YouTube star Meghan Rienks has always been a fan of high-school movies, but when she was a teen, it seemed they all centered around male characters.
“I always found that boys got young coming-of-age movies, and girls got movies like Clueless, which I loved, but I didn’t really feel like we were seeing very real, honest people and female characters that weren’t just used to be sexy or to be love interest or things like that,” says Rienks. “I wanted something I would have really loved to watch at that age.” Her upcoming female-driven film The Honor List aims to be exactly that.
The film, part of Lionsgate’s digital slate, follows four girls: Piper (Rienks), Isabella (Sasha Pieterse), Sophie (Karreuche Tran), and Honor (Arden Cho). Previously best friends, now in the summer before their senior year of high school, they barely speak to each other. When Honor suddenly dies, the friends reunite to complete a forgotten bucket list they made freshman year. Studio L is distributing on digital, on demand, and DVD.
Written by Marilyn Fu, the film is from a story by Rienks, based on her own life and a list she made with her best friend freshman year of high school. “We did one thing – we stayed up and watched the sunrise. That was the only thing we accomplished,” Rienks tells EW. “We then lost the list and never did anything else from it, but I always thought back to that.”
In The Honor List trailer, we see a bucket list that includes doing an open mic night, revenge for something called “the jiggle test,” and more. “I love movies that have a list of things to accomplish, and that really forces a character to travel and to move around the space and to do things they wouldn’t necessarily,” Rienks says. “It makes the stakes higher because you end up doing more ridiculous or outrageous things.”
While some of the bucket list items might be silly, Rienks says they were all conceived with the aim of giving the characters a reason to grow. “Everyone’s kind of learning and tackling different things, so even the stuff that started off as kind of silly, we’re able to see that it’s put each of the girls out of their comfort zone and really grows them up and bonds them closer together,” she notes.
More importantly, though, Rienks wanted young women to have something relatable to watch. Rienks says she remembers feeling frustrated as a teen when her feelings would be dismissed because of her age. “Adults in general really dismiss the feelings of being a teenager as being hormonal or something you’ll grow out of, which is this concept I always really, really hated,” she says. “So I really wanted to validate those young people’s feelings, and that was really our goal with the movie is not to write anything off for being young. Because young people deal with the same amount of stuff as older people do, and sometimes they deal with it better, sometimes they deal with it worse, but we just got to give that a voice.”
Watch the trailer above for more. The Honor List is available on digital and on demand May 11 and on DVD May 15.