The Smoker


a short film by Alexa Economacos

Celeste and her best friends vacation on a Greek island post-college graduation. Grappling with her virginity as a love triangle fractures the group, Celeste becomes increasingly fixated on an elderly local woman.

Celeste’s journey – navigating obsession, heartbreak, fleeting friendships – explores the nuanced contours of female desire and identity. Her story highlights the liminal and emotionally volatile period between childhood and adulthood, allowing a wide audience to see themselves reflected in this film.

Our film explores the nuanced contours of female desire, friendship, and identity, combined with universal themes – unrequited love, feeling othered, the pressure to conform, and fleeting relationships. Our core team of POC women brings varied personal connections to the central storyline and a shared interest in unraveling socially ingrained notions – that a woman’s worth can be distilled to her physicality and sexuality, or that losing her virginity makes her a fully realized being. We want to expand the coming-of-age genre through a layered, specific lens in the context of universal themes.

The ultimate goal is to shop the completed short film to producers as a proof-of-concept for the feature script, which Alexa has already written and plans to direct.


THE SMOKER begins with 22-year-old Celeste, on a post-college graduation trip with her three best friends on a Greek island. Despite this dream holiday, Celeste feels ill at ease: she’s the only virgin, and also the only one without a concrete direction for her impending adult life. She secretly hopes that she’ll lose her virginity to her longtime crush Miles, but he continuously misleads her. Or is she just reading into everything? While her friends nonchalantly bask in the sun, Celeste becomes increasingly fixated on an elderly local woman who lurks on the beach they frequent, chain-smoking cigarettes.

This anonymous woman, referred to only as The Smoker, intrigues and disturbs Celeste. Her solitary presence is a manifestation of Celeste’s greatest fear – ending up alone and forgotten. Celeste doesn’t want her identity reduced to her physicality, but ironically, that is precisely the barometer by which she judges the Smoker.

Over the course of the film, Celeste stumbles her way through heartbreak to a glimmer of communion… just not with the person she expected. As her friends drift apart and reveal new versions of themselves, Celeste begins to see the world and herself in a different light.

Themes & Personal Connection

We want to illuminate “late” coming-of-age stories not often portrayed onscreen, those that lie somewhere in between the typical high school discovery or midlife crisis narratives. Emotional upheaval can come at so many different stages of life; you think it’s behind you, that you’ve grown up, until you reach a new turning point and suddenly you are unmoored again. We are always coming of age.

While THE SMOKER is inspired by our director’s experiences as a young woman navigating selfhood, the film explores universal angst inherent in the transition from childhood to adulthood, and the pressure, insecurities, and comparison that come with that period. We believe a wide audience will relate to these various shades of malaise, from debilitating infatuation to the betrayals and disappointments of close friendships turned fragile (particularly the prickly undercurrents of female friendship, affection and envy coalescing).

Celeste is a specifically rendered character driven by thinly masked fear. She is afraid her friend group will dissipate in the rhythms of adulthood, that Miles will reject her, that nobody will truly understand or love her. Both her fixations – on Miles and the Smoker – are borne of fear. She doesn’t know herself or what she wants, so clinging to idealized versions of people and scenarios is easier than really living. Celeste operates according to arbitrary moral standards, but also stokes an inner romanticism that rails against those rules. Her journey is finding a balance between these opposing pulls and ultimately trusting herself.

This film presents an outsider duality: Celeste and the Smoker are two sides of the same coin, even though Celeste appears to be part of a collective. Ironically, she ends up feeling more seen by a complete stranger than by her closest friends – a realistic theme that we hope to showcase with tenderness.

The story interrogates ageist and sexist norms via the Smoker’s character: her presence provokes judgment from Celeste and her friends, who unintentionally fuel flawed societal standards by viewing her as discarded, undesirable. She is both a symbol of Celeste’s fears and a direct rebuttal to the expectations that mold them. The Smoker lives her solitary life without shame, and this freedom gives Celeste permission to pursue the same for herself.

We hope viewers of all ages will see themselves reflected in this specific period of upheaval, whether through an immediate or nostalgic lens.

Setting & Visual Language

Setting: Syros, Greece. Writer-director Alexa has spent every summer visiting her family on the island since she was born, so she has a deep familiarity with shooting locations and strong ties to the local community.

The atmosphere we will cultivate in THE SMOKER is one of quiet yearning, layering tension and meaning so the mundane becomes momentous.

Visual and tonal references include Luca Guadagnino’s A BIGGER SPLASH and CALL ME BY YOUR NAME; Molly Manning Walker’s HOW TO HAVE SEX; and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s THE LOST DAUGHTER. There is a marriage of rawness and dreaminess in these directors’ visual styles that we will emulate through the physical setting, scene rhythm, and camera work. We will shoot mostly handheld in natural light, with tight shots to magnify tiny details—a glance, a passing touch, a knowing smile – so we can feel Celeste’s emotions pulsing.

