If you don’t know who the Pistol Shrimps are, you’re going to want to very soon.
Brent Hodge’s new documentary “The Pistol Shrimps” follows the eponymous all-women recreational basketball team, led by players like Aubrey Plaza, model/actress Melissa Stetten, comedian Molly Hawkey (who you may know as “‘The Bachelor’s oldest-ever contestant”) and many other incredible players just might be one of the funnest and funniest films of the year. During the film’s Los Angeles premiere, the laughs never slowed, but it also became apparent that this documentary isn’t about basketball. It’s about what basketball means and can do for these women as individuals and as a group of friends, empowering them, inspiring them, encouraging them and much more.
After screening Wednesday night at The Theatre at Ace Hotel, the Shrimps, their coaches, their announcers and director Hodge sat down for a Q&A. Like their team name implies — and they would suggest to look up what a pistol shrimp is — each woman’s personality popped like the crack of a pistol shrimp claw. They laughed at many of the high jinks that unfolded the season depicted in the doc, but also got real about how, no matter the small scale, the team is vastly important to them. That’s something that’s also evident in the documentary, as the film makes sure to highlight many of the team members, their personalities and how the team affects their lives.
The team itself came together in a rather interesting way. According to the film, it was a bit tough to get the league together, as there wasn’t really a league at all before they came along. In the Q&A, Shrimp Amanda Lund explained how the struggles of making a web series sparked the idea in the first place. “I remember the moment when Maria [Blasucci] realized she needed to start a sports team. We had made this web series ‘Ghost Ghirls’ that no one was watching. So we made our own flyers and started flyering in the streets, saying, ‘You got ghosts? Watch this web series.’ So we were handing out these flyers and Maria was like, ‘This is so fun being out and doing an activity.’ And then she was like, ‘I’m going to start a sports team.’”
But why basketball? Recounting a rather momentous and crazy achievement in her early life, Shrimp founder Blasucci said, “I used to play in grade school and one time, I was dribbling the ball in the park league on the Pacific Palisades Sparks and I lost my shoe at halfcourt as I was dribbling the ball. And I went to shoot the basket and I made it, but my shoe was still at halfcourt. It was a real whirlwind.”
Unfortunately, the ragtag group didn’t start off with success, with only a few members ever having played the sport, let alone in an organized way, and others not entirely knowing how the sport works. Originally, they came together with a shared sense of trash talking and putting down their haters to offset this lack of success. But during the documented season, the Shrimps went on to win the championship.
This did, however, come at a cost to their original skills. One of the Shrimps said, “I think it goes to the root of self confidence and when you don’t have a lot of self confidence, it’s very easy to talk trash. So when we finally got the skills, the trash talking went away. It’s like when you don’t dress for the job you have, you dress for the job you want and so we talked trash when we couldn’t play basketball.”
After seeing the original trash talking chemistry, filmmaker Hodge knew he had to make a movie about them, telling the crowd, “One of my friends went to the games and he was like, ‘Dude, this whole thing’s a film. There’s a coach with a unicorn costume on, you’ve got to film this.’ And then we just started filming.”
He even theorized that the crew is why they won, explaining that “this is the only season you guys have won, so we’re like your lucky charm. And I don’t think we would’ve had a film unless they won.” Shrimp Molly Hawkey pleaded, “I was wondering if you could come out to the rest of our seasons because we didn’t do so well this season.” This past season, the Shrimps won only three games and lost seven.
But it wasn’t always easy for Shrimps. There were a lot of antics and even drama between teams during the season, exemplified in the documentary when Aubrey Plaza tore her ACL playing undercover in a second game on her sister’s team. The recovery, which Plaza described as taking “a couple steps forward, a bunch of steps backwards and I’m trying to just get forward again,” and the taste of the other team led her to test the market.
“I’m going to be playing for the Spice Squirrels in the fall. After my injury, I had a lot of time off and I just decided to test free agency,” she said. “I had to make the best choice for my family and my basketball career. And I just felt like the Spice Squirrels have a lot to offer me.”
Toward the end of the Q&A, founder Blasucci touched on an empowering point about the team, an aspect that was the documentary’s most lasting impression.
“I went to an all girls high school and I learned that girls can be the best of friends if they allow themselves to kind of let go of all the claw,” she said. “You know, ‘Ah, I need to get ahead of you!’ If you could just let that go, you can have such deep relationships with girls and I feel that with all of you girls and I, at no point, ever feel jealous or envious or anything. I just feel 100% support and I feel grateful and it’s wonderful. I suggest any girl out there that doesn’t have a tight group of girlfriends to really search for that, because as hard as it may be, you find these people that are so important to you and I feel that with all of these girls and I’m really grateful.”
“Pistol Shrimps,” which is the first original feature film released by Seeso, an ad-free comedy streaming service, premieres today, June 16, on seeso.com. The film was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year and was executive produced by Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker behind “Super Size Me.” Check out the trailer below!