Judging a S.E.V.A. entry

The S.E.V.A.s are judged by teachers, students, and other adults with expertise in filmmaking. The maximum score an entry can receive is 100 points.

Judging is based on the following criteria:

Educational Message Strength 30 points

Does the video convey a clear educational message?

Production & Technical Quality 20 points

Picture, lighting, sound appropriate for the age level?

Organization of Production 20 points

Is there a beginning, middle, and end? Can you follow the message?

Creativity/Originality 20 points

Is the video original and creative? All content created by students and copyright cleared?

Overall Impression 10 points

Does the program leave the viewer with a meaningful impression of the educational message?

Mr. Bentley's impressions from judging high school documentaries for the 2012 S.E.V.A.s


  1. Make sure audio is consistent volume. (not going up too much or getting too quiet)
  2. Use a LOT of b-roll for voiceover portions. (holding a frame for 1.5 to 3 seconds is usual)
  3. Use a microphone or handheld recorder to capture clear audio.
  4. Use natural sound and/or music beneath voiceover portions of film.
  5. While balance.
  6. Use lights or a bounce board whenever possible.
  7. Sit/stand side-by-side or facing each other when interviewing a subject.
  8. Roll credits at the end of your film showing sources of information or archival images and/or film.
  9. Have a well-written story with a satisfying conclusion.
  10. Vary camera angles. (high, medium, low, wide, medium, tight)
  11. Use a tripod whenever possible.
  12. Have a clear introduction so we know what's going on right away.
  13. Check spelling.
  14. Use transitions such as a cross dissolve or fade to show time passing sparingly.
  15. Make sure lighting is consistent.
  16. If you use text, use a clear, easy to read font and use it consistently.
  17. Have a clear message you want to send and develop it thoroughly.
  18. Make sure you stay true to your genre. A documentary should be a documentary and not a :30 second PSA...
  19. Use experts whenever possible in interviews.
  20. Provide both sides to a story whenever possible. A one-sided look at something leaves something to be desired.
  21. Take the time to do your research and write a solid script.
  22. Use archival film and/or pictures whenever or wherever possible.
  23. Stay focused on your topic.
  24. Use a hair light!
  25. Lower thirds are nice to identify who a speaker is.
  26. When interviewing a person think: image of person, lower third, response begins, cutaway to multiple b-roll images with voiceover, cutaway to subject with audio still going.
  27. When interviewing more than one person, be sure to separate interviews with b-roll and voiceover that sets up the second interview subject.
  29. Make your film as if you were in the audience watching it. Predict what the viewer would wonder then address it.
  30. If you're going into a building, you have to film the outside and entrance into the building.


  1. Talking too fast for voiceover frustrates the audience.
  2. Interviews are boring when there is no/little b-roll footage.
  3. Rushing to create/finish a film project makes it look...rushed and poorly thought out.
  4. Shaky camera work is annoying.
  5. Watching the back of a person talking to another person looks bad.
  6. Using the same b-roll more than once in the same production is a sign of amateur filmmaking.
  7. Ignoring the rule of thirds looks bad.
  8. If you try to be funny...and you're not...well, it's not funny.
  9. Putting too much text into a project makes the film seem more like a writing assignment/Power Point.
  10. Transitions are, for the most part, distractions.
  11. Fade to black works well for the end but rarely during a film.
  12. Make sure your credits are spelled correctly and not too fast.
  13. Using lower thirds to ask the audience questions are annoying.
  14. Don't get sloppy with your voiceover editing. If a voiceover starts in the middle of a word, it's a sign you weren't paying attention to your audio.
  15. Scripts should not ramble. Saying a lot about not much is boring.

S.E.V.A. Judging Form 2012