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tv   Q A  CSPAN  October 28, 2013 6:00am-7:01am EDT

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>> this week on "q&a," filmmaker jonathan goodman levitt discusses his latest documentary film titled "follow the leader." >> jonathan goodman levitt, documentarian -- did you know when you studied psychology and got a masters in social psychology, that you wanted to go into this kind of work? >> i did not know initially, but i knew at the end of my time at stanford that i did not want to be in a lab, and i was able to apply for and albright scholarship. >> why did you originally study psychology? >> i think a lot of us want to understand how we tick ourselves. that was the initial motivation. i had an interesting upbringing. my parents went through a divorce.
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i wanted to understand how we all think. >> where did you grow up? >> new jersey. a half-hour south of new york city. >> and your family -- your parents, what do they do? >> my mother is a grammar school librarian and my father is a largely retired lawyer. >> does anybody in your family do documentaries? >> not that i know of red nobody else in my family works -- no of. nobody else in back in the works in the media. >> " follow the leader" came out in 2012, but you are still working the documentary across the country. why? >> it is a slow burn. it has taken a long time to catch on. we had a theatrical release that
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you were kind enough to come to with your wife victoria, and i was pleased by that, but it is a backwards release. being around to sell the film and talk about it with people is an additional draw that motivates the distribution. we are doing a college and community tour where a lot of people will go to see the film, but these live events are really useful. >> which one is this? how many documentaries? >> it is my second feature as a documentary. i have worked as a producer on others. these personal projects -- each of the features has taken seven years from inception to broadcast an eventual release. >> "follow the leader" is what? >> a political coming of age
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story, if you will, about three teenagers who want to be president, and we follow them figuring out what they truly badly -- believe. i asked why did you do this? -- >> why did you do this? >> i was living in london, overarching 9/11 and the start of the war on terror, and living abroad i did not understand the mindset of students. it seemed to change overnight in the summer following 9/11 in 2002, really, and i really wanted to explore what is meant for them to be american so that when i was thinking about moving back here, that was an important personal project. >> how did you notice the mindset changing? what were the things that you saw? >> things students would say
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about what we should do in the world -- this doctrine of preemptive war that seem to be adopted wholeheartedly by a lot of my students and carried strongly right after 9/11. that struck me as someone like myself, who grew up in relative peace time, i would never have come out with something like that, and things that really were, largely conservative, in a way, like the doctrine we have of going to war preemptively, or targeted killings halfway around the world were, sort of, viewed as non-controversy of, and at the same time people were saying we were in the midst of a liberal revolution, and it did not wash for me. >> you have three main characters. who are they?
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>> ben, d.j., and nick, three teenage, upper-middle-class white boys, which is striking for a lot of people, but we wanted to explore the baseline political realities in the country by looking at boys who essentially our avatars for traditional leaders in america. a lot of people come to a film about young leaders and they expect to see a multicultural tapestry of what america really looks like, but i think the country is still run, politically, at least, largely by upper-middle-class, relatively privileged white men, and reacting to that is really what i am trying to do for viewers. >> the three of them come from what states and what communities? >> they all come from the first 13 colonies. ben grew up outside of washington, d.c., in springfield, virginia.
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d.j. is from the massachusetts/new hampshire border. nic is from pennsylvania. >> let's watch the opening and see the three young boys -- what year would this have been? >> when we started to film, it was to thousand six, and all of the boys started off conservative in their lyrical views, and as we see, they go in three different directions and end up republican, democratic, and independent, i the and. >> and they are how old? >> 16. then they are 19. today they are 23, 24 years old. the interviews were actually filmed one and two years after the main action was filmed, and so we actually filmed for over five years. the footage you will see was filmed from 2006 two 2011.
