A documentary film by Adrian Lee & Michael Fraiman
It’s no secret that in cheerleading, everyone wants to be first. First/Last explores what it takes to keep the competitive fire alive in a two-horse race, where if you’re not first, you’re last. Through Halifax Cheer Elite and Cheer Extreme, the only two senior five teams in the Maritimes, we understand friendship and fame in the backdrop of stunts and pyramids.
table of contents fee fi fo films | first/last | press kit | mar 31
SY N O P S I S/T E A S E R ................................... 3 C H A R AC T E R S ................................... 4 WH O I S FE E FI F O FI L M S ?
D I R EC TO R S ’ N OT E ................................... 7 P U B L I C S E RVI C E A N N O U N C E M E N T ( P R I N T ) ................................... 8 P U B L I C S E RVI C E A N N O U N C E M E N T ( B ROA D C A S T US E) ................................... 9
“ IT’S MORE FUN THAN
HATING EACH OTHER.
2 | FIRST/LAST
A Cheerleading Story
THEY leave it all on the mat.
How could they not? It’s cheerleading after all, and the stakes are high as it is. The teams give everything they’ve got in the pursuit of the perfect pyramid, the most spectacular stunt, and that first place title. But what happens when anything but first means last? That’s the case for Halifax Cheer Elite and Cheer Extreme, two of the Maritimes’ most highly decorated and marquee cheerleading programs in the Maritimes. Their story is one of firsts and lasts. This year, for the first year ever, Extreme and Elite are the only two teams in the senior five division, the highest level of the sport. And Cheer Extreme has never come in first in the Maritime Meltdown competition, an event early in the cheerleading season. Halifax Cheer Elite always has. And Extreme is getting tired of being an underdog. But Cheer Expo is coming up, and that’s the crown both teams really want, the biggest competition with biggest rewards in the Maritime provinces. Neither team came in first last year. And now they want that win, because neither wants to come in last. It’s a new tension for teams that typically get along with remarkable grace. The coaches, Jill Whittleton of Halifax Cheer Elite and Chris Cunningham of Cheer Extreme, are longtime friends. The cheerleaders themselves, like Toshia Crawford from Elite and Hannah Conevska from Extreme, cheer for each other when the other wins. It’s all in the name of a culture that has grown exponentially in the past seven years, in the name of teams that are escapes for its athletes, teams that are families that take kids from all walks of life and bring together for a sheer show of spirit. But some of that has come off the mat. This year, more than other years, is a first for online spats, which the coaches had to settle down. Meanwhile, Chris Cunningham reveals to his team that, after almost a decade with the team, this will be his last season: he’s moving to Toronto in the fall. So the line between the ecstasy of victory and the despair of defeat doesn’t get much thinner than here, in First/Last. FIRST/LAST | 3
Characters Cheer Extreme
“We want it so bad, it hurts.”
The sassy, brassy, and passionate head coach of the Cheer Extreme senior five Lime team. Just 23 years old, he’s devoted almost a decade to the program and has been the team’s coach for the past two years. But it’s his last year with Extreme, as he prepares to move to Toronto in the summer and join a bigger cheer gym.
Hannah Conevska Hannah Conevska has been a member of Cheer Extreme for two years. She is one of its captains, and loves cheerleading when she’s reminded that “someone’s always watching... It means something”.
4 | FIRST/LAST
“We’re not in it for the fame, we’re in it for the gold.”
Halifax cheer elite
The calm, confident coach of the Halifax Cheer Elite senior five team. She was one of the founding members of the program, and has been involved in it for all of its 11 years. She is a mentor for a team that sees cheerleading as an escape—from problems at home or at school, to bullying and eating disorders. Being there for her kids has become what fuels her.
Toshia Crawford has been a member of Halifax Cheer Elite for two years. In cheerleading with Elite, she’s found a way out from her regular social life, where she’s surrounded by friends who drop out of school, and doesn’t feel compelled to strive for anything. FIRST/LAST | 5
A Cheerleading Story
A b o u t Us
fee fi fo WHO IS ?
ADRIAN LEE is a fourth-year student in com-
MICHAEL FRAIMAN is a fourth-year jour-
bined honours journalism and contemporary studies at the University of King’s College, and a freelancer on CBC Radio and CBC TV Halifax. He has produced on-air reports for CBC Radio-One on both a regional and national level, and has contributed to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald and Metro Halifax. He is a two-time finalist for the Canadian University Press’s John. H. McDonald awards in both the news and arts categories, and received a scholarship to attend a military journalism workshop with the University of Calgary. In 2010-11, he served as the editor-in-chief and production manager of the Watch, the King’s College student magazine, and previously served as its copy editor. The filming of First/Last has reignited in Adrian a passion to learn how to do a single somersault.
nalism student at the University of King’s College. He has covered events across Nova Scotia for CBC Radio-One in Halifax and the National Post, and is a frequent contributor to the Coast’s arts section. He was editor-in-chief of the Watch, the King’s College student magazine, in 2009-10; copy editor before that; and online editor afterwards, having established a new online presence for the publication. As an editor of both university and high school papers, Michael has overseen several award-winning pieces, and received mention in a Toronto Star article specifically about how good the high school paper was that year. First/Last is Michael’s first foray into making a documentary film; before this, he just watched Maysles brothers movies alone in his bedroom.
