A quartet of social-media stars — Meghan Rienks, Sasha Pieterse, Arden Cho and Karrueche Tran — will topline Lionsgate Digital Studios’ “Honored,” a high-school buddy comedy revolving around childhood BFFs.
All four have sizable online followings, and Lionsgate is banking on that collective fanbase to provide ongoing promotion for the project — the latest in the “influencer driven” movie trend. Rienks (pictured above; Hulu’s “Freakish,” Go90’s “Mr. Student Body President”), Cho (“Teen Wolf”) and Tran Tran (“CLAWS,” “The Bay”) are popular YouTube personalities. Pieterse (“Pretty Little Liars,” “Inherent Vice”) has 7.2 million Instagram followers and nearly 2 million on Twitter.
“Honored” will be executive produced by Zoe, Cisely and Mariel Saldana’s Cinestar Pictures — the first feature film from the sisters’ banner — and Untitled Entertainment’s Kendall Rhodes and Jason Newman in association with Popsugar Films. The film is being produced by Liz Destro of Destro Films (“The Little Hours,” “Joshy”), while Jordan Gilbert and Lindsay Gomez are the creative executives for Lionsgate and Tom Huffman is the creative executive for Popsugar Films.
“It’s gratifying to be in the company of so many talented women on this project, another sign of female empowerment rising in Hollywood,” Zoe Saldana said in a statement.
The film’s cast also includes Lauren Weedman (“Looking,” “The Little Hours”), Graham Sibley (“Zombie Honeymoon,” “Dark/Web”), Ethan Peck (“The Curse of Sleeping Beauty,” “10 Things I Hate About You”) and Chris Mason (“Broadchurch”).
“Honored” will be directed by Australian filmmaker Elissa Down from a screenplay by Marilyn Fu (“The Sisterhood of Night”), with a story by Fu and Rienks. Down recently wrote and directed the seven-episode miniseries “Confess” for Awesomeness TV; her 2008 debut feature film, “The Black Balloon,” starring Rhys Wakefield, Luke Ford, Gemma Ward, Erik Thomson and Toni Collette, won the Berlin Film Festival’s Crystal Bear for best feature film.
Distribution deals for the film haven’t been set yet. “Honored” begins shooting this week in Los Angeles.
For Lionsgate, teaming with Popsugar, a digital lifestyle media company that claims to have an audience of 100 million women worldwide, was a logical fit for the female-focused movie.
“We are thrilled to be collaborating with this talented cast and filmmaking team, made up almost exclusively of women,” said Lionsgate’s Gomez. “Popsugar’s platform supporting empowerment and strong female representation aligns with our vision for this film. We look forward to working with this passionate group as we bring this script to life.”
In “Honored,” a falling out among four friends leads them grow apart. By senior year, Piper (Rienks) has turned into the class clown/party girl; Sophie (Tran) pledges to stay a virgin until she’s married and has created a purity app. Isabella (Pieterse) is the feminist femme fatale who’s a zine editor, and while Honor’s (Cho) dream of becoming a professional ballerina is taking off.
When tragedy strikes, the former BFFs reunite and carry out all the stunts from their eighth-grade list — from jailbreaking the school mascot to getting back at bitchy cheerleaders. The girls navigate body shaming, sex, and the high-school party culture, ultimately rediscovering their friendship even if it means saying goodbye forever to someone they love.
Meghan Rienks is repped by CAA and Untitled Entertainment. Sasha Pieterse is represented by WME and Untitled Entertainment. Karrueche Tran is represented by Paradigm Talent Agency and Electric Republic, and Arden Cho is represented by Pantheon Talent and Primary Wave Entertainment.
In addition, Elissa Down is represented by Verve Talent and Literary Agency. Lauren Weedman is represented by Rise Management; Graham Sibley is represented by Authentic Talent and Literary Management; Ethan Peck is represented by Untitled Entertainment; and Chris Mason is represented by UTA and 3 Arts Entertainment.
Untitled Entertainment’s deal was brokered by Glenn D. Feig of Reder and Feig, while Cinestar’s deal was brokered by Nick Gladden at Morris Yorn Barnes.