Emily Worthmore Girls State

“The main skill set of documentary cinematography is gaining the trust of your subject,” says Girls State cinematographer Laura Hudock. “And I feel like so much of it is just how you present yourself as a person. Some of it is the energy that you bring into the room — your kindness, your professionalism.”

Hudock is one of seven credited cinematographers on Girls State, because directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss assigned a dedicated one to each of the film’s main subjects. Like their 2020 film, the Emmy-winning Boys State, Girls State follows teenagers through a program designed to teach them about principles of good government. 

But Girls State occurs against a more dramatic backdrop than Boys State: It shot in 2022, after the leak of the Supreme Court decision to reverse Roe v. Wade. And the young women of Girls State are required to dress modestly and never travel unaccompanied around the Missouri campus they share with Boys State. They are very conscious of their rights, relative to those of the boys.

Hudock was assigned to shadow Emily Worthmore, an aspiring journalist who also wants to be president of the United States someday — but first wants to be president of Girls State. Though confident and personable, Worthmore faces campaign obstacles, including a discomfort with public speaking and conservative beliefs she knows are not popular.

Hudock didn’t share Worthmore’s beliefs either — but she went out of her way to put her at ease. She’s used to covering people she doesn’t agree with, having followed Donald Trump for Showtime’s The Circus.

“I saw that she was a great human being, and regardless of her politics, still deserved a place and a voice,” Hudock says. “And I think she also felt maybe, from me, the non-judgment. I wasn’t there to paint her in a terrible light because I didn’t agree with her politics. I just wanted to present her truthfully, and allow her the space to be comfortable presenting herself.” 

Laura Hudock

One way she put her subject at ease was taking up a small footprint — though the directors conducted sit-down interviews, for most of the time it was “just me and sound and Emily.” 

She also went with a non-obtrusive camera: “We shot with the Canon C500 and Canon Cine Primes. And that was one of the main reasons we picked that camera package — because it’s a good, lightweight, small footprint, verité camera.”

Emily Worthmore on How Laura Hudock and Girls State Told Her Story

Worthmore was more than pleased with Hudock‘s coverage. “When I heard about the documentary, the journalist side of me was very interested because it would mean working with/being filmed by real journalists and documentarians,” she told MovieMaker. “I was so interested in the production side of things and what goes on behind the scenes. I think that the directors and DPs are great examples of exceptional journalists.”

She added: “I’m so grateful that Laura filmed everything and that the directors had the ability and talent to piece it together in a way that somehow allows the audience to feel like they know me after watching the film.”

By staying in the background, the Girls State team managed to minimize the kind of performative behavior that can hinder progress. 

“What I found inspiring was seeing girls with completely different political perspectives and values having conversations, and still being friends, and still relating to each other,” Hudock says. “There wasn’t that same division that you see in our country, where if you’re across the political aisle, you’re not even human. I feel like that’s so important — to get anything done is to see the other as human and to listen to the other’s point of view, and to take it into consideration. 

“These young girls are a better example than most adults, from that perspective.”

Girls State is now streaming on Apple TV+

Main image: Emily Worthmore in Girls State. Apple TV+

This story appears in the summer issue of MovieMaker Magazine, on newsstands now.

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