This is a slice-of-life narrative in uncertain paradise, straddling realism and escapism. By the film’s conclusion, Celeste has begun to taste freedom from her own impossible expectations, yet the future’s ambiguity remains. It’s bittersweet but hopeful. Stylistically, the island of Syros helps convey this sentiment: it is both majestic and intimate, with dreamy golden light and viscerally dry mountains. The island is at once surreal and rugged, mirroring the characters’ bliss suspended in the looming threat of adulthood. And its beauty is a pointed contrast to Celeste’s inner turmoil.

Timeline & Budget

June-August 2024: Fundraising; casting; locking local crew

September 2024: Production in Syros, Greece (3-day shoot, plus 2 travel days)

Fall 2024: Post-production; submit to Festivals

2025: Festival premieres; shop feature script and completed short to financiers

We are currently in the midst of casting a mix of American and European talent. Additionally, we are in talks with various equipment rental houses in Athens; close to locking our local production crew in Greece; and have already committed to an established Greek insurance company with a roster of high-budget feature films. We are working to raise $30,000. This goal will cover production costs (cast & crew wages, lodging, travel, food, equipment rental, insurance) and post-production (editing, color correction, sound mix, original score) to complete the film by the end of 2024. This will allow us to submit the finished film to the 2025 Festival circuit. We have gained incredible knowledge and contacts through our combined work at Sundance, so we are in a unique position to make real noise at renowned Festivals.

Following the film’s world premiere (projected: winter or spring 2025), we’ll be able to share the private link with our generous donors and plan private in-person screenings!

Even if you cannot make a financial donation, we would greatly appreciate other forms of support:

  • Emailing this page to a few friends,
  • Giving us a follow or shoutout on social media (@smokerfilm on Instagram),
  • Facilitating introductions to potential funders or collaborators,
  • Or offering in-kind donations! I.e., food, costumes, etc.

Thank you for coming on this journey with us!


We all bring aligned strengths to executing this vision, sharing similar approaches to character-driven story development. We became connected by the Sundance community and aim to practice its artist-forward ethos by collaborating with like-minded, generous creatives.

Alexa Economacos headshotAlexa Economacos: Writer, Director & Producer
Alexa Economacos is a Greek-Ecuadorian screenwriter, author, and filmmaker from Miami, Florida. She earned her BA in Creative Writing and Political Science from Columbia University and the London School of Economics. Her short fiction has been published in Joyland Magazine and The Rumpus; ‘Infatuation,’ her debut story, was nominated for the 2019 PEN/Robert J. Dau Prize for Emerging Writers. Her nonfiction has been published in The Miami Native. She has previously worked in development at Nine Stories Productions; as a research consultant for Apple TV’s Untitled Damien Chazelle series; and assisted in the TV Literary department at UTA, leading Alexa to her current role co-running the Sundance Institute’s Episodic Program, where she discovers and cultivates the most promising new voices in episodic storytelling. Repped by Circle Management & Production for film/TV.


Monique Avila: Producer

Monique Avila headshot

is a Mexican-American producer from Los Angeles. She currently manages the Sundance Institute’s Catalyst Program, the institute’s film financing lab that aims to build a culture of partnership between independent investors and filmmakers; to unlock funding for ambitious new independent films; and to engage our community in supporting the independent film ecosystem. She produces the annual Catalyst Forum, the program’s premiere pitch event, and prepares Catalyst filmmakers to present their projects for production financing. Previously, for three years she helped bring filmmaking to underserved classrooms throughout California via the Youth Cinema Project, resulting in hundreds of completed shorts that premiered at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. She is passionate about the power of story, and dedicated to contributing to the sustainable evolution of independent film.


Jess Dela Merced headshotJess Dela Merced: Director of Photography
Jess Dela Merced is a Filipina American filmmaker from San Francisco. A Sundance Episodic Lab fellow and grant recipient, Jess most recently wrote a feature comedy for Sony with Brendan O’Brien. Jess was a director in the Disney ABC directing program and one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. Her last short film PHONY was executive produced by Paul Feig. Her short WAIT ‘TIL THE WOLVES MAKE NICE premiered at the SXSW Film Festival. Her feature script CHICKENSHIT is a San Francisco Film grant recipient, a Hamptons Screenwriters Lab participant, and a Breaking Through the Lens participant at Cannes. She is currently working on her feature directorial debut SPARES, starring Dolly de Leon and hosts THE METER, a game show podcast based on the IMDb Starmeter.


Naomi Ko headshotNaomi Ko: Consulting Producer
Naomi Ko is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, performer, and cultural producer. She was born and raised in Minnesota to immigrant parents from South Korea, making her at once the most truculent and most passive person in any room. Her pilot presentation, NICE, which she wrote and starred in, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival. Her work has been developed by Warner Bros. Stage 13 and has received support from the McKnight Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and more. She is also a Moth Storyslam winner, was a featured performer for Mortified, and writes and acts in theater. Naomi formerly worked for the state government in voting rights and outreach. She currently works with Minnesota state representatives and agencies to provide arts access and economic development opportunities for underrepresented communities. She is also a founding member of Funny Asian Women Kollective, a group that uses comedy to combat the invisibility and dehumanization of Asian women. Some fun facts: Naomi used to ghostwrite romance novels in college, is an avid baseball fan, and loves to fly fish. Learn more about Naomi at