After reviewing Spiker, Miracle Season, Girls With Balls, Top Gun, Cloud 9, Miles, Side Out, Impact Point, and Air Bud Spikes Back, we finish our series on volleyball movies with Beach Kings (Green Flash), All You’ve Got, and Kill Shot (P.C.H.).
In all, there are 1,134 minutes of volleyball-themed movies available to inspire you. After all, if a Midwestern basketball player, a dog, and a pair of strippers can win an AVP championship, how hard can it be?
And who knows?
By the time you’ve watched them all, you might even be able to — drum roll, please — PLAY volleyball.
Beach Kings (previously named Green Flash)
IMDB Rating: 4.5/10
Focus on volleyball: 9/10
Volleyball realism: 9/10
MPAA rating: PG-13, 95 minutes
Trailer: Watch it here
Available on: DVD, Amazon Prime Video ($2.49/rent, $8.49 own)
Cameron Day (David Charvet, who appeared in Baywatch), a once promising NBA prospect, disappeared from the public eye after the pressure of competition became too much. Years later, he embarks on a journey on the AVP Tour, where the cutthroat nature of the competition nearly takes him down once again. He seeks to slay his demons at the grand-daddy of them all, the Manhattan Beach Open.
The quality of the volleyball exceeds any other volleyball movie to date. The entire film was shot in a month, primarily at Dockweiler State beach, where a temporary stadium was built for a week. They also did some filming on stadium court at Manhattan Beach to establish the shots.
Day and partner Court Young (Kenny Fonseca) possess excellent skills, creating credible plays worthy of a CBVA event. Charvet played at University High School, while Young played for UCLA. That they came out of the qualifier to reach the finals strains credibility, but they are leagues above other stars in volleyball films.
Further, the casting of Jason Olive as D’arrel LaCroix is the perfect choice. He was a seasoned actor (with a long list of movie and TV credits to his resume) a 1995 first-team All-American at Hawai’i, and, no small thing, Olive was once the editor of Volleyball magazine.
And the director was a true volleyball person. Paul Nihipali was a a four-time UCLA All-American who went to four NCAA title matches in a row from 1994-97, winning it all in 1995 and ’96. He has worked in TV for 20-plus years, and his projects include Chow Masters, Bad Girls Club, and Project Dad.
“We would have up to 20 players on the set some days, and it’s difficult because you’re trying to work, but you’re also trying to see your friends and it gets to be a weird position,” Nihipali recalled. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d much rather do that than the alternative.
“I can remember days where you have Chris McGee waiting to do his thing, Al Scates in hair and makeup waiting to do his thing, and you’re just running through a 14-hour day, and then you’ve got Chris Jacobsen, Mr. Top Chef, coming in to shoot his scenes, it was a blast, but it was a lot.”
Nihipali envisioned Beach Kings long before the shoot began.
“I wanted to start a pet project, an indie film, and the saying is, ‘You’ve got to do what you know.’ It became a passion project that was a lot bigger than what I expected it to be, frankly,” Nihipali said.
“Every friend and every location was kind of an ask, we did it like a full movie, but there were a lot of people who were very nice with their time, their restaurants, whatever it was. We made it on a shoe-string budget, and it looks much better than it was because there were so many people from the community that rallied to bring it all together.”
Nihipali said most of the funding came from private contributions.
“We thought there would be more support from Crocs and other sponsors of the AVP at that time, but they were on their way out at the time, and tour was not at its strongest at the time.”
From day one, Nihipali knew that Jason Olive was the linchpin.
“I have the most respect for him, and I always have. When I was in high school, I would watch him play on TV in Hawai’i and I was really impressed with him as a player. We played against each other in college for a couple of years and had a very strong rivalry.
“Jason had very established acting chops and obviously more than established volleyball chops. I sought him out at the Hermosa Beach Open, and pitched it to him, and I remember thinking, Jason Olive has to do this project. It’s got to be a domino effect, and I need to convince Jason to do this, and he’ll be the first domino.
“And by the end of our conversation, he was amped up, and I was amped up, and we have been great friends ever since because of that project.”
“Only somebody like Paul Nihipali could have put this cast together,” Olive said. “When you’re working with friends, and they’re really good at what they do, it’s just such a joy.”
Olive was given significant latitude within the part of playing LaCroix, he said. Olive told the director: “Let me create that character, because there are a couple of things within that character type that I think you’re missing, and part of that was the trash talking.
