*Please note: This article is a student blog written by a Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassador. The Ambassador Program is a unique opportunity for Saint Anselm College students of any major to be involved in supporting the Institute's various events and activities. To learn more about our student ambassadors please visit the NHIOP website.
On Wednesday, April 19th 2023, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College hosted filmmakers Alison King, Dan Ferrigan, and Shira Stoll to discuss their recent documentary series “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of New Hampshire,” an NBC10 Boston original. This documentary explores the Free State Project, a political movement to relocate 20,000 people to New Hampshire and build a community of like-minded individuals, who are hyper-focused on personal freedoms.
During the event, the trio talked about what they uncovered during their research, and they presented both pros and cons regarding the Free State Project. They also explained that gaining the trust of both sides was essential to create a balanced documentary.
Before the panel discussion started, there was a screening of the first episode titled “The Manifesto.” This episode details the premise of the documentary and introduces the main players who created the Free State Project. As discussed above, the Free State Project is a libertarian idea that formed in 2001, where at least 20,000 Libertarians would move to one state. That state ended up being New Hampshire, and this recent influx has shaken up local communities and politics. Opponents to the group argue that these local communities are being hurt by the group’s extreme politics. During the discussion, the Croydon incident was mentioned several times as an example of the Free Stater’s chaos. Croydon is a town in New Hampshire that saw its school budgets cut by more than half because of the Free State movement. This caused an emergency town meeting to repeal the recent public school budget cut.
The panel discussion was moderated by Neil Levesque, director of the NHIOP. Levesque stated that the series was a good non-partisan documentary and recommended that people should watch it, to learn more about the movement and its impact on the Granite State.
When asked, “What compelled you to make this documentary?” King responded, “It was the Croydon school board incident and the secession bill being voted upon in the NH General Assembly.” Ferrigan stated, “I was a crypto person and when I looked around at my friends no one else was into crypto, so I looked at who these crypto people were and learned about the Free State Project.”
Another question asked, “How were you able to film these people, and why is there no narration in the documentary?” Ferrigan responded, “We were there with them so many times so they just warmed up to us. We weren’t trying to make a quick in and out like most other news reporters.” Stoll added, “We wanted people to share their stories by being natural. Narrating the documentary gets in the way of seeing what really goes on. We could tell you what happens off camera, but it would be just us saying how nice both groups of people were.”
The journalists also took questions from the audience. When asked, “Are all Libertarians the same and are the stereotypes true about them?” The journalists responded, “No, just like with Democrats and Republicans you have a broad group of people in each that can’t be simplified to a few categories. Some are nice and some aren’t.” The event ended with an applause from the audience.