Director Emma Seligman discusses the making of the comedy film Bottoms and its journey from page to screen.
Bottoms, a high school comedy film directed by Emma Seligman, is a refreshing take on the genre, featuring amoral and horny teen lesbians as its leads. Seligman, along with co-writer Rachel Sennott, embarked on a six-year journey to bring this unique story to life. Despite facing rejection from multiple studios, Bottoms finally found a home with Orion Pictures, a studio that understood and embraced its unconventional nature. In this article, Seligman shares insights into the making of Bottoms and the challenges she faced in bringing this comedy to the screen.
Staying True to the Absurdity
Seligman reveals that the concept for Bottoms remained largely unchanged from its inception to its final form. The film’s absurdity allowed it to exist in its own world, untethered to a specific era. The absence of technology and social media in the film was a deliberate choice to avoid dating the story and to prevent talking down to the audience. Seligman also wanted to incorporate queer characters into the different decades of teen movies, filling a gap in representation.
Drawing Inspiration from Queer Classics
While Seligman didn’t have specific references in mind initially, she and Sennott watched older queer classics like But I’m a Cheerleader and DEBS. These films served as inspiration for Bottoms, with a nod to But I’m a Cheerleader in the form of a diner reference. Seligman also cites Jennifer’s Body as a significant influence, particularly in portraying two teen girls kissing from a place of desire rather than as a mere plot device.
Balancing Representation and Comfort
Seligman acknowledges the limitations of representation, particularly in terms of explicit sex scenes. She opted for a more implied approach in Bottoms, recognizing the fine line between objectification and empowerment. While she initially had reservations about the scene in question, she felt it was necessary to show the character’s achievement before the story takes a turn.
Subverting Empowerment Culture
Bottoms playfully mocks the concept of “empowerment” culture, presenting characters who manipulate and subvert the idea of supportive and loving female friendships. Seligman and Sennott aimed to challenge the pressure for female friendships to be uncomplicated and “girlboss” in nature, instead embracing the complexity and flaws of their characters.
From Shiva Baby to Bottoms
Seligman’s previous film, Shiva Baby, was a concise and claustrophobic comedy shot on a small budget. In contrast, Bottoms had a significantly larger budget of $11.3 million. Seligman admits that the shift, both in terms of scale and working with a larger crew, was challenging. However, she credits the support and guidance of her producer, Elizabeth Banks, for helping her navigate this new territory.
Conclusion: Bottoms, a comedy film about amoral teen lesbians, is a testament to director Emma Seligman’s unique vision and storytelling. Despite facing initial rejection, Seligman and her team persevered, eventually finding a studio that embraced their unconventional concept. Through Bottoms, Seligman challenges traditional representations of female friendships and explores themes of empowerment and desire. With the success of Bottoms and her previous film Shiva Baby, Seligman has solidified her place as a rising talent in the industry, and audiences eagerly await her next project.