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>> again, d.j. is from --? >> massachusetts. >> ben is from? >> virginia. >> nick? >> pennsylvania. >> let's run one minute and a half. ♪ >> how do you feel about removing under god from the pledge of allegiance? >> i feel our country and constitution is all based on god. as each generation goes on, we have less and less god. what are we becoming? ♪ >> the one thing that will remain constant, america needs
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to remain on the offense on the global war on terror. >> it might be a long road, and it gets frustrating sometimes, but in the end i am trying to change the world and become a better person, and create a better place for all of us to live. >> we are not the commies, and we are not the bad people. ♪ >> america, america we love you so ♪ [applause] >> usa, usa, usa. >> that was boys nation sponsored by the american legion. are all the boys involved in boys nation? >> they are not all involved, but they did go to boys state, a program that runs in 49 states.
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i went to that one i was in high school in 1993. i really felt that the history of that really represents traditional leadership in the country, and that a few thousand boys and girls, while i was researching the film, and i thought that program represents the tradition that we think of when we think of leaders like bill clinton, michael dukakis, tom brokaw, neil armstrong, they all went to boys state as well. the fact the three boys went there ties them together in the first sequence. even though it is only two and a half minutes into the film, it sets the tone. >> and bill clinton met john f. kennedy going to boys nation. >> he did. we were trying to work that into the film for some time, but the initial idea was to have these older leaders reflecting back on their experiences, but when we
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were filming for so long, i felt that, unfortunately, i had to throw out interviews that we did with tom brokaw, michael dukakis, and others, because i wanted the boys to reflect for themselves about their experience, so the path of what we're going to do with the film actually changed in the course of making it. >> where did you go to boys state and what was the impact? >> i went in 1993 in new jersey. the programs, at least in my experience, going, and now attending several of them for my research and initial filming, the programs are different in every state and they are different depending on what is happening in the country. what we see in the beginning of "follow the leader" is really a distilled, wartime mentality -- and wartime mentality almost of perpetual war, if you will, at the time in 2006, and my feeling
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in starting their was that ok, different types of news are beginning to permeate the american landscape, and over the next few years that these boys grow up, we will see changes in some of them, and we will have different reactions. >> what have you found that the american legion boys nation part of this -- i know they sponsor the ones in the states -- is there a certain dogma that they are trying to teach? >> every state is different, as i said. i think it is largely a conservative program teaching largely conservative values. they bring in people from all political stripes, but if we look at the people of democratic, republican politics, if you will, you know, they are all still relatively traditional in their values, and i do not mean politically traditional, i mean more philosophically
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traditional. i think there is not really that much difference between that depending on party, if you will. >> let's get to know more about each young fellow. the first one is nick and his family and it is about one minute and 20 seconds. ♪ >> hi. >> hi. >> and you know what i have seen? all nicky's awards -- the volunteer service award from president bush, that is for photography, the certificate of excellence for sons of america, and they gave him the bronze medal. overall, he did an outstanding job, right, nick? [applause] >> i would like to say thank you, and i am honored to be your first recipient. how fortunate i was for my parents, both natives of
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brooklyn, to cross over that rickety bridge and bring me into this neighborhood. i feel so fortunate. my great grandparents got off of the vote from ellis island, and they just wanted an opportunity, and here i am today, capitalizing on that opportunity. being a good leader, and it just has to be an inherent characteristic that some people haven't some people do not. we are not all born the same way. >> nick was rather confident in himself, what was your reaction, and his reaction when he saw the film? asked the boys really love the film, actually -- >> the boys really loved the film, actually. i was heartened by that. i am not surprised that he was confident. he was in all american leader. he is an avatar for a guy coming up in a small town, and
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everybody in town knows them, and roots for them and thinks they're going to be president some day. >> and mom was proud of her son. did you find that everywhere you went? >> i did. nick's parents were particularly proud, and they have been wonderful through the distribution continuing the pride. almost every screen we have, they come. >> let's see a little bit of tj, from massachusetts. >> that is me, when i lived in new hampshire. when i run for president, in new hampshire, the primary, -- i lived in new hampshire. >> where is the questioning -- is our children learning? >> there is my wall of fame. these are originals. bobby kennedy, 1968.
