Alumna, screenwriter and director Gina O’Brien-Carroll ’86 (Communication Studies) makes her directorial debut this fall with “First One In,” her third original screenplay, released on Sept. 8, 2020, and now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
“’First One In’ is a comedy for women, but it isn’t the typical comedy for women,” said O’Brien. “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.”
A comedy about an alliance of women, “First One In” features mediocre tennis players who go on to play in a prestigious, local tournament against super competitive, grown-up mean girls.
“During the day in tennis clubs across America, millions of women gather to hit balls at each other. I’m one of them,” says O’Brien. “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’re all tennis players. Many of us aren’t good, but the competition is as fierce as the pros, sort of, and it’s fun material for a screenplay.”
COVID-19 made it difficult to invite all the cast and crew for the usual premiere party, but O’Brien was determined to celebrate. About two weeks before “First One In” debuted, she set up a blow-up screen outside her house to watch the film with a live audience for the first time.
“I was really thrilled, because I hadn’t seen it with a crowd of people,” O’Brien said. “That was a great feeling.”
O’Brien’s experience in film includes “Fan Girl,” a film directed by Paul Jarrett, starring Kiernan Shipka and Meg Ryan. Fan Girl opened at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2015. It was acquired by Disney Worldwide and made its U.S. premiere on ABC’s Freeform. O’Brien’s first screenplay, “Once More with Feeling,” a film directed by Jeff Lipsky, starring Drea de Matteo and Chazz Palminteri, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009. It was distributed by IFC Films and licensed by Netflix and Showtime.
Prior to screenwriting, O’Brien was a journalist and magazine editor in New York City. She has been published in The New York Times, The New York Daily News and a variety of magazines. She married her college sweetheart, Ed Carroll ’85 (Communication & Media), chief operating officer of AMC Networks.
Ed is also a SUNY New Paltz Foundation Board Director and has been an engaged member of the campus community for many years. He and O’Brien met at the College more than 30 years ago. Among their many contributions to their alma mater is the Edward A. Carroll and Gina O’Brien-Carroll Experiential Scholarship, which supports students pursuing engaged learning activities outside the classroom.