“Putting that into the character of Lacroix, which didn’t originally exist in those playing scenes.”
Olive’s points of reference:
“I basically stole the personalities of three or four different players from the tour who are friends of mine and cobbled them all together to make Lacroix.”
Finding a lead with both acting and volleyball skills is, if you’ve read this series, difficult at best. Nihipali said Charvet read for the part due to an unusual coincidence. Charvet was dating Brooke Burke at the time (they married in 2011, but divorced in 2020), who read for the role of Torrey Devito. She prompted Charvet to try out, but didn’t get the part herself.
“It was a running joke that Brooke didn’t get the part,” Nihipali said. “She would visit the set later and David would joke, ‘Hey, you wouldn’t give my girlfriend the part!’ I ended up working with her on a different project.”
Olive recently finished a pilot for his latest project, Brothers In Law, a comedy about two sibling lawyers that he’s shopping. He said shooting Beach Kings was a great time.
“For me, the fun stuff was just the banter. It wasn’t in the script, but Paul said, ‘just go for it.’ So when they called action, and I started grabbing the net and talking trash, Charvet and Courtney, they had no idea that that was coming,” Olive recalled.
“All of a sudden, we were actually playing, and the play got really heated. I don’t know where it came from, but I said, ‘Where did you get your partner from, Craigslist?’
“And everybody, the cameramen, everybody, just fell out laughing. We had to stop filming.”
Nihipali said he wanted to call the movie Kings of the Beach but couldn’t get the rights to the name.
“The first distributor, Curb Entertainment, released the movie internationally as Green Flash,” Nihipali said. “Domestically we were dealing with MGM, who bought the rights. MGM had a whole department to work on movie names, and they came back with about 25 names. One of them was Beach Kings, and I told them I liked that, so it was distributed here under Beach Kings.”
All You’ve Got
IMDB Rating: 4.3/10
Focus on volleyball: 8/10
Volleyball realism: 7/10
MPAA rating: PG-13, 95 minutes
Trailer: Watch it here
Available on: DVD ($9.99 new, $1.51/used), DVD.com ($7.99/month standard, $11.99/month Premier). The entire film is uploaded to YouTube and you can watch it here, but the quality is poor.
After the Phantoms’ private high school burns down, two rival high schools from different sides of the tracks are forced to play together in pursuit of a California state championship and a coveted USC scholarship to be doled out by USC recruiter Heather Philips (Laila Ali, who appeared in Falcon Rising). The Madonnas and Phantoms manage to unite, despite co-star Gabby (Adrienne Bailon) and Lauren McDonald (Sarah Mason) vying for the affections of Artie Sanchez (Michael Copon).
The newly united Madonnas make a run to the state semifinals, where backup setter Becca Watley (Ciara Harris) spikes Gabby’s water with melatonin(!) in order to get the start. Of course, Gabby recovers before the finals, where the Madonnas overcome Mother of Mercy HS in five sets to repeat as champions.
The made-for-TV movie definitely shows its MTV roots, as the under-age high-schoolers seem to routinely club as an excuse for MTV artists to perform and promote themselves.
The actresses were reasonable volleyball players, although in many of the close-up scenes volleyball doubles jumped in. For that matter, Gabby tosses the ball to serve left-handed, but her volleyball double completes the serve with her right hand.
Cal Baptist coach Branden Higa served as the technical adviser on the volleyball scenes. He didn’t have a lot of preparation time.
“We worked with them as a group for a total of maybe four hours. It wasn’t much,” Higa said. “I worked with Ciara probably 8-10 hours total, and Sarah Wright 8-10 hours, in maybe four practices. That was just individual one-on-one stuff, trying to teach them basics.
“They actually picked it up pretty well. Ciara is tall, she’s athletic, and she picked up a ton in a pretty short amount of time because naturally she’s a pretty good athlete.” Wright, he said, was not as athletic, but worked hard to learn.
“She asked every question and tried as hard as she could for whatever I asked her to do.”
Higa has been the CBU coach since 2012.
“They were pretty committed, they knew that they would have to hit the floor, and get some bumps and bruises,” Higa said. “We had no time to get them good, we were just hoping they could make a basic platform or something close to it.
“We had one cast member named Taylor Cole (who played Kaitlan), I think she’s on the Hallmark Channel network now, who played high school volleyball in Texas. She had skills. She’s the one person that we did not have to double for.
