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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, August 19, 2020


First One In, about an alliance of women who are misfit, mediocre players up against super competitive grown-up mean girls, debuts on September 8th.

Photo credit: First One In

Grand Slam champions are the action stars of the sports world.

Champions don’t require stunt doubles, script their own success stories and direct the course of their careers.

More: US Open Safety Plan Questions & Answers

Then there are those of us die-hard recreational players whose club matches can be comic misadventures.

Club tennis wars and the women who wage them are the subject of a new indie comedy, First One In.

Sub-titled A Comedy of Errors, First One In debuts on September 8th on Amazon and other major video on demand and digital platforms. The 98-minute feature is not yet rated.

Former New York City-based journalist Gina O’Brien wrote and directed First One In—her feature directorial debut—about an alliance of women who are mediocre players up against “super competitive grown-up mean girls.”

Source material from the movie comes from personal experience—and the sometimes-personal baseline battles between club players.

“During the day in tennis clubs across America, millions of women gather to hit balls at each other,” O’Brien says. “I’m one of them. We wear trendy outfits, visors and elbow and knee braces. We drink coconut water and eat protein bars and take acetaminophen. “We are middle-aged women of all shapes, sizes and athletic ability. Our personal lives may differ from one another, but on some 250,000 courts in the U.S., we are all tennis players. And many of us aren’t very good.

“That’s okay because we don’t know it, plus it provides material for a screenplay.”

It is O'Brien's third screenplay. She wrote Fan Girl, which debuted at the Los Angeles film festival in 2015 starring Kiernan Shipka and Meg Ryan. Once More with Feeling, O'Brien's first screenplay starring Drea de Matteo and Chazz Palminteri, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009.

These days, O’Brien, a mother of two children, remains an avid recreational player who describes her tennis game as “only a little better than sucking.”

First One In stars Kat Foster as protagonist Madi Cooke and Georgia King as real estate shark and ruthless tennis power player Bobbi Mason, who puts her spin on the film’s title snarling “First one in is for pussies.”

The cast includes Catherine Curtin, who played a correctional officer in the series Orange is the New Black, Alana O'Brien and veteran actor Michael Ian Black.

First One In is the story of Madi Cooke, a former high school tennis player who accidently kills an endangered animal on a TV reality show, is branded an eco-terrorist and gets fired from her job in disgrace.

Madi changes her name to avoid the stigma of being “the most hated woman in America” and interviews for a job with Bobbi Mason, a merciless real estate agent who only hires women who play tennis, and is driven to retain her status as the leader of the local championship tennis team.

Soon, Madi meets and befriends a band of misfit players at the Acme Tennis Academy revives her love of the game and reassesses her life.

Eventually Madi’s team of underdogs—reminiscent of the Bad News Bears of tennis—take on nemesis Bobbi and her menacing real-estate agent squad in a do-or-die match with the title—and more—on the line.

“First One In is a comedy for women, but it isn’t the typical comedy for women,” director O’Brien says. “It isn’t about parenting, romance, marriage or girls’ nights in Vegas. I like those, but this is different.

“It’s about women who challenge themselves away from their everyday lives, on a team with other women.”

The September 8th debut of First One In marks the latest tennis-themed feature to hit the screen.

Swedish actor Sverrir Gudnason lit up the screen as Swedish Iceman Bjorn Borg and Hollywood bad boy Shia LaBeouf starred as raging rebel John McEnroe in the 2017 feature Borg vs. McEnroe.

Billie Jean King is such a ground-breaking champion and social rights warrior, not one but two Academy Award winners have played her on screen.

First up, Holly Hunter donned the distinctive glasses and picked up the Wilson racquet playing King in the 2001 TV movie When Billie Beat Bobby.

Veteran actor Ron Silver played Bobby Riggs in the 90-minute feature that also featured actress Caitlin Martin co-starring as the young Chrissie Evert.

Elizabeth Berridge, who film fans may recall from her role in Amadeus, played Hall of Famer Rosie Casals in this treatment of Billie Jean King’s historic 1973 conquest of Bobby Riggs in the Houston Astrodome.

Fresh off her Academy Award winning performance in La La Land, Emma Stone was riveting as BJK in 2017’s Battle of the Sexes.

Stone prepared for the role training with former ATP pro Vince Spadea—to mimic the shape of King's shots and her mannerisms on court. The Battle of the Sexes match was a pop culture phenomenon drawing a then record 30,000 fans to the Astrodome and an estimated U.S. TV audience of 50 million.


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