Fourth-quarter release set for film starring Evan Sneider, actor with Down syndrome
EXCLUSIVE: In a deal set in motion after the film’s well-received screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival, Hannover House has acquired the North American rights to “Girlfriend,” an indie drama written and directed by Justin Lerner.
The film stars Evan Sneider (left), an actor with Down syndrome who plays a young man who comes into money and uses it to romance the girl he’s had a crush on since high school. Sneider’s co-stars include Shannon Woodward (“Raising Hope”), Jackson Rathbone (“The Twilight Saga”) and Amanda Plummer.
Hannover House plans to release “Girlfriend” before the end of the year.
Interest in the film picked up after its screenings in the Discovery section of the Toronto festival, particularly two sold-out public screenings that were followed by enthusiastic Q&A sessions involving Lerner, Sneider and other cast members.
The deal is believed to be in the mid-to-upper six figures.
“I was already very grateful to come away from my first TIFF with the amazing reaction we got from audiences there,” Lerner said in a statement. “To have a distribution deal is icing on the cake.”
Added Hannover House president Fred Shefte, “We see in ‘Girlfriend’ a groundbreaking story told with skill and sensitivity. This is also a movie that comes with layers of identifiable audiences, one of which has, until now, never properly been represented on the big screen.”
“Girlfriend,” Lerner’s feature debut, was produced by the Beverly Hills-based Wayne/Lauren Film Company in association with PatchMo Entertainment. “We look forward to sharing more adventures as ‘Girlfriend,’ now in the hands of a distributor who sees the same potential we do, continues to build and move audiences,” said Wayne/Lauren founders Jerad Anderson and Kristina Anderson.
According to Hannover, “Girlfriend” marks the first time that an actor with Down syndrome has been cast as a leading man in an American film.
Hannover House’s previous films as a distributor include the Joel Schumacher film “Twelve” and the controversial Dakota Fanning film “Hounddog.”
The deal came on the first anniversary of the film’s start of production. It was negotiated by Paradigm Motion Picture Finance Group and D. Frederick Shefte of Hannover House. Attorney Erin McPherson represented the filmmakers.