In a clear and crisp voice, Oceanside High School senior Tim Kunken starts his documentary “Glass-Steagall: Reexamined.” Kunken’s video — which he researched, narrated and edited — was an honorable mention winner in C-SPAN’s national 2023 StudentCam competition.
Kunken, whose passion for social studies and documentaries has been guiding his college application process, received $250 for his video tracking the history of financial regulations.
Kunken’s media teacher, Tracy Busk, told him about the annual StudentCam competition at the beginning of the school year. The competition’s theme was “If you were a newly elected member of Congress, which issue would be your first priority and why?” Kunken, who was new to the world of finance and was eager to learn more, now says it’s more relevant than ever and adds that hindsight is 20/20.
To begin the documentary, Kunken started back in the 1930s, following the regulation of banks until the modern era, where he says the legacy of Glass-Steagall started to stand out. Glass-Steagall was introduced as a law that separated commercial banking from investment banking in the United States. It was passed in 1933 as part of the Banking Act but was later repealed in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.
“I talked about the development of the 2008 financial crisis,” Kunken said, “and then specifically steps to add in more financial regulation, like with the Dodd-Frank bill, and then later on, (of) more relevance today, the deregulation of that act in 2018. So, a very big chunk of the documentary made was all about telling the story of financial regulation in general. And then I kind of bookmarked it at the end of it with okay, this is important. We need new financial restrictions and to add some more stability and security to our system.”
To help formulate his new appreciation for regulators, Kunken interviewed Arthur Wilmarth Jr., law professor at George Washington University and author of “Taming the Megabanks: Why We Need a New Glass-Steagall Act.” Kunken was surprised how easy it was to reach out to and interview an expert on a subject, something “many don’t,” he said. Kunken, who has been accepted to Syracuse University, The New School and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, found it novel to talk to a professor before entering college and was happy to gain the experience.
Kunken said he’s “still sticking with the medium of documentary as my go-to” in the field because he has many interests and likes the accessibility of the medium.
“I want to work as a documentarian,” he said. “I still have a strong interest in a lot of, like, politics and economics fields.” He said he’s “dual majoring” between those two areas.
“Documentaries serve as a real way to crystallize history, almost like into amber,” Kunken said. “Like you’re interviewing people or giving testimony that itself is its own historical documents. So, it’s always fascinating to have that just like right in front of you along with all the other documents and, like, artifacts of the past.”
Busk couldn’t contain her happiness with Kunken entering the competition and getting the experience. “I’m so proud of him; I told him about the project, and he took it and ran with it,” she said.
Kunken said he couldn’t have attained his goal without his supportive teachers. “They’ve always given many opportunities and outlets … this wouldn’t be possible without her introducing me to the idea of the student C-SPAN documentary competition,” he said.
The 150 winning videos can be viewed at studentcam.org and may be used in a broadcast with attribution to C-SPAN. The annual StudentCam competition is sponsored by the C-SPAN Education Foundation. Videos were evaluated by a panel of educators and C-SPAN representatives based on the thoughtful examination of the competition’s theme, quality of expression, inclusion of varying sides of the documentary’s topic, and effective incorporation of C-SPAN programming.
“For the first time in the history of the competition, we asked students to envision themselves in a position of power, as newly elected members of Congress,” Craig McAndrew, the director of C-SPAN Education Relations, said in a press release, “As each participant considered which issue would be their first priority and why, they creatively wove detailed research with expert interviews and proposed actions to address their concerns. Capitalizing on the platform of short film, these passionate young people masterfully showcased the fruits of active learning, and we are excited to share their work with the country.”