Phone number: 902-402-9628 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone number: 902-225-9991 Email: email@example.com
FEE FI FO FILMS was created in the spring of 2011 by two longtime friends who wanted to become giants
in the field of spinning big stories out of remarkable and often surprisingly intimate moments. Their first film, First/Last, is a snapshot of cheerleading in the Maritimes, a high-stakes subculture that means so much to a few. Their next film, which will be released in early fall 2011, will document the story of a Cape Breton man who lost his low-level job after 30 years, began volunteering as a clown at children’s hospitals, and then won the lottery.
6 | FIRST/LAST
We had no idea what we were getting into.
We’ll be the first to admit it:
A quick look at the shape of our bodies will tell you that neither of us were ever involved in cheerleading. We didn’t come into this process thinking, single-mindedly, “It’s time to do the documentary on cheerleading we’ve always wanted to do.” Instead, we stumbled upon it. Late one night, sitting across from each other and scrambling for an idea, one of us just threw it out there, and paused. Something about it just felt right. We didn’t know anything about cheerleading, much less the state of cheerleading in Nova Scotia, but there was something about its energy that made us want to know and understand. We thought the visual vigor of cheerleaders leaping in the air would rivet. We thought the competitive drive of the teams would command viewers’ attention. We could only think and guess. We couldn’t possibly know that in the six weeks that followed that a-ha lightbulb of a moment, we’d be swept up into a world of irreduceable competition and the miraculous grace in those high stakes; we couldn’t know about a subculture that has exploded almost overnight because of an infectious energy that we caught; we couldn’t know just how much cheerleading could possibly mean. And through the simple and razor-edged dichotomy of firsts and lasts, all that makes this a story about love. You can see it in the orgiastic twitches that overcome Chris Cunningham when he sees his team perform at competitions. You can see it in Toshia Crawford’s eyes when she looks at a team that reminded her about the value of education. You can see it through the pageantry and the glitz and in the eyes-ahead fire of every “top” cheerleader that flies high, and every “base” cheerleader that throws them up. And we’ve loved the opportunity for us to bring this story to you, a viewer that we’re guessing didn’t really know what you were getting into—but you wanted to know more. We hope you do now. Yours, Adrian Lee & Michael Fraiman
FIRST/LAST | 7
Public Service Announcement FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE HALIFAX, NS (Mar 31)—Fee Fi Fo Films presents its inaugural screening of First/Last, a short documentary about cheerleading in the Maritimes, this Friday, April 1 at 2:30 pm in Alumni Hall at Halifax’s University of King’s College. The film is directed and produced by Adrian Lee and Michael Fraiman and follows the only two senior five teams in Halifax cheerleading, Cheer Extreme and Halifax Cheer Elite. Senior five is considered the highest level of the sport, and because a third team folded, this is the first year where anything but first means last. While Halifax Cheer Elite consistently claims first place, Cheer Extreme is growing tired of being the underdog in a culture that has exploded in the province over the past decade. The film follows the two teams as they prepare for Cheer Expo, an important regional tournament. The filmmakers, graduating journalism students at the University of King’s College, hope the film captured and pass on their own experience of knowing little about the world of cheerleading and learning much more. “We definitely didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘We’re going to make a documentary about cheerleading,’” said Lee. “But the passion and competition that intrigued us in the first place absolutely swept us up and got us hooked, and we hope that comes through in the documentary.” All are encouraged to attend. Admission is free. FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT ADRIAN LEE AT 902-402-9628.
“ It’s what every team’s been ” “ I’d be lying if I said I ” working for. Didn’t want to win. 8 | FIRST/LAST
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE A local film company wants Halifax to bring it on. On Friday, Fee Fi Fo Films is premiering their short documentary First/Last, a movie about cheerleading in the Maritimes.
for broadcast use It follows Halifax Cheer Elite and Cheer Extreme, the only two teams at the highest level of their sport. They’re gearing up for an important regional tournament called Cheer Expo. But because a third team folded, for the first year ever, anything but first place means last. You can catch the free screening on Friday in Alumni Hall, at the University of King’s College. It starts at 2:30 pm.
“it’s almost like another world.” It’s not cookie cutter...
FIRST/LAST | 9
“bleed lime green. ” I know they can feel it and i know if i cut them they would
10 | F I R S T / L A S T