Making her first feature with the atypical romantic comedy The New Romantic, writer/director Carly Stone brought the film to this year’s SXSW Film Festival, joining stars Jessica Barden (a breakout talent of recent vintage with Netflix series The End of the F***ing World), Hayley Law and Brett Dier at Deadline’s Studio to discuss the film.

Pic centers on Blake (Barden), a young woman who, frustrated with a lack of chivalry among guys her own age, turns to life as a sugar baby, dating an older man and receiving gifts in return. For Stone, the intention setting out with the film wasn’t necessarily based around the specifics of the narrative, but rather, a desire to spotlight a certain kind of female protagonist. “I love telling stories about women who are unapologetically making bold choices,” the director said. “That’s kind of how the story took off, from that jumping point.”

With projects like The End of the F***ing World and The New Romantic, Barden has pursued her work with a similar mission in mind. “The insecurity within [Blake], and also the confidence, the mix of that was the type of female character that I wanted to be portraying. It’s something that I try to find in all the roles I choose, where you’re not just seeing one dimension,” the actress shared. “People like to simplify female characters because I think there’s a lot of intricacies to being a woman…I thought that Carly did a brilliant job of making a whole woman, with lots of negatives, but also lots of positives.”

For Barden and her co-stars, the material at hand was immediately relatable. “Obviously, I’ve never been a sugar baby, but I date, and I’m interested in how I come across to men or to women,” she explained. “The thing that I related to the most in Blake was swinging from knowing exactly what I want to do with my life to then feeling completely hopeless and desolate, because I’ve got no idea what I’m doing.”

“I just really liked the script, and I liked Carly. I tried not to get attached to this script because I get really sad when I don’t get things,” Law added. “But I kept thinking about this one, so I’m glad that I got to do it.”

To hear more from Deadline’s conversation with the New Romantic stars and their director, click above.

The Deadline Studio at SXSW 2018 is presented by MoviePass.