Ships writer-director Emma Seligman and star Rachel Sennott came up with the idea for a raunchy teen comedy on a white board, writing down “everything we wanted to see in the movie” on the board, from “punching” to “vagina” to “knitting” – said Sennot.
The duo who collaborated on Seligman’s debut feature film Shiva, babyI was still in school, and “We just did our best without thinking about any limits,” she said Saturday during a panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film in Los Angeles.
The film was taken over by producer Alison Small and, after numerous rejections, went to Orion. Amazon MGM Studios released the R-rated comedy, which became a hit with one of the biggest limited releases of the year, with ticket sales exceeding $12 million. Small called it one of the funniest, weirdest and smartest scripts she’s ever read. They all passed until Orion Pictures president Alana Mayo said yes, “and you only need one.”
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The vision and joy of the film, all three women on the panel said, was that being gay wasn’t a subtext. “I’m tired of having to find directions on my own. I would prefer gay characters to be gay or queer, not for the plot to be that way. I think they are as gay as possible, that is their identity. If you get rid of that, you can just watch a regular movie,” Seligman said.
“We just wanted to make these characters who they are, not make them perfect people and then just create a crazy plot,” Sennott added.
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Here it is: Two unpopular, queer high school girls, PJ and Josie – Sennott and Ayo Edebiri – start a fight club that they hope will attract their crushes on cheerleaders and give them a chance to have sex before they graduate. They are both “ugly, untalented gays” who are summoned to the principal’s office with these words at the beginning of the film.
The club takes off and the girls actually beat each other up, which is weirdly funny, as does former NFL quarterback Marshawn Lynch playing a high school teacher who agrees to mentor the club in the name of feminism, which is interesting but nothing about it does not know.
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The rest of the young cast, Seligman said, “all understood the tone and understood that they had to play straight and be deeply committed to their parts. And this would allow the ridiculousness of the world to flourish.”
Watch the panel video on Monday.
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