the editing software."
They entered the contest with their video, "Voting Machines: Past, Present, and Future," and won second place in the middle-school category. Leila and Elizabeth split the $1,500 prize money.
Celeste Land, Leila's mother and the girls' teacher, heard about the contest through C-SPAN in the Classroom's e-mail mailing list.
"My mom wanted us to enter the contest so we could put all the skills we learned from TV and Me to work," said Leila.
FROM OVER 700 entries submitted, C-SPAN presented awards to only 45 videos. The videos had to be an in-depth look at a campaign issue, and they had to go beyond the coverage of a news program.
"(Leila and Elizabeth's) video won second prize because it was thorough, comprehensive and drew you in," said Meg Steele, C-SPAN's education manager. "Also, they talked to many professionals and weaved in history."
Campaign Cam is a contest sponsored by C-SPAN and C-SPAN in the Classroom, aimed at helping America's youth understand the presidential campaign by researching it. The cable network wanted to give the youth of America a chance to voice their opinion on different campaign issues. The contest was open to sixth- through 12th-grade students in the United States.
The videos could be no more than 10 minutes long, and groups could not exceed more than three members. Each video was judged on four areas: the success of capturing the contest's theme, the quality of expression, creativity and persuasiveness.
"The students were also able to learn both sides of their issue by finding out another point of view," said Steele.
Through the contest, C-SPAN gave away over $50,000 in prizes. Only one video was awarded the grand prize. The grand-prize winner received a certificate of recognition and $5,000 in prize money. The winner's video was shown on C-SPAN, and the winner's teacher received $1,000 toward video equipment. As one of eight second-place winners, Leila and Elizabeth split $1,500 and received a certificate of recognition. Their video will be shown on C-SPAN, and their teacher, Celeste Land, will receive $250 toward video equipment.
THE VIDEO that Leila and Elizabeth made examines the historical use of voting machine methods as well as the introduction to more advanced systems. They began by explaining the history of the first paper ballots, which were invented in Australia in 1885 and were used for the first time in the United States in 1888. The girls talked to many professionals about the different types of methods of voting that were used during the 2000 presidential election. Their video showed a punch card, also called a “butterfly ballot,” that was used in Florida and how confusing it was to use. They also showed lever machines that caused problems because they often broke and weighed over 600 pounds. Leila and Elizabeth's video also explained the touch screens that are used in Fairfax County and how these are more efficient. The video even explained about the audio voting system used for the blind.
"Some voting machines don't work well, but the touch screens work better," said Leila. "The only problem with them is that they are expensive and not everyone can afford them."
Leila would like to make another video, only this time she would like to make a fictional movie instead of a documentary.
Land said that making a video was a wonderful learning experience for Leila and Elizabeth.
"Leila definitely learned a lot from making this video," Land said. "Not just about the campaign, but about writing, interviewing, directing and researching."
For more information about the contest or to view Leila and Elizabeth's video as well as other winning videos, visit