Amanda McBaine interview: ‘Boys State’ documentary

One of the most powerful moments in “Boys State” is when Steven Garza stands up to give his speech for the gubernatorial nomination for the Nationalist Party and ends up captivating the room. It was a shocking moment for the film’s co-director, Amanda McBaine. “We didn’t know he had that capacity and to see someone actually find their voice and just like, have it lock in and, you know, it’s like being in a concert,” she tells Gold Derby in our Meet the Experts: Documentary and Nonfiction panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). It even left a mark on their executive producer, Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim, when he saw it while reviewing dailies. “We wanted them to feel it while they were watching it and he jumped on top of his chair, like he jumped up and we thought, ‘That’s a good sign.'”

“Boys State,” which is currently streaming on Apple TV+, chronicles several youth participating in the annual Texas Boys State program. The annual event brings over 1,000 17-year-old boys to Austin where, within the span of a week, they will set up a mock government and political parties, nominate candidates and hold elections for office. In addition to Garza the film also focuses on the journeys of Ben FeinsteinRobert MacDougall and René Otero. The film is nominated for two Emmys including Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special and Best Documentary/Nonfiction Directing for McBaine and her co-director, Jesse Moss.

SEE Watch our interviews with over 150 of this year’s Emmy nominees

Finding the subjects that they wanted to focus on for the film was an incredibly extensive process for McBaine and Moss. “We spent the six months leading up to that event, really interviewing and traveling all over Texas to find the four guys that we ended up featuring.” There were several that they had started following but their journeys didn’t have as much impact and another, René Otero, who they found during the actual event. “We found him in the event itself and he stands up and gives this amazing speech and we’re like, we’ve been looking for six months and here you are.”

Even though the film concludes by showing what each of the four subjects have done since participating in Boys State, McBaine has still kept in touch with the film’s main characters and has seen some of them change their views on politics. “Ben [Feinstein] probably has done the most change in terms of looking at his behaviors for win-at-all-costs politics.” She says that in seeing how the last year has played out, he has come to view how he operated during the Boys State election as more of a negative than a positive, despite his campaign being victorious. “I think he saw the toxicity of that and in his own behavior at Boys State and he’s really had this revelation that what he wants for the countries is a more civil politics.”

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UPLOADED Aug 10, 2021 2:40 pm