UPDATED with video: The pressure was on when directors Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine started making Boys StateYour film documents an annual exercise in Texas that gives students the opportunity to practice democracy in action.
Why? The program only lasts six days.
“We are used to making documentaries for years,” said Moss during the panel for the Apple TV + film at Dateways Contenders Documentary. “That movie … was super compressed.”
Moss and McBaine gathered a sizeable crew to follow attendees as they joined political parties, debated issues, ran gubernatorial candidates, and ran die-hard campaigns.
“We put together a very large team on a documentary … 28 people,” says McBaine. “We had to be there with our four main characters when these extraordinary moments happened because in the kind of filmmaking we do, if you miss those, you don’t have a movie.”
The filmmakers witnessed competitors who at times engaged in “dirty tricks” but also captured moments of hope, such as the way in which Steven Garza, a candidate for governor, approached politics.
“You see he’s trying to bridge the divide in Boys State – it’s the divide in our country now, and that makes … the story of our film so resonant now,” notes Moss. “We see how difficult it is, but how possible a compromise is.”
Dateway host Anthony D’Alessandro, who himself attended Vermont’s Boys State as a high schooler, asked if directing the film made Moss and McBaine more optimistic about what is possible in American politics.
“Absolutely,” replies Moss. “We were impressed by all of these young men in our film who plunge into the democratic process … they inspire us.”
Check out the panel video above.