We want to tell a gripping, universal story about a talented but troubled kid who is teased back out of his shell; and, in doing so, we hope to open up audiences to squash—a sport that means the world to a wide group of people—and provide it a completely new, exciting, and honest light.
Mission StatementWe love introducing unique, visual worlds through the lens of relatable characters. With CRACK SHOT, we will use our deep love for filmmaking and competitive squash to create a gripping piece that reframes a misunderstood sport, giving voice to the millions of people around the world who enjoy it.
About The Project
We all have that one thing we care about when it feels like no one else does. The thing that we understand and see in a way that others don’t. Sometimes, that isolation is comforting. But sometimes, the lack of external validation eats away at us, making us question the things we love and why we love them. For our main character, Justin, that insecurity manifests as a rageful, self-destructive competitiveness, albeit one he’s resolved to repress. This is a story about a kid who, deep down, just wants to be seen—and what that desire does to us if we keep the wrong company. At some point, we’ve all been there. And as filmmakers, our team wants to wrestle with this universal idea, while also taking something misunderstood and stereotyped (or in some cases simply unheard of) and showing it to the world in a new way.
JUSTIN HUANG, a high school junior trying to make ends meet, has a secret: he’s a national champion in junior squash. Or at least, he was. He’s chosen to stop competing, instead spending his time on the court giving lessons to younger kids for his small local club. Why? Because his competitiveness spiraled out of control, and took a toll. And he doesn’t want to be that anymore. He’s afraid of himself.
But that’s about to change. When an extremely wealthy, charismatic stranger enters the picture and offers Justin a massive sum to train with his enigmatic, aggressive but skilled son, Justin comes to realize that his own demons aren’t buried as deep as he’d like.
Taking visual and thematic cues from recent masterpieces like WHIPLASH, CREED, BLACK SWAN, and PARASITE, CRACK SHOT will truly embrace the visceral nature of the story and the game.
When I was twelve, I discovered this new sport with a funny name. At first it felt silly. Two people in a box whacking a little ball around. But soon I started to realize something:
I loved it. I was in love with it. And I wanted to do it really, really well—more than any other interest of mine in a long time.
As I started training, discovering more about the deep intricacies of the game and its idiosyncratic community, I also started to realize that most of the “normal” world I lived in wasn’t on the same page. To me, it was a beautiful yet raw exhibit of both athletic ability and strategic brains, an analog to 3-D chess. But most of my friends and classmates in public school didn’t see it that way. To them, it was a silly posh sport for white rich people (or, if they hadn’t heard of it, a vegetable. Wrong. It’s a fruit.)
I was no richer than many of my other school friends, and neither were some of the best players and coaches I’d met. But the stereotypes persisted. And at times, they really ate at me. Of course wealth plays an important role in the world of the game, that’s undeniable. It’s an integral part of the sport’s history (and of the story I plan to tell). But so too in plenty of popular sports: tennis, lacrosse, and I’m looking at you, golf. Many competitive squash players may come out of elite private school systems with strong teams, but like with these other sports, wealth is no longer the full picture—especially on the global stage. (And another fact: the world’s top squash players make mere cents compared with their more well-known counterparts. It’s not a glamorous career.)
This film’s story was born from the insecurities I had as a junior player, and from remembering my constant desire to feel validated and seen as an athlete (let’s just say, for most of my childhood I wasn’t considered much of one). I wanted to dive deep into those feelings, exploring how they can manifest and what they mean in the context of motivation to improve. The line between healthy determination and toxic self-flagellation. So here we are with CRACK SHOT.
Frankly, beyond the story itself, I am so excited to bring you this film for these same reasons that plagued me as a kid. I want more people to see. To see the game for how it is and not how it’s been shown in films of the past. To appreciate it outside its context. That’s the power of movies, after all. It’s so much more than some posh country club activity that stockbrokers use to blow off steam and exchange insider secrets. It’s—and look it up, I dare you—the healthiest sport on Earth, as per Forbes.
So fasten your seatbelts!
