About this project
WE DID IT! In 11 days we raised $24,593, thank you to everyone who came out to support us. Our real need is actually much more though, so we're setting a new goal of $39,999, which will allow us to liven up the film with more animation and complete professional post production.
"Best Documentary Award"
- 60°N Os International Film Festival, Norway
"Thai Cheerleaders Documentary Draws Applause"
- Wall Street Journal
"A film that “needs to be seen by every Thai”
- Bangkok Post
"It’s the type of uplifting, inspirational story I usually run screaming from. But The Cheer Ambassadors, about plucky Thai cheerleaders who beat the odds to be ranked among the best squads in the world, won me over with boundless enthusiasm and a side trip into the darker aspects of human nature."
- Wise Kwai Thai Film Blog
About The Cheer Ambassadors
“The Cheer Ambassadors” is a documentary film that follows the amazing true story of the Bangkok University Cheerleading Team as they travel from the city streets and rice fields in Thailand to compete in the International Cheer Union’s (ICU) World Championships in Orlando, Florida, USA. The feature-length film is an examination of what it means to be an athlete and the deep bonds of friendship that form when a group of athletes from radically different socioeconomic backgrounds spend years living and training together. The film documents the special relationship that developed between cheerleading teams from the United States and Thailand, with both groups inspiring and idolizing each other. It's an inspirational and moving underdog tale about an unknown team that comes from nowhere to place second in the world's most prestigious cheerleading event.
The movie focuses on the coach and key team members; it describes their relationships, their drive, and their sacrifices. It follows them on their journey from late-night training based on watching YouTube and cable TV performances of American teams, to competing against some of those same teams on the world stage. This film provides a unique perspective on the power of a dream and what it takes for a team to become champions.
The Cheer Ambassadors is a universal story of passion, persistence and inspiration.
You saw our trailer above, now check out the extended version below that introduces another important character, Golfy.
How It Came To Be
It all started when I was sitting on the beach in southern Thailand with Jason W. Best, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur and producer, and Tae Phithakrattanayothin. Tae had been a cheerleader in university and started telling us about his team and the incredible obstacles they'd overcome to become world champions. Honestly, up until that moment Jason and I had visions of girls with pom-poms dancing around a football field, but Tae explained that competition cheerleading is the world’s fastest growing sport with over 4,000,000 registered male and female athletes from more than 103 countries. Then he pulled up some videos from YouTube and blew us away with the amazing performances by his university's team.
Tae had lived with the story for so long, that it felt like no big deal to him, but Jason immediately recognized its huge potential. He convinced us that we should all team up to make a film about the team and from then on we dedicated the next 18 months to making it. Watch this short video where we talk more about what motivated us to make the film.
What is the story about?
- The team’s coach, Sarawut (Toey) Samniangdee, literally explodes off the screen. He told us how he taught himself to cheer by watching late-night ESPN broadcasts and with random bits of information that he found in old gymnastics textbooks.
- His family couldn’t afford cable at the time, so he bought a VCR and would go over to a friend’s house who had cable and wait up until 4am when the championships came on.
- In the months leading up to the 2009 world championship Toey (the coach) was so stressed that he suffered serious health problems.
- The coach was so worried about how jet lag would impact the team that he forced them to live on Florida time (waking up at 6pm then training until 8am) for the two months leading up to the international competition.
- Another cheerleader, Peung, who grew up on a rice farm in northern Thailand, was able to get a college scholarship and travel to America because of her cheerleading abilities.
- In 2009, their first year competing at the ICU world championship, the team surprised everyone when they took home a silver medal and inspired the 10,000 spectators to jump up and down chanting "THAILAND, THAILAND, THAILAND!" -- something that had never happened before.
- When they returned to the 2011 ICU competition, Thailand took home another silver medal and tied with the US for a gold in the Cheerleading Worlds competition. This last event is especially significant because it marks the first time in the history of the sport that a non-US team has ever won a gold medal.
How did we get here?
We catalogued hundreds of hours of archival footage and shot new interviews with the team, coaches, school officials, and the global leadership of cheerleading (International Cheer Union). We also traveled to the 2011 ICU World Cheerleading championships where we interviewed top cheerleaders and coaches from the US about the Thai team and their amazing performance. We watched as over 10,000 spectators jumped up and down screaming “THAILAND, THAILAND, THAILAND!” after the team competed at the ESPN Wide World of Sports stadium.
We interviewed professors and management from Bangkok University about the reasons they supported the development of the team, and what this victory means to them.
We teamed up with Duangporn (B) Pakavirojkul, one of Thailand’s top documentary editors, to edit down hundreds of hours of footage and interviews into 94 minutes.
We premiered the film at the 9th World Film Festival of Bangkok; we showed at Thailand’s Salaya International Documentary Film Festival; we screened in Singapore; and, most recently, at the 60N festival in Norway where we won an award for Best Documentary.
What’s left to do?
We funded this film with a few private and corporate donations, our own credit cards, and lots of love. The film has been shown in festivals and online, however there is still a lot of post-production (color-correction and sound-mixing mostly) that needs to be done to help increase the film’s cinematic impact. We need to pay for a Dolby surround-sound license and we want to add additional animation and motion graphics. We also need to raise money to help with marketing and outreach.
We want to reach out to the 4,000,000 registered cheerleaders around the world, but we need to do much more than that. This film shows what can happen when you follow your dreams. It's a powerful underdog tale than will inspire people to think big and work harder. But to harness the power of the film's strong message, we need to show it to as many people as possible. And for that, we need money for marketing.
We have set a goal of raising $19,999 to make this film, however we actually need a lot more than that. The way that Kickstarter works is that we don’t get anything unless we meet our fundraising goal. This is why each and every donation helps us. We have some great rewards available at different donation levels, however just because you can’t afford a lot of money doesn’t mean that you can’t help. Even donations as small as $5 add up quickly and mean a lot to us.
For those of you new to Thai culture, you may be wonder why our pledge levels and fundraising goal all end with the number 9. The Thai word for “progress” or “go forward” is pronounced almost exactly like the word for “nine”, and is therefore considered a very auspicious word.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
- Luke Cassady-Dorion: Director
- Jason W. Best: Executive Producer
- Thapanont (Tae) Phithakrattanayothin: Production Manager, Cheerleader
It's best if we answer this with an example. Check out this video that the team made as a happy birthday gift to one of their idols, Drew Bewley, the editor in chief of The Cheer Leader magazine, an incredibly talented cheerleader and someone featured in our movie.
For every donation of $299 or more, we will make a custom video like the one above, but with the team cheering your name instead. Very very cool stuff, and only produced as part of this Kickstarter campaign.
Support this project
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