Thomas More University student Paige Leigh Landers stars in “The Starling Girl,“ a film that has been selected for the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.


CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. (Jan. 26, 2023) — “The Starling Girl,” a film featuring Thomas More University student Paige Leigh Landers, has been selected for inclusion in the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, running January 19-29. The prestigious, 44-year-old film festival is an annual gathering that brings together storytellers and audiences for dramatic and documentary features, short films, and episodic content. The festival also hosts daily filmmaker conversations, panel discussions, and other related events at its Park City, Utah location.

Landers, a Villa Hills native, portrays Kelsey, a “mean girl” in the dance troupe who bullies the film’s protagonist. Landers’ talent shines beyond her acting, as she also choreographed all of the dance scenes that the troupe performs in the film. “Overall, this has been such a great experience,” Landers recalls, “from the very first audition, to going to see the film at Sundance. I learned so much throughout the process, and I cannot wait for everyone to see it!”

The Thomas More community came together to support Landers and celebrate her success. Two anonymous faculty members quickly acted to ensure Landers had the resources needed to attend the film festival. Rebecca W. Bilbo, Ph.D., chair of the Creative Media department, purchased a ticket so that the Thomas More community could participate in the film’s virtual screening on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. “As someone who has covered Sundance for a dozen years,” says Stephen Oldfield, assistant professor of creative media, “I can tell you, this is huge, potentially life changing, and will put Paige on a new and very big stage.”

Landers credits her time as a student at Thomas More in helping her prepare for her acting career. “My classes taught me how to develop a character and to step out of my comfort zone as an actress,” says Landers. “I have also learned important communication and networking skills that helped me in getting the role.” After graduating, Landers plans to apply to acting schools in Europe.

“The Starling Girl” focuses on seventeen-year-old Jem Starling, who struggles to define her place within her fundamentalist Christian community in rural Kentucky (also the filming location). Even her greatest joy, the church dance group, is tempered by worry that her love of dance is actually sinful, and she’s caught between a burgeoning awareness of her own sexuality and an instinctive resistance to her mother’s insistence that the time has come to begin courting.

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About Thomas More University

For 100 years, Thomas More has created a university for the student who wants to Be More, Do More, Seek More, Win More, Achieve More, and Create More. Since its founding in 1921, Thomas More has provided a mission-driven, liberal arts education that is based in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. Students learn to harness the power of human reason to solve problems and discover truth, which allows them to begin the journey to become the person they were created to be. Entering into the second century, it’s time for More. Serving more than 2,000 students, Thomas More aspires to be the premier Catholic university in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region, build upon its excellent return on investment (ranked #1 among private universities/colleges in Kentucky by MSN Money in 2021 and ranked #2 for long term gain in Kentucky by a 2022 Georgetown University study) and share with this generation the transformative power of the Thomas More experience. To find out more, visit

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