New York Times Snag Films


New York Times



We asked a survey research firm to identify 20 people each in IA, SC, CA, and FL, and held auditions. Bert (New England) was already known to the producers – he had been randomly invited to attend a civic event in CT in 2004.


  • Lizz, a 23-year-old florist from Iowa
  • Bert, a laid-off manufacturing professional and libertarian from New England, now living in Maine
  • Tamara, a 33-year-old Baptist mother of three and teacher from South Carolina
  • Tanya, a gun-carrying half-Cuban-American/half Puerto-Rican art gallery director from Florida
  • Alex, a Californian who works for AT&T and lives with his Mexican-American son-in-law and grandchildren.


Purple States covered the production budget through individual contributions, including a legacy from Eleanor Farrar.

Editorial Control

The producers selected the citizens and determined the content. The series aired as op-ed video.


  • Produced by Cynthia Farrar and John Kennedy
  • Directed by Bryan Litman
  • Production assistance from Christopher Coccaro and Beth Morrissey
  • Video editing by Aaron Yanes
  • Assistant editors: Paul Pangman and Torrey Townsend
  • Videography by Andrew Baxter and Tom Graney
  • Audio recording by Raphael Laski and Nico Mazet

Introducing Purple States

Who are Bert, Tamara, Lizz, Alex, and Tanya? And what are they doing on the campaign trail?

The Fate of the American Worker

Bert sees no future in manufacturing – and asks John McCain – and author Thomas Friedman -- to explain their optimism.

Economic Realities

Can America afford to keep spending like there’s no tomorrow? Bert mistrusts the answers he gets from candidates.

Who Needs Government?

An encounter with a struggling family frames Bert and Tamara’s policy disagreements – and the questions they ask candidates.

The Politics of Health Care Reform: Democrats

Tamara and Tanya question whether politics can ever achieve a comprehensive policy that requires some sacrifices from everyone.

Is Health Care Affordable?: Republicans

Lizz and Tamara wonder whether Republicans are more realistic than Democrats—or lacking in compassion.

Ron Paul Considered

A glimpse of the future: the Purple States team finds Ron Paul’s campaign a refreshing antidote to politics as usual.

Fighting for Security

Tanya supports the Iraq War. Her differences with Alex emerge as they question candidates, veterans and military leaders.

Border Politics

Alex and Bert peer across the fence, and hear conflicting views on immigration. What does the border state candidate think?

Faith in Elections

Should decisions about abortion be made in the voting booth? in the pulpit? Tamara and Alex investigate values-based politics.

Energy Independence

Lizz takes her questions about subsidies to candidates Obama and Biden, Edwards, Romney – and Ron Paul.

The Independent Voter

Lizz and Alex explore what motivates unaffiliated citizens. How will candidates appeal to them?

The Candy Caucus

First-time voter Lizz attends a how-to session and wonders if choosing a candidate is all that different from choosing a candy bar.

Caucusing with the Democrats

What weighs with a Millennial? Lizz assesses the balance of power at the Iowa Caucus.

The Latino Vote

Tanya’s own political identity shows that Hispanics do not speak with a single voice. How are candidates from the two parties courting them?

Mike Huckabee's Candidacy

Bert is drawn to Huckabee, and asks: what does it mean to be a Republican?

Primary Colors

They began as undecideds. Who do Alex, Bert, Lizz, Tamara and Tanya decide to vote for in the primaries, and why?

Up Close and Personal

A campaign is not just a horse race. What’s it like to cover the election from the point of view of an ordinary citizen?