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various other candidates. regardless of what party they belong to, they are rock stars governors, senators, presidents people that i looked up to. this was an article in the paper "young political guru lead counselors campaign." >> d.j. ran his first political campaign at the age of 16. he managed the campaign for kathleen. >> he has that janacek walk -- that intuition. it starts from within. >> step-by-step, establish a good career. that is what i want to do. >> future mayor, teacher governor, future president -- i would not bet against him. [laughter] >> i have nothing to do with it. watching 9/11 was when he got
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involved. >> i remember going to bed, and you said something good always comes out of something bad. i remember you say that -- you said that. it is horrible, but i do think good things come out of it. it sparked an interest in me about getting involved with government and campaigns because in the end, the people you are working for and the people that we elect, are the people that hold the future in their hands. they are our leaders. >> what were the rules or the restrictions when you would go into these homes, and how much video and you have on each fellow? >> i will take those separately. i guess, the restrictions were quite straightforward. anything that we film, we could use in the film, but if anyone was uncomfortable at any time, they can tell us to go away, stop filming, and i would always listen to those requests. that is how i always work.
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it is really difficult if you give characters or participants control later, but they have control while it is happening. >> and how much time did you spend around each one? >> well, people, hopefully think we spent three years with them, but really it was between five and 15 shoots, and they could be anywhere from a couple of hours to a few days, and we really did not film as much as you might think, hopefully, seeing the film, and you know we have somewhere between 200 and 300 hours. i really do not film a lot by standards of documentary makers today, i suppose, but i still had a world of footage to whittle down to 70 or 90 minute. >> we saw with nick and d.j. a reference to talking about being president of the united states
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someday. where does that come from? >> i think it comes from growing up in this time when everybody is told you can be anything you want to be. if you become a leader at your high school, everyone assumes that will be the path they will follow into the future. you see during the rest of the film that they become a little disillusioned with that ambition, some of them do, at least, and they have a more broad definition of what being a leader really means by the end of the film because the fact that three of them would be running for president in 2040 and three of them would become president, it is obviously impossible. >> how much did the three of them get involved in student politics? >> they were all class presidents. i said i wanted certain scenes speaking at their head of graduations, to their classes, as real politicians, and in many
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ways the conceit of the film as they are kids playing adults, and not only adults, but adults politicians that are in charge of everything, leading the way for their peers to follow. >> how many of their parents had the same politics that the kids had? >> their parents really are not all that political. i wanted kids that are self- motivated. all three are not coming from inherently political families. i do not think there politics really matter, in a way, and that makes us identify a little more with the kids rather than thinking how we normally think that they are just following their parents believes. >> ben is from fairfax county, right here in virginia. here is him and his mother. >> we can never be certain about the future. the hope of past generations can not prevent future tragedy. when
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faced with adversity, you will succeed terry -- succeeded. we are spartans. we shall develop. open hand versus closed fist? this is for making a point. this is for bring it on, i am cool with everything. anger, frustration, and i just want to beat something right now. my entire life i felt i had something to prove. i remember in the fourth grade i ran to be vice president. i lost my four boats and i was crushed. we are going to fight for this, and i guarantee we are going to win because i do not like to lose. things will not come the first time around, but i am a fighter. i am very lucky. i live in a fairly wealthy area
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in northern virginia in fairfax county. we live right next to our nations capital and it is a very competitive atmosphere. i guess that is why i cannot settle for anything less than what is absolutely perfect. >> he wants me to paint napoleon on one wall, and alexander the great on another wall. >> even though some people might leave them to be sketchy characters, they were great leaders, and that is what i want to be. i want to be a person that contributes a lot back to my country and my government, and if i want to go study in the middle east -- >> you are not going anywhere until you clean your room. >> i might not ever go anywhere again. [laughter] >> he felt he had something to prove. did you get more on why? >>, that comes out in the film.