For this film to work, the actors have to be players, and the players have to be actors. There’s no faking squash ability. Too many times have movies and TV made the sport look ridiculous. Gordon Geckos thrashing around wildly. Actors and filmmakers who, bless their hearts, were nothing more than newbies—but could get away with it because audiences never knew the difference.
They will now.
In the lead role, we have YiJie Lin—like Justin, he no longer competes in tournaments, but that doesn’t stop him from being one of the most formidable players in Southern California.
And as his opponent, Tucker Pruitt, we have Milo Friedman—the strongest junior player in the LA Squash Academy program, and recently top 40 in the U.S. in his age division.
We’re not messing around here. The short was written for them; and believe us, they can pull it off.
When the people in front of and behind the camera have intimate knowledge of a sport’s workings, all kinds of cinematic possibilities are unlocked. Linked above and here, you can see just a zero-budget taste of what is coming. We will be shooting the sport with the dynamism and grace that it deserves, choreographing points and moments to create the illusion of an all-seeing camera that is carefully harmonized with what’s happening on court. The audience will become a third player, fully involved in the beautiful but brutal dance that occurs every point.
Between our cinematogapher Ben Joyner's god-level talent with a camera and the precision of actors who are, first and foremost, squash players, we’ll be delivering a previously unseen visual experience in this setting. We won’t be relying on vague, close up shaky cam. The audience’s lens will be that of an experienced player who fully sees the geometry of every point. It will be intense, visceral, and graceful, just like the sport it’s capturing.
We’ll be shooting at the LA Squash Academy in South Pasadena—where LA’s foremost junior players train.
Many film experts say sound, at its best, is 75% of a film. We’re not shying away from that percentage. The name of the film is inspired by the CRACKS and POPS of a small, soft rubber sphere smacking a hard wall at 100 miles per hour. It’s a powerful and erratic heartbeat. Every noise of the film will have the impact merited by the feats on screen. It will be overpowering. Truly, deeply cinematic.
Oh, and add to that an original musical score to supplement the tension, written by composer extraordinaire Grant Hoechst. Check out his Soundcloud to hear his range of talent for yourself.
Fundraising will end in late July, and we’ll be spending the entirety of the next several months preparing for our August shoot. After that, we plan to be in post-production through the end of summer and early fall with the goal of making various submission deadlines to major film festivals in the fall. After its festival run, we’ll be posting the film online for the public to see.
In light of the COVID 19 pandemic, we will have a safety plan in place to ensure that all cast and crew will be safe throughout the rehearsal and filming process. Prior to meeting in person, we will always require a negative PCR test. Additionally, we will have an on-set COVID Safety Officer who will ensure we abide by the current CDC guidelines to minimize any COVID exposure.
It is always devastating when a production is shut down due to COVID. We will do everything we can to ensure that our set is safe and COVID free.
This short is a proof-of-concept for a feature film, which Alex is currently writing and will have completed by the time the short is finished. We hope that this scene from the feature will help us garner the support from studios and other organizations to execute the full-length vision. We want squash playing at your local AMC (or streaming service, realistically). Help us make it happen!
And who knows—with enough public attention, maybe we can right a wrong and earn squash its rightful place in LA 2028…
The problem with good filmmaking is that, more often than not, it’s really expensive. That’s why we need YOUR HELP in getting us to the lofty but achievable goal of a $25,000 budget. Most of this will be funding great equipment and the most talented possible crew, which we’ll need if we’re really going to capture this world correctly. No crew deserves to feel exploited or underpaid, so we really want to make sure everyone is compensated fairly according to their skills. Particularly in the world of COVID, dedicated film crews deserve the best possible treatment.
Also: the above goal is a baseline. It alone will enable the film to happen, but the more we can exceed it, the fewer compromises we’ll have to make. In the movies, as the classic saying goes: “Mo’ money….fewer problems.”
And we promise—none of your pledges will be used to excessively line pockets. Any leftover cash beyond reasonable wages will be used to submit to more festivals and gain more exposure.
