Sundance: ‘The Starling Girl’ Sells to Bleecker Street (EXCLUSIVE)

The Starling Girl
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Bleecker Street has acquired Laurel Parmet’s feature directorial debut “The Starling Girl,” which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Last November, Parmet was named one of Variety‘s 10 Directors to Watch for 2023.

Bleecker Street will release the film theatrically later this year. The deal is for North American rights.

The drama follows 17-year-old Jem Starling (Eliza Scanlen), who struggles to find her place in the fundamentalist Christian community that raised her. According to the film’s official synopsis, “even her greatest joy — the church dance group — is tempered by worry that her love of dance is actually sinful, and she’s caught between a burgeoning awareness of her own sexuality and an instinctive resistance to her mom’s insistence that the time has come to begin courting. She finds respite from her confusion in the encouragement of her youth pastor Owen (Lewis Pullman), who is likewise drawn to the blossoming Jem’s attention.”

The film was a hit with critics. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich described the film as a “sensitive and devilishly detailed coming-of-age drama,” while the Guardian’s Adrian Horton praised Scanlen, writing that she “steals the spotlight.”

In addition to Scanlen (“Sharp Objects”) and Pullman (“Top Gun: Maverick”), “The Starling Girl” stars Jimmi Simpson (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), Wrenn Schmidt (“Nope”) and Austin Abrams (“Paper Towns). Parmet both directed and wrote the film.

“The Starling Girl” joins a slew of films that sold in a surprisingly healthy and varied Sundance sales market. Top sellers included “Fair Play,” an electric study on gender and status which went to Netflix, and “Flora and Son” at Apple. Both went for $20 million. Ira Sachs’s “Passages,” the satirical romp “Theater Camp,” and the towering family drama “A Little Prayer” all went for mid-to-low seven figures.

“The Starling Girl” is produced by Kevin Rowe and Kara Durrett. Executive Producers include Jessamine Burgum, Will Greenfield, Douglas Choi, Martina Bassenger, Chris Stolte, Heidi Stolte, William Reedy, Emily Reedy and David Hinojosa.

The deal was negotiated by Miranda King and Avy Eschenasy on behalf of Bleecker Street. UTA Independent Film Group and WME Independent represented the filmmakers.

In addition to “The Starling Girl,” Bleecker Street’s 2023 slate features Catherine Hardwicke’s “Mafia Mamma,” Alice Troughton’s “The Tutor,” as well as Meg Ryan’s first feature film in eight years, “What Happens Later.” The company will also debut Guy Nattiv’s “Golda” starring Helen Mirren as former prime minister of Israel Gold Meir in Berlinale this month.

Ellise Shafer contributed to this report.