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for ben, his father's attitude, telling him that he was not as great as he thought he was, he basically reacted to that, and, essentially, is trying to prove something to his dad by going into politics and becoming a leader. >> you grabbed a screenshot of that plaque that says "nothing worthwhile comes easy." >> this is something we see in high schools. i find it ironic, but it relates to what ben thinks. >> you are not talking about their own personal slogans, but each high school -- where does that come from in this society, and do you have any idea whether
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it is done in other countries? >> i think it is the last in other countries. i mentioned that was in the school because i was actually shot inside of ben's high school. we are putting things in his life together in that part of the film. where does that come from? i think americans are instilled with this amazing self-esteem, at least this past generation has been, and my generation was to a slightly lesser extent. in reality, i do not think we are number one in all of the things americans think we are number one in, a we are number one in self-esteem, and that comes from how this generation and past generations have been raised. >> how do you feel about that yourself? >> i feel like it is filled me with some values that i could achieve certain things. i do not think that if i did not think highly of myself that i could go out and make a film that other people do not necessarily believe in, work on
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it for seven years, and finish it. there is a certain entitlement a lot of the time among too many americans -- too many americans to be successful, feel they are entitled to be successful, so it creates a lot of depression, mental health issues, and problems for the society because everyone feels they should have more than they could possibly have. >> how much of this that you feel today comes from your psychology major? >> i think it is a question of which came first -- something of a chicken and an egg idea, if you will. i used to think about psychology and how personal relationships work, and that led me into psychology, rather than the other way around. that study, 20 years ago, now, gave me some ways of really thinking about human relationships. >> this next clip is d.j. in massachusetts meeting his governor, deval patrick. did you set that up, or did it
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just happen? >> we did not set anything up. it is just the way their lives unfold that they happen to encounter loads of politicians in the course of making the film president obama, hillary clinton, deval patrick, ted kennedy -- these real-life politicians are part of the wallpaper of their lives. they naturally happen to run into them in their day-to-day activities. >> here is d.j. and the governor. >> the next governor of massachusetts. >> yes, indeed. thank you. >> you know, the democrats. it's is right for me. i agree with their beliefs, and i never really thought before about switching, cause my dad has always been favorable to republicans, and that is how it was with me, but then i started to think on my own.
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how is it going, dad? >> how are you. >> i am doing good. nice to see you. >> i think we want to talk about the weather, and i do not know how much politics we want to talk. we get passionate. we know we live in the greatest country, and we need to lead the world. >> and we are not leading the world. in order to lead the world community to have followers. >> if you are doing something right and no one follows you, it does not mean you are wrong. >> that is the problem. look at iraq, nobody is behind us. >> if you're going to be the president, nothing is going to be -- >> nothing is worse than iraq. >> he sat here with your pom-
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poms going on when the shock and was going on. >> his father is divorced from his mother? >> they are divorced. >> when you are taking this, what was your reaction? >> this is a great scene. >> why has all the sudden d.j. changed his politics? >> a lot of it is he is reacting to his father, and i think a lot of it is that the iraq war was starting to become controversial in america, and he is experiencing one thing at school, one thing with his friends were people are beginning to think maybe this was not the wisest thing to do for our generation, and he is basically throwing that generational anger at his father. >> conservatives feel strongly, and all you have to do is listen to the talk shows, that a lot of this happens in the classrooms,
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from the teachers. what is your experience? >> that is not my experience. >> what did you find these young folks experienced? >> i feel that politics is largely absent from schools today. even discussing it in a fair- minded way is largely absent. i think civics is something we should be focused more on in the classroom, frankly, in the public classroom, especially, and, you know, this is a film that is now lauded across the clinical spectrum for its nonjudgmental, fair-minded approach to politics. it is more a film about how people think about politics then it is about politics. we hope he can spark a fair- minded discussions that do not exist. the way laws get passed is discussed in american classrooms, but people are really skittish and politically correct, and afraid, really.
