• A Film by Shira Levin


  • Starfish

    The Film

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    What is Starfish?

    This is a female driven independent film about grief, healing, family, friendship and the strong bond between dogs and humans.

    STORY: Lily, a librarian and artist in a small seaside town, is struggling with intense feelings of grief over the recent death of her dog, and of her father three years earlier. Unexpectedly, her estranged sister calls to ask Lily to watch her teenage daughter for a couple of weeks. She won't say why.


    This sets in motion a turn of events, including an unavoidable confrontation between the sisters, the loss of a close friend, a bond between niece and aunt, a hint of love, and the stirring up of many emotions that require Lily to open her heart and re-engage with life.


    With humor and poignancy, this universal story is told against a backdrop of water, plants and animals, which highlights the interconnected aspects of loss, healing and the cycle of life.


    INSPIRATION FOR STORY: An inspiration for this film was my love for my dogs Boo and Tyler (a rescue), and the intense grief I experienced after Tyler's death. The loss of loved ones - humans or animals - is what we all experience at some point in our lives. This story explores the often-ignored emotions related to grief and the process of healing. It also addresses the importance of connection and relationships, the conflicts and joys inherent to both.


    As a woman filmmaker, it is important to me to create stories that contain female characters of all ages. I am personally drawn to stories that reflect the human experience, large or small. In a world that appears to be increasingly hostile, disconnected and fearful, I believe stories that appeal to our innate humanity are essential.

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    The film was shot primarily in Westbrook, CT, a small shore line town. Our 19 day schedule included 3 days in the NYC area. Post-production was completed towards the end of 2017 in New York City.

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    After a festival run across the country and an Audience Choice Award, STARFISH can now be seen on the independent film subscription site, INDIEFLIX. It is a great place for indie filmmakers and for lovers of indie films. Check it out. https://watch.indieflix.com/starfish/videos/starfish


    A two minute glimpse into Starfish

  • Audience Comments

    What people are saying


    "I loved the sense of being inside Lily’s life, with all its sorrows and small comforts. Several times I teared up, and I laughed out loud at Joan’s sister and brother-in-law, who were perfect—in fact I swear they weren’t acting at all, which is the best compliment anyone can give an actor. But all the actors were convincing, and very aptly cast.

    What made the movie a special pleasure is that there was not one moment of “exposition,” as the English teachers call it. I felt I was meeting these people and gradually finding out their histories without having them stop what they were doing to laboriously explain, which is exactly what happens when you meet new people in real life.

    Anne Tyler (author)



    "I REALLY liked the film!! I am truly impressed. Very well done, sensitive, emotional, great writing and acting — and directing."

    J. Dachs


    "Several scenes made me tear up, and the overall message of loss and healing and hope is beautiful."

    R. VanWagtendonk



    "I LOVED your film. You have a real gift (saw it in all three of your shorts and in your feature) to start your story very slowly and draw us in as an audience without us even being aware of it... You feel unsure what the film is about or what the conflict really is except perhaps this great character study and then suddenly WHAM! It’s funny! It’s moving! It’s surprising!! It all comes together.. just beautifully.
    It was shot beautifully- loved the beachy look and feel of so much of it. You could almost smell the salt water. And the acting was really strong... Has some wonderfully funny moments... And then I was very moved at the end. In a way that I didn’t think I would be. Loved the music as well. "
    J. Russell

    "What a sensitive, beautifully constructed film you have created."
    J. Greentree

    "When the movie started I prepared myself for grieving realism BUT found myself in the middle of a Murakami story where the pacing and the character unfolding lead to truths and possibilities... with each verbal or visual encounter layered on its predecessors, reaches emotional truths and offers the possibilities of healing and even some future joy."

    M. Wilson



    "What a pleasure it was to watch Starfish! It is beautifully acted, and shot in ways that both advance the story and give the actors the room and time they deserve. I take a parochial pleasure, too, in the film--it is rich in the themes we focus on as therapists: relationships, family, loss, mourning, growth, and regrowth. And of course dogs, who are central and sustaining to so many people's lives. The film's inclusion in festivals, and the award it won, are richly deserved. My congratulations to you, to your actors and crew and production team and backers, for this moving and involving film!