“She was great. She wasn’t necessarily Division I good, but she could definitely hold her own. We were very thankful for her.”
The directors shot the movie at the CSUN gym as well as Cathedral High School. The opposing team players were cast from a group of recent college graduates to avoid eligibility conflicts.
“We held a two-hour combine, had about 40 people show up, and out of that we selected the volleyball doubles, and then the opposing team,” Higa said. “We were just looking for the highest skilled people. We ended up with a ton of talented players, like Chrissie Zartman, Lindsey Hache, Jess Lapell, Mandy Lawson and Sabrina Wilkes.
It was tough, he said, getting the actresses to control the first touch.
“The Madonnas, they were inner city Latina girls. But we didn’t have anyone on that team that could actually handle the ball except for Chrissie Zartman, a blond-haired, blue-eyed former libero for UCLA. So we had to move her onto the Madonnas,” Higa said.
“And I don’t know the story of how a beach girl like Chrissy made it to the inner city Madonnas, but she had to handle every ball to have it even be close to looking real. So we had everyone hit every single ball at Chrissy. ‘You can hit it as hard as you want, but it has to go to her.’ ”
What’s more, one of the movie’s stars, Adrienne Bailon, is about 5 feet tall.
“Adrienne was a setter, so she had the toughest job in the movie, to make it look like she could actually set,” Higa said. “There was one shot where she had to block Lindsey Hache. Lindsay was a 6-2 middle hitter who played professionally and at Pepperdine, she was just a beast.
“And so Adrienne blocks her, and she delivers the best line in the entire movie, it hits Lindsey in the face, and Adrienne says, ‘Do you want a manicure to go with that facial?’
“That was the best line, and if you could see Adrienne Bailon delivering that with her Latina attitude, it was just awesome.”
But to get that shot, they needed a little low-tech movie magic, courtesy of a boost from Higa.
“I was literally standing behind Adrienne lifting her up by the hips, and Lindsey had to hit into her hands and make it look like a block. I spent about 30 minutes doing that. It took 10 or 12 takes.”
Attentive volleyball fans will recognize some of the officials, including Russell Combs, Tony Chan, Tom Ulibarri, and Lyman Johnson.
Combs got a mini-cameo as a linesman dramatically signaling a ball out.
“In this particular scene I was supposed to make an incorrect and controversial line call,” Combs recalled. “The live play starts, my time is coming, the ball hits the floor and I whip my flag up to signal out.
“Immediately the director yelled, ‘Cut, what was that noise?’ She heard the snap of the flag when I raised it sharply into the air. I was mortified! To my relief, right after she yelled cut, she added, ‘I loved it!’
“Next thing I knew there were three cameras, multiple lights and I was surrounded by production staff. After the first take, she said ‘That was great, let’s do it again.’ We shot three more takes total. I qualified for a SAG card, and a couple of the ‘regular’ extras told me I should ask for more money. I was content with it all, went about everything else I was asked to do and enjoyed the free food. SAG membership is expensive so I never did sign up, but I still have the letter.”
Higa hoped the movie would help volleyball.
“I go in there, and I’m a volleyball guy, and I just want this to represent our sport well and have these high ideals about why I’m there and what I’m doing,” Higa said. “But then you realize pretty quickly that this director has a bunch of other things going on that are way more important than the volleyball action. It’s about fifth or sixth on the list of importance.
“Afterwards, I offered to help them edit, but they said, ‘Nope, we got the edit part,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, crap,’ because I assumed that I would be consulted for editing the action. And then it came out …
“It was a crazy, crazy experience, but the people made it great.”
Kill Shot (previously P.C.H.)
IMDB Rating: 3.3/10
Focus on volleyball: 5/10
Volleyball realism: 6/10
MPAA rating: R, 92 minutes
Trailer: Watch it here
Available on: DVD, Amazon Prime Video (included with Prime, $.49/rent, $6.49 to own). The full movie has been uploaded to YouTube but the quality is poor.
This is the story of four Pacific Coast University students who live in the same apartment building. Each deals with their own challenges. Stacey Addison (Jacqueline Collen, who was in 90210) is a former model and volleyball player who abruptly dropped out of the fashion world. Randy (Casper Van Dien, who was in Starship Troopers) is skating through college on his father’s influence (the prolific actor Elliott Gould). Serena (Catherine Lazo, who was in Legally Blonde 2) is concerned with the upcoming loss of her pre-med scholarship. Randy (Mushond Lee, who was in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle) is dealing with coming-out issues.
