Exclusive Clip: Laurel Parmet’s The Starling Girl
Filmmaker is happy to share an exclusive clip of writer-director Laurel Parmet’s feature debut The Starling Girl ahead of its limited release next week. In the two-minute long film excerpt, 17-year-old Jem Starling (Eliza Scanlen) interacts with her father Paul (Jimmi Simpson). As he leaves the room after their chat, he says, “Do not tell your mama,” exiting with an emphatic “Shh.” Jem then checks a mug he was using out of curiosity.
As a teenage girl living in a Christian fundamentalist community in rural Kentucky, Jem has never felt that she truly fit in. Through an escalating bond with married 20-something youth pastor Owen (Lewis Pullman), Jem finally begins to feel like she’s connected with someone who understands her. When the community begins to suspect that something is going on between the two, however, it’s clear that one of them will suffer disproportionate consequences.
The Starling Girl premiered at Sundance earlier this year, and contributor Erik Luers interviewed Parmet and the film’s producer Kara Durrett shortly before it screened in Utah (and virtually). During the interview, Parmet shed some insight on the in-depth research and self-reflection she conducted during the film’s early stages of production.
In terms of my personal connection to the story, I first became interested in the world of Christian fundamentalist communities while I was in Oklahoma doing research for a different project. I was attending a lot of rodeos, met a group of women from a patriarchal fundamentalist church and became interested in their beliefs, even if I didn’t necessarily know I wanted to make a film set in that world. I spent some time with these women, went to their church and soon learned that they believed that their desires were sinful. There was a woman in their church who had had an affair with a church authority member and she received the blame instead of him. When I first heard these stories, I was like, “Their world is so backwards. I’m so glad that my life’s not like this.” But the more I thought about it, the more I saw how much we actually had in common, in terms of how we grew up, our relationships with our bodies and what society teaches us to feel about our desires.
When I was a teenager, I had a relationship with a much older man. I didn’t feel like a victim at all. However, after the relationship ended, I felt a lot of guilt and like I had been a slut. I had actively pursued this guy, but I pushed those feelings down for years [after]. So when I was spending time with these women [in Oklahoma], it was a critical turning point and made me think about my relationship in ways I hadn’t before. I started to recognize the guilt that I had (and began wondering why I had it), despite the fact that this guy had taken advantage of me. These feelings of sexual shame, guilt and pursuing self-worth in men’s approval are really universal feelings for women, no matter how you grew up. I then decided that I wanted to tell a story looking back at my experience and set it in a world that, while extreme and specific, has so much in common with the culture at large.
The Starling Girl will release in select theaters on May 12 via Bleecker Street.