By JERRY MILLER, Union Leader Correspondent
News - October 12, 2004
PORTSMOUTH — At 22, Will Rabbe has already realized a dream.
The recent Boston University graduate and filmmaker will have his first film debuted at the New Hampshire Film Expo next weekend in the Port City.
"Winning New Hampshire," a 45-minute documentary produced by Rabbe and two university classmates, Aram Fisher and Mark Lynch, is a look at the most recent New Hampshire Presidential Primary and John Kerry's victory.
The film will roll Sunday at 5 p.m. at Portsmouth Music Hall.
Nearly two dozen political documentaries were made last summer; "Winning New Hampshire" was made by the youngest team of filmmakers.
"It's a great product. It highlights a time of history. People didn't know John Kerry would turn it around and become the Democratic nominee," Rabbe said during an interview last week from his home in New York state.
"It can be seen as almost a tribute to the New Hampshire Primary," Rabbe said of his labor of love. "We found people there take their politics very seriously."
Characterizing the first-in-the-nation Presidential primary as a "political carnival" of sorts, Rabbe said among the things that make it unique is that for a relatively small entry fee, anyone can participate.
"It really is the be-all and end-all" for most of the field, he said.
Rabbe said he opted to target Kerry because "I knew him the best and felt he would be the most interesting of all the candidates to follow."
But, Rabbe said, it was also important to "hedge my bets," so he ended up trailing not only Kerry but also the campaigns of Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark.
In the end, it was Kerry who emerged the winner.
Despite producing the film on less than a shoestring budget — Rabbe declined to say how much was spent — the filmmakers were able to make their way to Iowa for some footage, including the candidates squaring off in debate.
Rabbe said, "We set the scene (for New Hampshire) through the Iowa debate . . . everybody attacked Dean."
About the cost of the project, Rabbe said, "We're college students. We didn't have a tremendous amount of money. We had to be extremely resourceful."
It meant begging and borrowing equipment; that proved difficult. Rabbe said the trio approached the head of BU's film department to borrow gear. "He laughed at us and said, 'I'm sorry guys; you have the wrong candidate. He was obviously a Dean supporter."
It was an editing professor who signed off on cameras, microphones and the host of other equipment needed to make the movie.
"It was a blank check for equipment," a figure Rabbe put at $10,000.
Rabbe said what impressed him most about politics New Hampshire-style was not only the grassroots nature of the campaigns but also the number of 18- to 25-year-olds who dropped out of their normal lives to stuff envelopes, hold signs and do what it takes to run a campaign.
"It was a phenomenon, and it was common to all the candidates," he said.
"The role of youth in a grassroots campaign is vital. It's one of the things the film highlights," he said. "The youth vote is critical to the campaigns of Kerry and President Bush.
"I believe this is the demographic that will show the greatest turnout" in this election, Rabbe said of young voters, even though in past elections, fewer young voters have turned out than any other demographic.
The New Hampshire Film Exposition is the first of many film festivals Rabbe hopes to participate in. Outside New Hampshire, the film will be shown at the "Sometime In October Film Festival" Oct. 16 to 19 in Wilmington, Del., and at the International Student Film Festival Nov. 3 in Hollywood.
The trio hope the exposure will lead to a distribution arrangement after the election, especially if Kerry defeats Bush.
"We've already gotten some good offers," Rabbe said.
For more information about the New Hampshire Film Expo, go to www.nhfx.com. The "Winning New Hampshire" Web site is www.winningnh.com.