With Bottoms, Director Emma Seligman Gives Horny High School Girls Their Due

Emma Seligman wears a jacket, sweater, and shoes by Givenchy.

"There were no restrictions in my house,” says Emma Seligman. She’s sitting at a quiet corner table at Union Square Cafe in a tiger-print camp-collar shirt, adjusting her shaggy symphony of hair—a beautiful, contained explosion, not unlike the young director’s award-winning 2020 debut, Shiva Baby. Starring comedian Rachel Sennott, it’s the simmering, sardonic tale of a recently graduated sugar baby who must confront her client, his wife, her overbearing family, an ex-girlfriend, and seemingly all of life’s choices, at one eventful shiva.

Seligman’s lack of boundaries is more than evident in the Toronto-born filmmaker’s sophomore feature, Bottoms, released in August. This time it’s a high school romp cowritten by, and again starring, Sennott. She’s paired with Ayo Edibiri, whose now-infamous “Yes, Chef” delivery on The Bear has earned her legions of fans. Bottoms tells the story of two unpopular gay girls scheming to lose their virginities to cheerleaders by—wait for it—starting a fight club.


“I really wanted to make a stupid comedy for queer girls, and Rachel really wanted to make a stupid comedy for horny girls and have them actually be sexual and flawed,” she says. Seligman’s own high school years were typical. “Angsty but fun. I was super involved with drama classes,” she continues. “But you know, like every teenage girl, also super emotionally insecure.” There were no cheerleaders or fight clubs at her large public school, but there was agita over boys, and sex, which was echoed in the movies she consumed.

Her references were late-’90s and early-aughts teen comedies like American Pie and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which prompted Bottoms’s violent overtones. “I wanted to take on the genres that I wish I could have seen myself in as a kid—these movies where boys fight to get the girl.” For Seligman and Sennott, it’s girls fighting to get the girl.

The pair wrote Bottoms around the same time that Shiva Baby came to fruition, shortly after they graduated from New York University (they continued to use the school’s facilities until their IDs stopped working). They always write together, in the same room or over Zoom. “It’s so much fun," she says. "It’s the opposite of writing alone, which is literally torture.”


When it came time to actually shoot Bottoms, Seligman was met with a pleasant surprise: scenes that left room for improvisation. “With Rachel and Ayo together, it got to a point where I was getting a little spoiled,” she says. (Actors need restrictions, we think, but it turns out that maybe they don’t?) The film also has plenty of action, and big boffo scenes; the opposite of the frenzied, single-cam intimacy of Shiva Baby.

“There was a lot more thinking about symmetry, and lines, and order, and angles, and how that sort of language shifts in a power hero story,” she says. In Seligman’s own hero story, the high-flying ingénue is potentially looking at a well-deserved rest. “I made my first movies back-to-back, with a Covid year living in my parents’ house in-between.” 

Today, she’s living in Bushwick, exploring adult New York, and traveling. “I’m very excited to be living and making friends and being a human being. I feel grateful to relax and get ahold of myself.” And, importantly for any budding artist, “Not just rushing.” What could be more freeing?

Creative Direction by Studio&
Produced by Iza El Nems
Makeup by Mical Klip
Hair by Kiyonori Sudo
Fashion Assistance by Tallula Bell Madden and Sheneque Clarke