Of course, nothing fixes things better than a good ol’ charity four-on-four match. Without giving away too much of the seemingly unrelated plot, it’s nothing that can’t be resolved by a good comeback win.
Denise Richards (whose credits include The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, The World Is Not Enough, Starship Troopers and so much more) is featured on the box and in the DVD extras, but her role as Jess is a bit part, never to be seen with a volleyball other than on the cover.
Despite the title, there is surprisingly little volleyball in this movie. There’s a couple of minutes of volleyball to set the stage in the beginning, with the aforementioned volleyball match at the fateful conclusion.
The volleyball was coordinated by Dane Selznick, featuring top players like Gayle Stammer and Christine Romero. The stars themselves were long on athleticism but short on skills, leaving the filmmakers to splice questionable shots where one of the stars tosses a ball to serve, but the serve is obviously executed by one of the “ringers”.
This review should serve as a warning to others: watch at your own risk. You will lose 92 of your 1,440 minutes of the day with very little to show for it.
Selznick acknowledged the difficulty of teaching beach volleyball neophytes.
“You give them the basics, the fundamentals. If they have any athleticism, then they can pick it up a little quicker. The important thing is, in that situation, if they want it to look real, you have to have good body doubles,” Selznick said. “That was kind of the main thing, making sure that I had good body doubles for the actors and actresses. I didn’t need the body doubles for Van Dien and Lee, they were already athletic. It’s just teaching them certain skills and setting up those shots. But the women, they needed doubles.
“But it’s Hollywood. You shoot them from certain angles, make people look good and get the job done. That’s the most important thing, is making the people look good on film.”
Selznick, a 15-time open winner and Olympic beach coach, is no stranger to the world of movies. He has an extensive background both in front of and behind the camera, working on projects like Rambo III, Baywatch, Soldier, Blind Fury, and Shattered. He started in the business right out of high school.
“One of my best friends from high school, Brad Bovee, was a stunt man, and he was putting a reel together, and I would put together certain shots, and be his practice partner in boxing scenes at the Main Street Gym in Santa Monica. That was Muhammad Ali’s gym.
“And I used to live with Dick Ziker, one of the biggest stunt men in Hollywood. He was one of the founders of Stunts Unlimited, and he put me in a lot of situations.”
Selznick holds a great deal of respect for the stunt men.
“I was basically an athlete put into certain situations. I wasn’t a true stunt man. Those guys are pretty amazing, jumping off of buildings, doing high falls, motorcycles and maneuvering cars,” Selznick said.
“I’d do precision maneuvering and fight scenes. I was right out of high school. I did a lot of things, extras work on films, some commercials, and I met a bunch of people in the business, and they would look to me for technical coordinating, putting shots and athletes together. It was mainly sports, football, or basketball, I would hire these athletes that I knew who could get the job done.
“I worked on Baywatch for a couple of seasons. I’ve doubled some actors, it was fun. It was a great challenge. It was a fun career. I did it for about 30-plus years. It was amazing to be around these guys and watch them in action.”
Stunt work involves inherent risk. For Selznick, that was never more apparent than during the filming of Rambo III.
“I learned how to ride horses from a stunt coordinator named Dale Gibson, and I was an Afghani rebel. In one of the opening scenes of the movie, we had a charge scene. You have 200 horses taking off in a desert bed in Yuma, Arizona,” Selznick said.
Then the charge scene began to come apart.
“There was just dust in the air, you couldn’t see where you were going, and there were guys going down, their horses were rolling over them, and in my mind, I’m thinking, ‘That’s not supposed to happen.’
“It’s an uneven surface, you’re going up and down gullies, and I was just hoping that I wasn’t going to be one of those guys, and I was basically holding on for dear life.”
Selznick said he made it through the pack, but his horse wouldn’t stop.
“He was a Gray Arab. He had never been away from home and wasn’t really trained to be around explosives. We’re riding into what’s supposed to be a Russian battleground in Afghanistan and I had to kind of run him into a tank just to stop him.
“I held onto his neck, and almost went over, so that was a pretty gnarly scene for me. We made it through and the horse probably had a headache. It was a great experience out there for a few weeks out in the desert. It’s fun, it’s exhilarating, and your adrenaline is always flying.”