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teachers are afraid about sharing their politics. >> what has been your own experience with civics in the classroom in your own life? >> 20 years ago or 25 years ago when i was in the classroom, i think there was a little more openness. the teachers that made the most impact on me, their politics were more front and center, at least in our private discussions, in a way that i think teachers today would really be scared of sharing with students because, you know, that could get them fired. >> why did you originally choose three conservatives? >> well, basically, i wanted to understand three guys that i liked personally, but whose politics i did not really understand. that was the project of the film. i felt that most people come to documentaries seeing characters that they agree with already, and documentaries wind up preaching to the converted.
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i wanted to make the documentary audience of largely progressive people basically like people that they did not necessarily agree with politically, get them to identify with them, and at the same time i wanted to expand documentaries traditional audience to attract more traditionally conservative political people to see themselves in the film in a fair-minded way, which we do not often see in a documentary like this. >> this next clip is of ben in virginia, where the republican, the current gubernatorial -- attorney general cuccinelli has been running for governor, this year. how did this happen? >> each of the boys take internships, they get involved in real politics on different
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parts of the spectrum, and ben is really a republican loyalist at this part of the film, and ken cuccinelli was running for reelection, and this is part of the campaign that he worked on. >> here is ben and ken cuccinelli. >> liberals in america want more government, more taxes, and a completely amoral cultural system. this is your children's book for the summer. >> thank you very much. >> if you ever forget who you should vote for, read this book. and if you have kids, give them nightmares before they go to bed. through christ our lord, and thank you for this time
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together, amen. in a campaign, you learn to prioritize, and pro-lifers and evangelical christians are huge supporters of the republican party along with big business, but there are only so many ceo's in the world. this is a tight race, and it is my first experience with negative campaigning. i hope it is received well. the music ended up being dark and negative, and it is exactly what i want associated with janet, negativity. that is janet. she looks sickly. it is bound to help subliminally. for the second half of the song, it is upbeat, we are leaving darkness, and we go into a happy place.
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people can make the argument that it is manipulation, but our goal is to win an election. that is the point of politics, to win elections. he is basically everything i would like to become, and i envy him for it. >> one of the things about campaigns is if you are willing to commit, you would be surprised if you stick with it that you will be in the top tier. >> that is something i want to do. >> sickly. janet looks sickly. from where i could see, she did not look that sickly. did he really believe that? >> he did. he was told that by other people on the campaign. >> and what did he learn from this, and is he holding onto his knees at this stage of his life, and how old is he in that clip? >> in that clip, i think he is
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probably 18 by that point in the film. now, ben is still a republican loyalist, if that is what you are asking, but he does not necessarily hold the same views as his mentor, ken cuccinelli. ken cuccinelli has been a little skittish in participating about the campaign for the film during our lease this political season perhaps for that reason, because he does not toe the line on a lot of social issues that he would be asked about if you are supporting the film in our lease. >> he talked about an amoral cultural system that liberals believe in, and earlier when we first showed the clip, morals were brought up again. what did you sense the definition of all three boys was of the word morals? >> the definition of morals? >> from their perspective. >> ben has a specific meaning about this.
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do you have a marriage that is between a man and a woman? do you, basically, you know, follow traditional roles, if you will? do you work hard? do you play fairly? i think when it comes to politics, i think he has a very, you know, pragmatic view of that, which, he sees as moral. >> when you were recording these different moments, who was running the camera? >> i am the only one there. i shoot myself and record sound on my phone. it is not like we are a big crew. we largely blind it in and that is how we do. >> here is nick talking with an american university professor here in town.
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>> so, what are some of the abstract concepts you are using to shape the implied thesis in the essay? >> the implied thesis -- that is a person feel being a political outsider. it is interesting to examine political ideologies and how they transform a college campus. i think that would be interesting to research. >> besides this outside or inside her vocabulary, there is a sense that what you are describing is becoming more confident, and in that confidence, more consistent in your behavior. it might help to think about specifically times that you have been challenged and lost, and i do not mean lost, but times when you have been convinced to see things in a way that you were not convinced you would see them. >> when the iraq war started out, in one of my letters to the editor i said if clinton took care of saddam hussein, we would not have had this problem.