The only way we will reach our crowdfunding goal is if we reach beyond our networks. If you’d like to be a part of supporting a groundbreaking proof-of-concept film which will reframe the game of squash in modern cinema, YOU can make the difference in our success!
Please share our campaign via your social media, email, word-of-mouth, however you want! We can't do this without you!
Here are some examples. Feel free to copy and paste!
Ever feel insecure about your obsession with squash? Then channel that energy into helping filmmaker @arcohen24 create his proof-of-concept film CRACK SHOT. Join them on @seedandspark: https://tinyurl.com/28hu3u2k
I just watched the CRACK SHOT pitch video directed by filmmaker @arcohen24 and WOW, you've got to support this first major squash narrative feature film! Join them on @seedandspark: https://tinyurl.com/28hu3u2k
I'm so excited to see the short film CRACK SHOT, director/writer @arcohen24, be made in Arroyo Racquet Club in Pasadena, CA this August, including roles with YiJie Lin and Milo Friedman. Support them on @seedandspark: https://tinyurl.com/28hu3u2k
But we want to reward you with more than just a great film for your contributions. Which is why we are offering several enticing incentives!
AVAILABLE PLAYERS FOR THE "GAME BALL, RIGHT" INCENTIVE:
AMANDA SOBHY (2 SLOTS)
GREGORY GAULTIER (2 SLOTS)
SARAH FITZ-GERALD (2 SLOTS)
JAMES WILLSTROP (2 SLOTS)
SAURAV GHOSAL (2 SLOTS)
Use the WishList to pledge cash and loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an incentive directly.
About This Team
Alex Cohen - Writer/Director. Alex graduated from Harvard University with a major in Film Production in 2018, having created three fiction shorts, three music videos, and four documentary shorts. Since graduating, he has written and shot a docufictional short, shot a 4-episode web series, and written/directed/edited a fourth fiction short with a $25K+ budget. In addition to directing, screenwriting, and editing, Alex has a background in visual art and cartooning—he spent all four years of college creating illustrations for The Harvard Lampoon. Alex was also a competitive junior squash player during high school, achieving a top-60 national ranking in his age division. Now, he lives in Los Angeles and helps train the junior squash players at the LA Squash Academy in South Pasadena.
Blackdove Pictures - Blackdove is a production company founded in 2019 by Olivia Handrahan, Maya Krishnan, Alyssa Bonfigli, and Beatrice Brown. We seek to tell previously untold stories, by traditionally underrepresented voices, to life in film. That’s what drew us to CRACK SHOT, a film which will explore a sport underrepresented in modern cinema. In all, it showcases the grit and physicality needed to play squash, as well as the classism commonly affiliated with its players.
Ben Joyner - Director of Photography. Ben Joyner is a Los Angeles-based independent filmmaker and cinematographer. He was born in North Carolina and graduated from the Savannah College of Art & Design in 2015. Ben's last short film was a 2018 Indie Grant recipient and was selected for the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. He is currently serving as cinematographer on a documentary feature for Clay Tweel (Co-Director, "Finders Keepers" Sundance '14, Director "Gleason", Sundance '15.) He also recently wrapped another documentary feature for co-directors J.Cole and Scott Lazer. A music video Ben directed for Black Marble, shot in his grandfather's rural hometown in Mississippi, appeared on Booooooom.com, Director's Library, Paste, and received a vimeo staff pick. He also collaborated with his cat Mushu on a film during quarantine that you can watch here. Ben is represented by Innovative Artists.
Grant Hoechst - Composer. Grant has been playing music since age 5, and composing almost as long. He studied Music and Computer Science at Harvard, where he graduated in 2018 alongside his roommate, Alex Cohen (CRACK SHOT will be his sixth scoring collaboration with Alex). Since graduating, Grant has composed, recorded, and produced scores for five short films, one of which was accepted to the Ft. Lauderdale and Montana International Film Festivals. Grant's musical passions extend beyond film scoring - he comes from a background in classical and jazz percussion, has performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Silkroad Ensemble, and currently works as a game and music designer at Naughty Dog, a Sony PlayStation video game studio.