Carl Colglazier has never voted, but he may be one of the most knowledgeable people about civics and government, at least among his peers.
The home-schooler recently won the C-SPAN StudentCam video contest for the fifth time, with a short documentary and pro-voting film focused on the United States Congress. The video is called “The People’s House.”
Colglazier didn’t turn 18 until after the most recent election in November. Even though he’s comfortable on camera talking about voting and interviewing his own representative, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, he has never bubbled in a candidate’s name on a ballot.
Lack of experience never stopped Colglazier before, though.
“I just like making videos,” said the teen, whose Twitter bio simply states “documentary filmmaker” and who also created a documentary about the history of Cary for his Eagle Scout project.
Each year, C-SPAN holds a national contest for documentaries created by middle and high school students on different parts of the federal government. This year, C-SPAN received 2,280 video submissions.
Colglazier has submitted six videos, one each year since he was a 12-year-old seventh-grader.
His videos have been named the best in North Carolina five of those six times, including one national grand prize in 2011 when he was still in middle school.
“You have got to apply for an internship,” one C-SPAN representative told the teen Friday morning, after handing him yet another award.
Carl received a national Honorable Mention award this year and got a repeat visit from the 45-foot C-SPAN bus, outfitted with televisions and touch-screen monitors, which greeted him and his family at The Cary theater.
Dan Colglazier, Carl’s father, math teacher and principal, said home schooling is what allowed Carl to really hone his twin loves of filmmaking and politics.
“That has given him the opportunity to deeply explore some of his interests,” said Dan Colglazier with pride.
“The money is pretty good, too,” the younger Colglazier said.
Carl has won a total of $10,500 through his five victories. He also received several paid trips to Washington to appear live on C-SPAN and take questions from callers about the subjects of his documentaries.
For his films, he has interviewed politicians, political science professors, a CEO and even the head of the U.S. Patent Office.
“I’ve actually been through the patent process a couple times myself, and I learned things from that interview,” Dan Colglazier said.
On the live C-SPAN show a few years ago, Carl Colglazier wore a suit and bow tie and handled the call-in show with ease, despite his young age. But in one segment, he appeared flummoxed when a caller presented an odd question about carburetor patents from the 1930s and modern-day national security concerns.
“Um, I didn’t really study that topic,” Colglazier said, before the network moderator helped bail him out and changed the subject to Colglazier’s own political aspirations in the future.
“I think it’s really quite open at this point,” he said.
“You sound like a politician already,” the moderator joked.
At this point, his only immediate plans are to start school in the fall at North Carolina State University.
He wants to major in communications and computer science, he said.
And even though he no longer can compete in the video contest, he said there’s a chance he will try to get back to C-SPAN – this time as an employee.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran
To see Carl Colglazier’s video, go to www.studentcam.org and search for “The People’s House.”