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clinton was not in office, it was the first president bush that didn't take care of him. it was an aha moment, as i was defending something on party lines, and i did not know the issue. in part of my evolution, not only have i gotten out of my shell, but i can also look back and say, you know, that is stupid. >> yeah. good. [laughter] what happens when you do change your mind -- does confidence in your believes mean choosing something and staying that way forever, or does it mean something else? >> it was easy to go into high school ends view all of my political beliefs really without anyone saying much of anything. having conversations makes you think about what you are saying. perhaps it was just hearing the echo of these conservative ideas. when i heard somebody else say it, it made me rethink a lot of
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positions, and i began to form the opinion that maybe i do not belong to one particular party or one particular ideology. >> why did nick pick american university? he is from pennsylvania. >> he wanted to be in washington, near government, near the seat of power. he always wanted to go to georgetown as a boy, and actually wound up transferring their later. american was his backup, and he enjoyed being there. >> how old was he in that clip? >> i think he is 18. >> a freshman at au? >> he is. >> what are you hearing with this political change? when we first met them, they were all three conservative. what has happened to him? >> he is starting to question his own beliefs. he is exposed to different ideas at college, and in his own
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reading. he is needing more intelligent people then he may be dead overall -- meeting more intelligent people and maybe he did overall in his time growing up. and he is coming to think that maybe everything he believes is not necessarily the truth, as you see in that clip. >> you say he is meeting more intelligent people. does that mean if you do not need more intelligent people you think as a conservative? >> that is not what i mean at all. i am repeating what nick was saying in the sense that the average person that he met when he went to college was more intelligent, thought more actively about politics, and part of that is being in washington. in high school he never felt really challenged in terms of his political views. perhaps part of that was because he was growing up in a small town that was, perhaps,
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primarily conservative, and also because a lot of people did not necessarily think about politics, which is really his primary topic. >> how long is the documentary? >> it is 74 minutes. >> and can people get it now? >> they can go straight to itunes, amazon, google play, xbox, playstation, or direct to our website. >> what does it cost them? >> what does it cost them? i have a low price point. i think it is $3.99 to rent. $9.99 to own. >> what makes this a success to you? >> what makes this a success is not financial. is it provoking thoughtful and reflective relationships and
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conversations, if you will? that was the motivation -- change the political discourse in the country in a way. basically, making a small contribution and being on shows like this is what helps us do that more than even the film itself. >> here is d.j. talking about what he really wants to do in life. >> becoming president or running for president was always, you know, my main ambition in high school, and it was something that i always wanted to do, but when you are a president, a politician, you never get to see your family. the weight of the world is on your shoulders. you will never see me in the white house. i can promise you that. you have to be sick in the head to want to be president. next month i am transferring to ministry training college.
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it is a tiny college, and i am insanely excited. people have their barack obama change. i have my d.j. change. >> how big of a change was this "you have to be sick to be president?" >> that was a change in terms of coming a political leader, but in terms of the distance he traveled from the beginning of the film, where he is already in the opening sequence talking about how all laws in america come from god. that is in the first couple of minutes, so going into a life that led into the church is not that big of a change, but it is a surprise that he throws away his political ambitions to do that and go into the ministry.
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>> did you ask him why? >> his priorities change. >> he became more religious than a politician. where is he today? >> he is working at starbucks. he is married. he is attending law school part- time. at the university of edinburgh. he still wants to be a minister. the difference between a religious leader and a political leader is not necessarily that far -- you are still leading people, talking about values and morals, out there helping people and serving the public. >> here is ben later on. it is less than one minute. ♪ >> the experience of september 11, and to thousand one, and november 4, 2008, is really my
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greatest growth and education. because of what has happened tonight, my fear is it will deteriorate from the inside, and now i have something i can do to make a difference, and that is to bring back the republican party from the bad state that it is in, and the challenge that that poses is exciting. i will be back. i cannot even say back. i will be there. >> i will be back from where question mark -- from where? >> he will be back from defeat. this was filmed on the night of the 2008 election, and he had been fighting on behalf of john mccain on campus, and felt overwhelmed by the support for barack -- broccoli -- barack obama. asked his campus? -- >> his campus?
