Sonía Sebastian directing LGBTQ+ coming-of-age story ‘The Kiss List’

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Megan Suri [Photo by Amir Shafii]

Award-winning “The Virgin of Highland Park” helmer Sonía Sebastian is directing the LGBTQ+ coming-of-age story “The Kiss List.”

Screenwriter Ximena García Lecuona adapted Sara Jo Cluff’s young-adult book of the same name. The movie wrapped filming earlier this month in and around Louisville, Kentucky.

“What attracted me about this project was the simple, punchy premise – a girl makes a list of the guys she wants to kiss,” said García Lecuona in a statement. “I took this idea and decided to make the protagonist bisexual instead, and have the list include more genders. Once you remove gender roles from the equation, what else changes? For example, it felt truer to my experience to write Camille as awkward and ingenious; she never gets the whole ‘love’ thing figured out. After all, in high school, who does?”

MarVista Entertainment developed the feature film under the direction of the company’s Head of Creative Affairs Hannah Pillemer from Cluff’s 2019 book from Monster Ivy Publishing, according to a news release.

“Cluff’s story has all the elements to translate into a compelling feature in the young adult space, including relationships, healthy boundaries, jealousy, revenge, forgiveness, and ultimately self-love,” said Pillemer in a statement.

“We have had a lot of success in the YA content market, and thoughtfully expanded the storyline to include LGBTQ+ representation. García Lecuona’s adaptation allows the characters to authentically grapple with their sexuality and sexual identity, as well as their peer and parent relationships.’”

The movie will star Megan Suri (“Never Have I Ever”), Parminder Nagra (“ER”), Emjay Anthony (“Bad Moms”) and Lachlan Watson (“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”).

The film follows high-school student Camille Collins, who finds herself in a social media spin-out after her crush, Dylan, spreads rumors that she’s a bad kisser. So, Camille creates a “kiss list” to prove Dylan wrong and find her one true love. Her plan derails early and often, with social media meltdowns and backlash from classmates, her best friend, Liam, and her single mom, who struggles with her daughter’s bisexuality.

MarVista tapped Oklahoma-based production company Red Clay Studios, which former Sony executive Cassidy Lunnen founded in 2021.

“‘The Kiss List’ is an approachable, coming-of-age story for a global audience and we have assembled a talented team of professionals, as diverse as our cast, to represent and shepherd this project,” said Lunnen in a statement. “Sonía brings a considerate consciousness to each of the characters, while encouraging cast and crew to collaborate toward a shared creative vision.”

Lunnen enlisted a diverse cast and crew led by Sebastian, whose other feature directorial credits include “Freelancers Anonymous” and “Girl Gets Girl.”

“Something that immediately attracted me to the film was the script; it was incredibly written,” said Sebastian in a statement. “The characters and story were so funny and had a lot of heart. With the protagonist being an openly queer teenager and her sexuality not being questioned by other students, the script also rang with tolerance and respect. Ultimately my purpose as a filmmaker is to tell stories that can open people’s minds and hearts. This film sends a beautifully positive message about the joy and openness that exists within the new generation.”

Nagra – known for her roles on NBC’s “ER” (1994), “The Blacklist” (2013), and “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002) – called “The Kiss List” a cute, funny coming-of-age story about “our own self-acceptance rather than seeking outside validation.”

“I don’t often get the chance to play many comedic roles, so it was nice to get the opportunity to stretch that muscle and play an American mom to an emerging talent that is Megan Suri,” Nagra said in a statement.

“The Kiss List” is part of a multi-picture deal between MarVista and Particular Crowd. MarVista will handle worldwide distribution. Executive Producers for MarVista include Neil Elman, Pillemer, Tony Vassiliadis and Fernando Szew. Executive Producers for Particular Crowd include Mariana Sanjurjo, Peter Bevan, and Tomas Yankelevich.

-BAM

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