AUSTIN, Tx. — "Starlet," a new character-driven drama from indie-director Sean Baker ("Prince of Broadway," may have premiered this week at the South by Southwest festival to favorable reviews, but industry pundits are predicting a hard sell for the Freestyle Picture Co. and Cre Film production.
Road blocking the film's path to easy distribution is an explicit sex scene featuring porn stars Manuel Ferrara and Zoe Voss that would, if left unedited, secure the film a dreaded NC-17 rating from the MPAA.
Set in the San Fernando Valley, "Starlet" examines the budding friendship between Sadie (Besedka Johnson), an elderly widow, and her unlikely new companion Jane (Dree Hemingway), an aimless 21-year-old just breaking into adult.
While the film doesn't focus on Jane's X-rated career, it does eventually arrive at a scene in which she is seen having sex with Ferrara during a porn shoot.
That scene, according to early reviews, graphically depicts oral sex and penetration between Ferrara and Voss, who steps in as Hemingway's body-double. "I'm not concerned about it," Baker told the LA Times' 24 Frames blog. "We obviously know this film will be either unrated or NC-17. There's no way around it. This is how I see it -- the film is for adults, made for adults.
"The state of independent film now anyway, you're going to play a few theaters in the major cities and then do well on [video on demand]," Baker continued. "If anything I could see this only enhancing that. This might even be a film people would be more comfortable watching at home, even though I would love people to see it on the big screen."
"Starlet" plays again at SXSW on Thursday at the Alamo Lamar C.