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>> carnegie mellon. >> what is he studying? >> government, politics. >> what does he think of the republican party today, and where is he today? >> you would have to ask him. he is completing a masters degree at the university of michigan. >> are you still in touch? >> in terms of the three boys, i talked to ben the least of the three, but is because he is very busy. >> do you have any intention of looking at them again? >> i would love to. that is really down to the public's interest and a broadcaster's interest, or another funder. i do not think we would do it in the same way they do the 7-up
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series. i do not think we would film the three boys at the same moment in their lives. this was a unique moment for the crystallization of a lyrical beliefs -- 16-to-19 high school into college shift. >> you referred to the 7-up series. what is it? >> it is a series that followed several boys and girls that were seven at the time of the original film, and they follow them again every seven years, and now they are 56. >> i remember seeing it. i had seen a couple of the others. have you watched them all? >> i have. >> what was your reaction, where are they located, what was the purpose, who paid for it, and all of that? >> it was a british public television film, i think, that was made originally in the
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1960s, and it has been followed up every seven years since. the purpose is to find out what happened for a cross-section of people in britain at that time. it is really just amazing, a film that charts what has happened in our culture, or british culture, if you will, but i think it has an impact for the rest of the culture as well. >> this is the last clip from the documentary, nick attending the inauguration day in 2008. >> good. i do not think young people play the traditional game of liberal versus conservatives, liberal -- left versus right. i think there are values to our generation. >> please move to the center of the car. >> this is a critical time in american history. it is our generation that will come and save this country, take it in one direction or another. this way.
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the biggest conflict going on in our country now is that between generations, and i am very optimistic that when young people like myself go to lead in the future, we will be much more effective at it. maybe one day, or people like us will be up there, part of the government. [indiscernible [laughter] >> we will let you stay as long as you behave yourself. >> thank you. ♪ >> what was the origin of the comment -- even for a white man? >> he was responding to this woman in front of him. >> what did she say?
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>> he said, you know, will there be room for people -- they were basically talking about whether there will be people -- room for people like them to take over in the future because seeing people on the stage talking, political leaders, they were thinking maybe someday that will be us. >> nick at this point, is of what persuasion? >> hi is independent. radically centrist. >> did he vote for obama? >> he did. he thought he embodied the hopes of the generation. perhaps the high hopes are dashed, but the hopes still remain. >> where did he go to college? >> he went to american, and now he is a graduate of georgetown. >> what is he doing now?
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>> he is working for a millennial-led debt reduction campaign, a nonpartisan campaign called the can kicks back. nick is one of the three of them that has taken it upon himself to be involved in civic engagement work as his livelihood, really. >> going over the three of them d.j. is of what political persuasion? >> conservative. i think he likes to think of himself as an independent. >> nick? >> independent, but ultimately conservative. >> ben? >> ben is more of a republican. >> as you travel around, what do folks say one may see this? >> a lot of that has to do with people's own ideology. they impose their own ideology onto the film.
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we have a positive response across the political spectrum, but people have a different view. people that are more traditional or conservative tend to see themselves in the film, but also reconsider their political beliefs in a way. it is basically something that is modeled in the characters in the film, so they are a little more open to considering different points of view, as the boys become in the film, and progressives come to the film thinking they will understand the mind of the enemy, if you will, because they hear the boys are all conservative, relatively speaking in the beginning of the film, but come out identifying with the guys and where they come from, really, in terms of their political beliefs, which i do not think is something that we as americans really do. we sort of think that people who disagree with us are completely crazy, rather than trying to understand where they are coming from. everyone's political beliefs
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come from somewhere. if we understand that, we could start a conversation. >> when we started, he talked about graduating from stanford, getting a masters in psychology, and then a fulbright. explain what that is. >> i was fortunate to get a fulbright, a project-based scholarship to the u.k.. fulbright was a senator who, in the reconstruction after world war ii, essentially set up this program where a variety of -- many, i do not know exactly how many -- countries around the world have a partnership where it is basically a cultural exchange. i was essentially a cultural ambassador on a very low level, if you will, to the u.k., and i got to develop a project there, which was my first feature documentary. >> we have an excerpt of that, it is only one minute, and we cannot develop the whole story. it is called "sunny intervals
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and showers." what is that? >> it is a british forecast, something you hear all the time, and it is a family coping with a father's manic depression, or bipolar disorder, a term coined around that time, but it had not taken over in the u.k. yet in terms of usage. really, in the film, we are following a marriage and a family in the year after the father's diagnosis with bipolar. >> and the man's name is dr. allan levi. what year did you do this? >> 2003. it is coming up on its 10th anniversary. it will be available digitally for the first time in the united states on a variety of platforms and a new subscription site that will carry all of my work, i hope. we are in consultation about that now.
