Exclusive Interview: CRSHD Writer/Director Emily Cohn

Jamie Valentino speak to filmmaker Emily Cohn for The Queer Review.

Now that millennials are approaching their thirties, there’s a new generation making movies. With her debut film CRSHD, Emily Cohn proves that she’s a promising part of it.

“When I started making the movie, that was always the top dream,” New York based Cohn says of recently world premiering CRSHD at the Tribeca Film Festival. “Not that I ever thought it would really happen.” Her first short film, Pierced, was funded by the Tribeca Film Institute and won Best Drama at the 2012 All American High School Film Festival.

There is also a new generation to be represented in teen movies, and her film is unapologetically Generation Z.

Cohn’s success in so accurately and comedically portraying a group of modern, college-aged girls could potentially limit it from resonating with a wider audience, but she isn’t concerned about that. “That is who I made the film for, and the people who are really hardcore responding to it.”

The movie centres on best friends Izzy (Isabelle Barbier), Fiona (Sadie Scott) and Anuka (Deeksha Ketkar) who attend a college “crush party,” intent on losing their virginity before an uneventful summer. Imagine, a feminist rewrite of Superbad. There’s even a scene with a fake ID at a liquor store. (Underage drinking turns out to be timeless.)

Cohn’s film might not become the mainstream cultural hit that was Superbad, but it shows the talent of an up-and-coming filmmaker.

Raw talent is a charm shared by the entire cast: new to the industry but certainly not amateurs. 

“We could not have done it with big names on this,” Cohn shares. “The three leads and everyone involved were such team players. A lot of our cast was doubling as crew, but every challenge was a new exciting thing for me. It wouldn’t have been possible if everyone was not completely in it to make the best possible thing together.”

With all female protagonists and a female writer/director, CRSHD is further evidence that men are not needed to make good movies. Well, except for the losing their virginity part of the plot, at least, for the straight girls.

Cohn’s take on a college campus is traditional. Then, the dialogue starts, with millennials abruptly conscious that they are approaching thirty, tackled by an avalanche of apps and emojis. The writing both celebrates and parodies the age of digital youth, and the heavily-intertwined relationship between technology and dating.

Superbad is one of my all-time favorite movies,” says Cohn. “But I wanted to make something more modern, that included technology, and which was female focused, with a similar type of feeling. There has been a resurgence of female sexuality in the past few years, which has been exciting to see while making this.”

CRSHD is special not only because of its liberation of female sexuality, but because of its focus on teenage girls, not often portrayed centre screen.

Cohn explains the film’s party setting was a hyper-sexualized version of what she experienced in college.

“I was never crushed, but I did go with one of my friends to help her find the person who crushed her. They are a bit ironic. We all have our insecurities. I think that is a big part of the social media layer of it. Everyone online seems more confident than they probably are.”

Beyond the jargon and omnipotence of technology, the girls’ approach to their virginity is universal. Cohn approached it from dealing with her own insecurities.

“It’s something that I struggled with in college; where everyone is experiencing this thing that you are not.”

When questioned whether the girls’ quest was influenced from the desperation to grow up, she’s quick to correct me.

“I don’t think it’s about being more mature, but not being left out,” she says.

While millennials couldn’t wait to grow up, the youth of today are more obsessed with fitting in.

Although this is a truth applicable to teens of any decade – past, present or future – the feeling of exclusion has never been more palpable now that kids can so easily monitor everything that their friends are doing, without them, 24/7.

“I think apps have made it easier to meet people, but I think it’s made it harder to have the excitement of discovering that someone likes you. It sort of messes with dating and mating, when you are just swiping right on someone. It dampens the experience of falling for someone.”

Cohn’s characters speak through a multitude of apps – texting, Facebook, Instagram, etc. – vividly conveying the reality of the way modern teens communicate. The addition of the Power-Puff-Girls-striped confessional contributes to creating a real connection between the girls beyond the screens.

While at times it feels like there are gaps in the plot and the scenarios get a little outlandish, one merely has to remind themselves that they are watching a comedy, after all. Superbad might have had a “little bottle of spermicidal lube,” but the roughness of Cohn’s humour keeps it entertaining.

Synopsis: End-of-the-year celebrations are underway at a small liberal arts college in Ohio. The night’s main event? A CRUSH PARTY. The rules? Submit your crush and they get an invite. Or if you’re “crushed,” you also get an invite. Freshman IZZY ALDEN is still a virgin and the crush party is her last chance to do something about it before summer break.  She and her two best friends, ANUKA and FIONA, chase their crushes both in real life and online. But Izzy’s moral compass skews as the night progresses and it seems her quest to have sex might cost Izzy her friends.

By Jamie Valentino

CRSHD has its world premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Upcoming screenings include Maui Film Festival Saturday 15th June at Maui Arts & Culture Center. For more information on the movie head to CRSHDmovie.com

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