Take a look through the lens of filmmaking with this WCHS club


Graphic Courtesy of Student Lens Club

Student Lens Club is open membership where members work on videos in a variety of subjects, from STEM to humanities. Anyone looking to learn more about filmmaking and video editing is encouraged to join.

By Emily Zhang, Features Editor

From local and national competitions to helping the community, filmmaking is a unique way to explore vast opportunities in a variety of different niches. Inspired by their time at Eastern Middle School, WCHS sophomores Ida Chen, Kaitlyn Li and Allison Fan started Student Lens Club, in hopes to continue their passions for video making and encourage others to do the same. 

“I started talking about it with Ida at Eastern when we were in eighth grade because we both knew we wanted to continue filmmaking at Churchill, but we weren’t quite sure if there was an environment where we could continue it,” Li said. “We really wanted to structure it based on how Eastern did their humanities program because it was very stepwise; sometimes there is a very steep learning curve when there is a technology barrier.”

The club was founded at the end of last school year and generally meets biweekly, depending on various projects. Because of the pandemic, officers had to adapt the club to a virtual setting, which came with its difficulties given the equipment required to produce intricate videos.  

“There are a lot of free editing programs and a lot of local competitions that don’t require a lot of intensive editing, which is helpful when you just start out, so that was one way beginners could engage with filmmaking,” Chen said. “Another thing is breaking down projects. We did a student segment for Strathmore’s Children’s Choir for a concert video, and it was a long segment but instead of having one person do all of it or transferring the project around, we broke it down into very small sections.” 

In addition to recreational filmmaking and club discussions, Student Lens Club expanded towards helping the community. Especially during the pandemic, making videos for local nonprofit organizations was a key focus. 

“I think the pandemic actually helped us in some ways because now that everything is virtual, a lot of nonprofits can’t do the things they usually do to promote themselves, like hand out flyers or hold events,” Fan said. “I think that’s what made making videos so effective during this time because it can be shared with a lot of people in different locations and all different countries without having to congregate in large groups or travel anywhere.” 

Members also entered MCPS’s short video competitions, which are 30 seconds to minute long PSAs. At the higher level, members participated in national competitions like CSPAN StudentCam, a video documentary competition, which resulted in two national honorable mentions and one national first place. 

“The Student Lens Club has entered multiple different documentary contests this year including CSPAN StudentCam where they worked on individual documentaries for 4-5 months,” WCHS teacher and Student Lens Club advisor, Ms. Feldman said. “They also created a video for the Choose Respect PSA contest that Montgomery County is hosting.” 

The time it takes to plan and create a video can vary greatly. A lot of dedication and hard work is poured into each project. 

“It really just depends on how big or small the project is, but for videos in general there is a structure of what you would go through,” Fan said. “Basically, you start with an idea, and if you’re working in a team, you would bounce ideas off of each other and how you want the script to flow. And after you got that down, you usually start recording something that’s like in the spine of the video and add extra pictures or videos that you take to make it more interesting.” 

During filmmaking, reaching out to others for interviews leads to tons of opportunities to speak to notable people, such as the owner of the first drive-through McDonalds and Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin. Connecting with those who have accomplished such great things is humbling and a good way to learn about other people’s experiences. 

“It’s a lot of random chance, and sometimes when you think about it it’s like ‘how on Earth did this happen?’” Li said. “But it’s really cool because you get to talk to all these people who you never thought you’d speak to.”

Ultimately, Student Lens Club hopes to help all its members learn filmmaking and video editing, and be able to use it as a mode of expression. It also allows members to gain a better perspective of what is going on in the world. 

“As a lot of my history teachers like to say, we’re living through history, and this year I think we’ve heard our teachers say ‘this is unprecedented,’ and a lot is going on in the world right now with COVID-19, with the BLM protests,” Li said. “Something filmmaking allows you to do is to research more into these ideas, expand your horizons and think critically about these issues. I want this to be an outlet for students and everyone else to explore their ideas, and a safe place to talk about what’s going on, in a creative way.”

In the next few years, the club hopes to expand towards other types of filmmaking, like observatories which are more spontaneous and less scripted. In addition, the club strives to leave a legacy and encourage others to get involved. 

“We all have our own projects, but I would like to see the support system we had at Eastern, where other people were allowed to grow as filmmakers and as thinkers,” Li said. “I would like us to be a support system that supports others to go out there and do what they want, and hopefully, when we graduate there will be others willing to teach filmmaking.”