Bakersfield, California – February 10th, 2022 – The National High School Coaches Association is proud to announce the World Premier of Beyond the Mat, a sports drama edited by Academy Award winning editor of the classic sports movie Rocky, Scott Conrad. The film stars Vietnamese actor John Wynn and Mark Hapka. There is a buzz about the indie film featuring US Olympic wrestling Champion Kurt Angle, with a special appearance by UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock. The award-winning film is directed by Van M. Pham and produced by Henry K. Priest and Kase Chong.
A Film Every Athlete Should See
Penned by Bakersfield local, Erik Martinez, Beyond the Mat is the next classic high school sports movie. It has the best elements of an edge of your seat sports movie, where the underdog must rise to the challenge, but with a new modern twist. Imagine Friday Night Lights but on the high school wrestling mat. Not just a sports story, not just a love story that is set against the backdrop of a suburban high school in Middle America. Beyond the Mat is the coming-of-age tale of Aaron Miller and his lifelong friend Bo Sanders. Amidst the struggle of a disintegrating friendship, the tormenting of a cross‐town wrestling rival, and the blossoming of a new love, Aaron is forced to come to terms with who he really is. Meanwhile, Bo struggles to come to terms with himself, his future in college and righting a wrong that has been haunting him. In a series of unexpected events their friendship is put on the line when Bo, blinded by the desire for a rematch against cross‐town wrestling rival Dominic, challenges Aaron for his spot on the varsity wrestling team.
What the Critics are Saying
“Every athlete in America should see this film”, said Bob Ferraro of the National High School Coaches Association. While UFC Champion and Olympic Wrestling Champion Henry Cejudo says “Wrestlers across the country will enjoy this film”
Coming off the heels of a successful film festival run, Beyond the Mat has garnered much success as an official selection of the prestigious Tribeca Film Festivals All Access program, winning Best Sports Film at the Canada International Film Festival and the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival. As the opening night film of the Vietnamese International Film Festival, the film received much praise and was followed up by a screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
A Cast Featuring Lords in the Ring
These days, the web buzz around Beyond the Mat, the high school wrestling drama is steadily building into the roar of the crowd as the film is granted some extra heft from pro wrestlers Kurt Angle and Ken Shamrock. The Olympic Gold medalist and UFC champion, respectively, appear in pivotal scenes in the indie pic based on the Tribeca fest-winning screenplay.
Angle, a six-time WWF champ and TNA Triple Crown winner, portrays a menacing coach to Dominic, the sinister opponent of our unlikely hero, Aaron (Wynn), whose pursuit of the ring is nearly derailed by his Hamlet-like quest to find himself while avenging a long-standing grudge.
Shamrock, a UFC Hall of Famer and four-time UFC Heavyweight Champion, who has headlined more than 15 main events in the UFC and Pride Championships, may be slightly overqualified for his role as an exuberant color commentator in Beyond the Mat’s key wrestling scenes, but his presence, and Angle’s, underscore the filmmakers’ commitment to tapping real-world wrestling sensibilities.
To further burnish the film’s sports-world credibility, the film has secured the talents of editor Scott Conrad, best known for his masterful, Oscar-winning cut of Rocky, everyone’s favorite rags-to-riches-in-the-ring tale.
Made by Wrestlers for Wrestlers
This project is made for wrestlers by wrestlers. Beyond the Mat producer Henry K. Priest was a high school and college wrestler; a high school, youth and girls wrestling coach in Southern California. Priest started his career in entertainment as an actor in Walt Disneys made for cable wrestling movie titled Spooner, in 1989. Since then has been an advocate for the sport in Hollywood for over 30 years and has written, directed, produced and consultant for projects representing the sport. Some of his projects include commercials for Nike and ADIDAS, feature films such as Legendary, starring John Cena and the documentary Veritas about Le High Valley phenom John Trenge, among others. Beyond the Mat scribe, Erik Martinez, wrestled at Arvin High School in Bakersfield while director Van M. Pham wrestled in high school in Seattle, Washington. In addition, lead actor John Wynn and actors Jerry Zataran and Jonathan Kowalsky (Dominic) wrestled as well.
What’s more, the film has already garnered endorsements from the National High School Coaches Association, USA Wrestling, the governing body of the US Olympic Wrestling Team., Beat the Streets, the National Wrestling Coaches Association, the Children's Age Group Wrestling Association in Southern California, Takedown Wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment as well as the wrestling community at large.
A portion of the proceeds will be donated to local high school wrestling teams. If your team would like to host a fundraiser please contact us.
Where to see Beyond the Mat
1000 California Ave, Bakersfield, CA 93304
February 23rd - 27th
Showtimes: 1:20pm, 4:20pm and 7:00pm
Red carpet arrivals everyday at 6:30pm
The indie film friendly cinema is within one block of Mechanics Bank Arena which will be hosting the California High School State Wrestling Championships at the same time. For tickets and screening times visit www.BeyondTheMatFilm.com