Alum Film CRSHD Screens at Apollo Theater Next Thursday

Emily Cohn, OC ’17, will present a free screening of her first full-length film, CRSHD, at the Apollo Theatre at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 9. The event is sponsored by the Cinema Studies department and Alumni Office. CRSHD’s world premiere was April 30 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York; the film’s portrayal of female sexuality was lauded by festival representatives.

Though CRSHD is Cohn’s longest project yet, clocking in at 80 minutes, Cohn has years of experience creating short films. The film speaks to a younger, millennial audience through its awkward college humor and social media antics, complete with sequences of fantasy and engaging physical interpretations of the apps Instagram, Tinder, and Facebook.

Described as “irrepressibly inventive and often impulsively unrestrained,” by The Hollywood Reporter, CRSHD tells the story of three college students, Izzy Alden (Isabelle Barbier), Anuka Deshpande (Deeksha Ketkar), and Fiona Newman (Sadie Scott) trying to lose their virginity before they leave college at a “Crush Party” hosted by their friend Elise (College junior Isabelle Kenet). The only way for the trio to get into the party is to be “crushed,” by a secret admirer. The plot follows the friends as they chase their crushes online and in real life, with Izzy losing control of her moral compass in the process. 

Cohn came up with the idea as a project for a Creative Writing class during her senior year and quickly recruited a cast to film CRSHD through the summer of 2017 after she graduated. The movie was shot on Oberlin’s campus, so most of the set will be familiar to students, including locations such as the Oberlin College Lanes and Slow Train Café.

Cohn has a broad background in filmmaking. She studied abroad at Prague Film School for a year and has interned at multiple film-related firms. In an interview with Office of Communications Editorial Fellow Erin Ulrich, OC ’18, Cohn talked about how Oberlin’s Creative Writing program taught her important aspects of professionalism beyond writing.

“The workshop-style classes taught me how to tackle the often grueling revision process,” she explained in the interview. “I use those tools every day: reading other people’s scripts, writing pitches, and answering emails. It all begins and ends with a story.” 

Associate Professor of Cinema Studies and English Geoff Pingree, who taught Cohn, elaborated on the tools that Oberlin gives students like Cohn. 

“[Cohn’s] film embodies the unique opportunities for filmmaking at Oberlin because it draws on the talents of students in different disciplines at the College and at the Conservatory,” he wrote in an email to the Review. “We require our students to study and think hard about what stories are and what makes them work, and we demand that they work collaboratively. It makes sense to me, then, that their work stands out and is recognized at the top film festivals.”

This isn’t the first time Cohn’s work has caught the attention of major outlets. 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, and her web series “The Do Not Enter Diaries” has been featured in The New York Times. The web series spotlights teenagers telling stories in their bedrooms and delves into the meaning behind how their rooms are organized and decorated. CRSHD’s refreshing subject matter and impressive reception seem par for Cohn’s course. 

“I’m so proud of the positive reaction we’ve gotten,” Kenet wrote in an email to the Review. “Everyone, especially [Cohn], put a lot of heart into this project, and it’s so gratifying that people can see that.”

The cast showed impressive dedication to this project from the start. 

“Once I knew I was the lead, I felt like I wanted to uphold the beautiful and thoughtful script [Cohn] had written,” Barbier wrote, commenting on the challenges of filming CRSHD.

Kenet described the filming process and the relationships the process fostered. 

“The cast and crew all lived together in a house on East Lorain [Street], right by the laundromat. We would work all day, sometimes until 1 or 2 in the morning, then come home and hang out — then we’d do it again the next day,” she wrote. “We had a lot of fun.”

 A lot of the enthusiasm built around this project can be attributed to Cohn’s creative leadership. 

“[Cohn] is an incredibly ambitious, driven, organized person,” Kenet said. “She had a clear creative vision and knew how to execute it. She’s diplomatic, a great leader, and a lovely, funny, sweet person.”

The stars of CRSHD are no strangers to acting. Barbier studied improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade and graduated from the Atlantic Acting School. 

“UCB taught me comedy is all about letting go of control and leaning into surprises — I felt like I really tried to do that with CRSHD,” wrote Barbier. Her credits include writing and acting in her original shows Those Girls and It’s Chill at the Dixon Place and the Fringe Festival in New York, and playing the lead role Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank at Playhouse on Park in Connecticut.

Ketkar graduated from The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute and was in the off-Broadway production of A Muslim in the Midst. She’s also featured in commercials for Venmo and Polaroid. Scott was in the finale of the 16th season of Law & Order SVU and had an off-Broadway debut in The New Group’s Downtown Race Riot.

The cast is overjoyed to witness the buzz that has grown around this project.

“Most of the time I have to beg people to pay attention to the projects I’m involved in, but CRSHD has always had this magical momentum,” Barbier wrote.

Who knows what’s next for Cohn and her lead actors? Oberlin students should be looking forward to upcoming projects, as they are sure to be equally ambitious and thought-provoking. For now, you don’t want to miss the free screening of CRSHD next Thursday at the Apollo.