The musical genre is unique in its unabashed expression of colorful, raw and sometimes brash sentiments. Intertwining the musical elements of song, dance and youthful emotions with the factual, cold, black and white world of policy debate creates the framework and unique situations for the storyline and characters of STATE DEBATE.


Inspired by classic Technicolor films of the 1950’s, STATE DEBATE features three musical sequences: the opening company number Up North, Dakota’s tap extravaganza Substantially Increase and Solvency, the climactic instrumental ballet. Before shooting began, the production partnered with the 55-piece New York University Symphony Orchestra to achieve the one-of-a-kind sound synonymous with the Golden Age musical. The current American film landscape has largely forgotten the style of movie musicals such as Singin’ in the Rain, On the Town and Funny Face. By simultaneously paying homage to these classics and updating the storyline for a more modern audience, we aim to achieve a unique, one-of-a-kind movie going experience.


A world unfamiliar to many, high school policy debate is a beast unlike any other. Over the course of a single season, teams of two compete in local leagues and weekend tournaments that all lead up to an intellectually rigorous state final competition. Each school sends its best and brightest to the finals, with the hope of bringing home a piece of hardware and bragging rights for the following year. In an actual round, two teams debate the pros and cons of a resolution involving a United States federal government policy. Although the topic may seem boring to the uninitiated, policy debate is anything but that. Bitter rivalries, biased judging, politically charged seeding of teams and tearful losses abound among debaters who are, at once, both academically gifted and emotionally challenged. This style of debate is more akin to high school sports on intellectual steroids than a mere after school academic extracurricular. As viewers are drawn into a round, the combination of intellectual prowess, speed-reading, passionate speeches, intense cross-examination and the debaters’ deep personal investment impact first and foremost at an emotional level.


By structuring our film around the last three rounds of a state finals competition, we place the audience smack in the middle of this roller coaster ride, buckled in for dear life with the Harbor Village debaters.

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Illustrations by Emma Berliner
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