    D. Morrison




    "I REALLY liked the film!! I am truly impressed. Very well done, sensitive, emotional, great writing and acting — and directing."

    J. Dachs

    "I honestly was taken aback with the emotion I felt......could not speak right away...I didn't want to leave the place I was in..I was there with those people...felt very connected....had so many thoughts and feelings come up...thinking of losses in my life, how I've dealt,

    continue to deal, loving the friendship she had with her ... friend (Harry),
    relationship with her sister, or non relationship, re connecting with her niece,
    how that happened...there was not a second that I lost my connection. The dogs
    were great!! ...
    Great writing! Perfect casting.
    R. Madison

    "Very impressed by your film. I especially liked the ‘layers.’ What an accomplishment."
    M. Wurgaft

    "Yesterday I was fortunate to attend a screening of Starfish. I hope you find a home for your unique and ambitious film: Independent filmmaking can be exhaustive and sometimes it feels like you are invisible. But you took a very difficult subject and made it come alive. You rallied talented actors and a crew to make a compelling film. You are a good filmmaker, please keep making more."

    M. Jacobsohn

    "I thought the film had a lyrical vibe and it is full of heart . You have a nice touch."

    C. Campbell


    "This was superb—warm, taut, visually beautiful. . . brava!

    D. Levin-Becker





  • CAST

    Meet the actors

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    Margaret plays the lead in STARFISH.

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    Sophia plays Lily's niece, Chloe, in STARFISH.

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    Christopher plays Lily's close friend, Harry, in STARFISH.

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    Linnette plays Lily's sister, Eva, in STARFISH.

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    Pascal plays Fig in STARFISH.

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    Lois plays Lily's step-mother, Joan, in STARFISH.

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    Judith plays Joan's sister, Barb, in STARFISH.

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    Lew plays Barb's husband, Bill, in STARFISH.

  • Film Festivals

    Where Starfish Has Been Seen

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    Chain NYC Film Festival

    August 2018

    Starfish had its New York City premiere on August 15, 2018 at the Chain NYC Film Festival.

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    La Femme Film Festival

    October 12, 2018

    Starfish screened October 12, 2018 in Los Angeles, CA, as part of La Femme Film Festival.

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    Mystic Film Festival

    October 18, 2018

    Starfish was the opening night film of the Mystic Film Festival in Mystic, CT, on October 18, 2018.

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    Black Bear Film Festival

    October 21, 2018

    Starfish screened at the 19th Black Bear Film Festival in Milford, PA, on Sunday October 21, 2018. Following screening, author and film historian John DiLeo, interviewed director Shira Levin.

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    Mystic Film Festival Opening Night

    October 18, 2018

    The leading ladies of Starfish at the red carpet event at Mystic Film Festival... Margaret Curry (center), Linnette Roe (left), Sophia Colon Roosevelt (right)

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    Mystic Film Festival Closing Night Ceremony

    October 21, 2018

    Starfish wins an AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD. Shira Levin, writer/director receives it on stage at the Mystic Luxury Cinema.

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    Veritas Film Festival

    November 9, 2018

    Starfish will screen at the Veritas Film Festival in PA.

  • Who We Are

    Meet the team

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    Shira Levin

    Writer / Director

    Shira is a native New Yorker. Originally an actress, she segued into

    writing screenplays. Her first script, an adaptation of Anne Tyler’s first novel,

    If Morning Ever Comes,” was later optioned and developed by American Playhouse. Another adaptation, a novella of “Lipstick on the Host,” by Irish author Aidan Mathews, was optioned and put into development by World 2000.


