How to Start Are You Ready?

Show off your skills as historians and filmmakers with our exciting new competition, White House at Bat: A Presidential History Challenge, a joint partnership program between the Washington Nationals and the White House Historical Association.


Your challenge is to submit a plan for a documentary that addresses an important presidential decision made by one of the five Racing Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, or William Howard Taft.

Documentaries are powerful storytelling tools that can highlight history, the arts, sports, individuals, causes, and the natural world around us.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences defines a documentary film as a non-fiction motion picture dealing creatively with cultural, artistic, historical, social, scientific, economic or other subjects. It may be photographed in actual occurrence, or may employ partial reenactment, stock footage, stills, animation, stop-motion or other techniques, as long as the emphasis is on fact and not on fiction.

Through these techniques, documentary filmmakers can bring a subject to life for a broader audience.

For the Challenge, we want you to draw inspiration for your documentary from historical newsreels as a way to deliver lots of information to the masses in a short amount of time.

Before the widespread access of television, newsreels brought current events and human interest stories to the public at theater movie screens around the world. Using recorded footage of live events, music, voiceover narration, title cards and/or reenactments, newsreels were an important way of sharing information.

The pacing and style of historical newsreels should serve as inspiration for your documentary, but you should also give the format your own spin! How can you quickly and efficiently tell the story of a presidential decision through film?