As a child, I was obsessed with musicals. I’m not quite sure if it was the intoxicating fantasy of breaking into song and dance whenever and wherever I wanted, the catchy tunes or the coordinated, colorful performances but I simply couldn’t get enough. Growing up, at least once a year my family made a five-hour trek south to the booming metropolis of Detroit, Michigan to see touring stage musicals — some were better than others, but each had an uncanny ability to command my attention.


Throughout high school, I acted in both musicals and plays but gradually shifted my energies to working behind the scenes in theater and film. At the same time, I joined the intellectually stimulating but outcast extracurricular known as policy debate. After reaching the semifinal round of state debate finals in my junior year, it occurred to me that the somewhat off-kilter world of debate would provide both an interesting and entertaining backdrop for a film. At tournaments, I remember watching tub after tub of giant plastic containers filled with evidence being wheeled on heavy duty freight carts while competitors spoke of disadvantages, kritiks and counterplans in the foreign language of debate. The scene produced a certain rhythm, elegance and beautiful chaos that shouted movie musical.


Like most people, I have always gone to the theater and movies to be transported and escape the stresses of daily life. Through song and dance, musicals invite us to do just that, injecting happiness and hope into our black and white world until we cannot help but release the infusion of high spirits with a smile.


Fast-forward two years. While learning the ropes of film school as a freshman at New York University, I discovered the option of shooting a twenty-minute senior thesis film. With visions of debate tubs dancing in my head, I committed then and there to make an incredibly unique, wildly entertaining musical movie experience unlike any other — a no-holds-barred singing and dancing extravaganza about high school policy debate.


After years of pre-production, 20 shoot days, over 25,000 feet of exposed 35mm film and thousands of miles traveled across the country. STATE DEBATE, with a cast and crew of more than 250, is headed to a big screen near you!


Erich Rettstadt

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Illustrations by Emma Berliner
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