Laramie High School freshman Arundathi Nair is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. But while she is honored by accolades, Nair said the best part of making a film is seeing the finished product.
“I find seeing a finished product much more satisfying than getting an award,” she said. “But I do appreciate the validation that comes with an award.”
At 14-years old, Nair was a regional first prize winner in C-SPAN’s 2017 StudentCam competition, for which she received $3,000 for her documentary “Fossil Fuels to Renewables.” StudentCam is an annual contest for students in grades 6-12, with just less than 3,000 submissions nationwide in 2017.
Nair said she chose the topic of energy because of the remarkable effects mineral extraction industries have in Wyoming.
“We’re so dependent on those resources that if there’s lower demand, that greatly affects our economy,” she said.
And it’s not the first time she’s been recognized in a filmmaking competition. In 2016, Nair’s film with collaborator and friend Sam Miller, “Access to Affordable Education is the Investment for the Future,” received an honorable mention.
“Access to Affordable Education is the Investment for the Future” focused on the importance of postsecondary education. Whether people attend college or vocational school, Nair said she and Miller both highly value pursuing postsecondary educational goals. She said she thinks many social and economic woes in the world go back to people lacking job training and educational attainment.
“Whenever we talk about political issues, we always come back to it,” Nair said. “There’s a higher crime rate in neighborhoods with people who don’t hold any postsecondary degrees or anything like that or average wages — all those are related to postsecondary education.”
While some might find it remarkable for a 16-year-old to be so engaged with current events, Nair said it seemed relatively normal to her.
“I surround myself with people who like politics,” she said. “We have a really tight-knit group, so most of the people I’m friends with like politics and are at that level.”
The seven minute “Fossil Fuels to Renewables” features a number of interviews with prominent figures such as Gov. Matt Mead and Sen. Mike Enzi. Nair said the governor was easy to work with on the interview.
“When I asked the Governor’s office if I could interview him, they were very prompt and helpful and it wasn’t very hard to find a day that we were both free,” she said
Mead said he appreciated someone Nair’s age exploring matters important to Wyoming.
“This topic is vital to Wyoming and I look forward to opportunities to talk about it,” Mead says in statement. “It is especially rewarding to see students engaged in issues important to Wyoming and the nation. Arundathi is bright and informed. She has a promising future and I appreciate the chance to be part of her documentary.”
Enzi said he found Nair to be equally praise-worthy.
“It is wonderful when Wyoming students decide to put their creative minds to work and dedicate themselves to a project,” he says in a statement. “I believe that it is important that we encourage and provide support to students like Aru to take to take on challenges like this. I was glad to have provided some of my time to help her with this achievement. It is clear that she put in a great deal of hard work. It hopefully will be an encouragement to other students in Wyoming.”
With another StudentCam competition coming in 2018, Nair said she’d be interested in submitting another film. If not StudentCam, she said she’d find another competition. But whether there’s a competition waiting for her or not, Nair said she plans to continue making films.
“I think that for me, the purpose used to be just doing it for the sake of the competition, but now I am going to continue filmmaking even as just a hobby,” she said. “I think the real purpose of making films is to get a message across to a viewer in a clear and engaging way. Sometimes experiencing something is more powerful than just hearing something.”