This week, a group of middle school students in Golden became the latest Colorado documentary filmmakers to win an award when they took third place and honorable mention in C-SPAN’s national competition.

The 11th annual contest reviewed almost 2,300 films submitted by middle- and high-schoolers from all over the country. This year’s theme was how an action or law by one of the government’s three branches affected the students’ communities. The film “Marijuana in Colorado: The Road to Ruin or Reward,” by Ethan Cranston and Alexa VanSchaardenburg took third place, and “Should Space Exploration and Travel Be Publicly Funded?” by Angelee Davis, won honorable mention. Each award carries a small cash prize.

These youngsters are merely a budding example of a local industry that’s in full bloom. In 5280‘s March issue—on newsstands now—I took an in-depth look at our state’s dynamic documentary filmmaking scene. “Cinema Verite” examines how even though Colorado has always been a desirable place to live, over the past 15 years or so there’s been enough activity in this industry that the creative types who might otherwise have decamped for the coasts are choosing to stay and ply their trades here.

This has resulted in an unprecedented volume of nationally and internationally recognized projects and a host of awards and nominations, inlcuding multple Emmys and Oscars. Most recently, films produced in Colorado have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and a few more will debut this month at SXSW.

(Read about Denver-based filmmaker Daniel Junge’s Sundance debut)

Colorado’s first recognition for its documentary work dates all the way to 1978, when Jerry Aronson, who started the film studies school at CU Boulder earlier that decade, received the state’s first Oscar nomination for the short documentary, “The Divided Trail.” Thanks in part to the early nurturing of people like Aronson, Colorado’s documentary film scene has become an exciting and self-sustaining industry that’s inspiring local filmmakers of all ages to tell their stories.

—Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.