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we will have a 10th anniversary screening at the london international documentary festival in november. >> 10 years later, before i show the clip, where is allan levi today, and how is he doing? >> he is doing fine. i saw him and recorded a new commentary that we are doing for the 10th anniversary directors cut of the film. he is doing fine. people will have to see the film to see where he is at the end of the film, but i do not think he is in a radically different place than that. he is healthy, working, doing fine. >> psa diagnosed manic depressive? >> he is diagnosed shortly before we started filming. even to this day, with a lot of people with that diagnosis, and he takes issue with the diagnosis, and the film is about the stigma associated with
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mental health diagnoses, as well at the consequence of illness. >> let's talk about -- let's run the clip of him talking about his diagnosis. >> the thing is you never know what people's response to this sort of thing is going to be. they could be very frightened, very concerned. they might not have any experience with this sort of thing at all. i think it is getting to know where you are with someone before you talk about this. it is not something that you cannot just run into. if we look at it in the cold light of day, there i was, a successful, accomplished, well- known university heart researcher, with a nice wife, a nice house, three children, a
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nice family life. is there really something so different, so strange about me, that they had me in this state? >> we're not going to give away what you learn in the film, because there are several surprises. how long is this one? >> we have three versions. the original was 93. the bbc version is about 70. >> this will be available in november for people to buy? >> it is available now if you go to >> what is your next documentary? >> i am producing a few right now. one is in pakistan, the story of the red mosques, which is a notorious network in pakistan.
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we are following the leader of the network and two 12-year-old students whose lives are impacted by it. we're making another film in chile about the environmental work of douglas thompson and a third film about a cameroonian drag queen, the winner of rupaul's first race. the director has been following that story for about seven years. these are films i am involved in as a producer. i mean focus is distributing this film. we have an interactive version of "follow the leader," called "reality check" and we hope it will have an impact on the conversation surrounding the 2014 midterm election. that has been our hope all along, to influence the
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discussion around politics, and impact the sorts of leaders that we elect in our country. >> we are out of time. we have a lot more to talk about. jonathan goodman levitt. thank you again for joining us. again, the documentary we are talking about is "follow the leader." thank you for joining us. >> thank you so much for having me. ♪ >> for free transcripts, or to give us your comments, visit us at q& and free transcript are available at c-span podcasts. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] >> today on c-span "washington journal." legislative business scheduled
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or 2 p.m. >> what the most important issue congress should consider in 2014? that is the question for middle and high school students in c- span's video documentary competition. win the grand prize of $5,000. januarymust be in by 20th, 20. need more information? go to student headlines, followed by the week ahead in congress, the budget and the farm bill kneels less calls new ski and jennifer bender he. later, a discussion about the
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earned income tax credit, heart and who is eligible for a refund. our guest is tax foundation chief economist william mcbride. "washington journal" is next. host: >> host: the white house is to eating -- is disputing claims. the u.s. ambassador to madrid will appear to discuss buying in the country after press reports that the nsa collected information on phone calls. chiefs from those and other countries are expected to travel to the u.s. to discuss those issues. this topic, even on the sunday


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