    For six years, Shira was Director of Development for Martin Scorsese's company, Cappa Productions. During that time Shira was Script Consultant and Associate Producer on two feature films: "Brides" (Dir. Pantelis Voulgaris, w/Damian Lewis, Executive Producer Martin Scorsese) and "Deuces Wild" (MGM/UA). Prior to that, Shira worked at Universal Pictures (NY) for two years as assistant to the VP Production and managed the story department.


    In 2012, Shira wrote and directed her first short film, LAST DAY. This turned out to be the first of a trilogy, which includes OLD JUNK (2013) and UPSIDE DOWN (2014). Her other short films are UPROOTED (2014) and WALKIN' (2014).

    STARFISH is her first feature film.

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    Caroline Mariko Stucky

    Director of Photography

    Caroline Mariko Stucky is an award winning independent filmmaker

    with a fierce passion for American culture. For Caroline, film, the world of the image,

    is the ultimate language that trumps the whirling kaleidoscope of spoken

    languages of her childhood.


    Her work as a Director of Photography include "Hemingway’s Homage to Switzerland" (2012), "The Perfect Bunny"* (2013), "Old Junk" (2013), "Upside Down" (2014), "Benighted" (2015), "Only a Dream" (2016) and "The Letter" (2016).



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    James Kwei

    Producer, Creative Consultant

    BFA in film production from Brooklyn College. Mr. Kwei has extensive experience in film production and post production, including: GOODFELLAS, CASINO, GRACE OF MY HEART, KUNDUN, GANGS OF NEW YORK; HBO Series OZ, CBS' QUEENS SUPREME; independent films: IRON & SILK, COMBINATION PLATTER, PRIME GIG, as well as industrials, commercials and music videos. Producer of Shira Levin's short film trilogy: LAST DAY, OLD JUNK and UPSIDE DOWN.

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    Natalie Kyoko Allante

    Production Coordinator


    Natalie graduated with a bachelors of art (Honors) in Film and Literature at the University of Warwick in England. She then went on to study film production at the New York Film Academy. Since living in New York she has involved herself in projects with a social involvement and she is excited to work as a Production Coordinator on Starfish.

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    Michael Sui

    Costume Designer

    Originally from Baltimore, Maryland and currently living and designing in New York City, Michael studied at Parsons School of Design in NY earning a degree in Fashion Design. Upon graduation Michael worked with several Seventh Avenue design companies: Anne Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Donna Karan ( DKNY). Recently Michael has transitioned into the world of costume design and loves the challenge of both live theatre and film. His latest film project (The Hard Candy Kid) is now in post production.

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    Alia Azamat

    PR Manager/Script Supervisor

    Originally a popular Poet from Russia, Alia came to New York three years ago to start her career in film. She graduated from the Screenwriting Program at the New York Film Academy and currently works as a Writer, Script Doctor and Script Supervisor. Using her vast experience in political and commercial PR, Alia is helping Starfish Films in its fundraising campaign and will be working as a Script Supervisor on the shoot of Starfish.


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    Kay Cunningham

    Hair & Makeup Artist

    Originally from Jamaica, where she first studied Art & Fashion, Kay then lived in London for many years. Since 2015, she has been in NYC.

    Kay managed Retail Beauty for 11 years before becoming a freelance artist.

    Kay has worked for such top Luxury brands as Versace, Dolce & Gabanna, Moschino, Guerlain, Prescriptives, Trish McEvoy & more. As a freelance artist,

    Kay worked on long and short films, documentaries, music videos,

    many stills for look books and editorial, Brides, TV host

    and Radio Personalities, Campaigns, Fashion Shows and other events.

    Kay writes for a Caribbean Magazine as Beauty & Fashion Editor (www.l3magine.com). This is Kay’s debut as Key Makeup Artist & Hair Stylist

    in an American Feature Film.

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    Ibai Vigil-Escalera

    Gaffer, A.C.


    Ibai Vigil-Escalera, originally from Zarautz, Spain, is a New York based filmmaker. His first film, a short documentary, “Mama Please Forgive Me” (2014), has screened at more than 37 film festivals around the world and won multiple awards between 2014-2016. Since completing that project, Ibai continues to work on independent films.

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