Emma Seligman is a Canadian film director and screenwriter. She is known for her work in the Canadian-American feature film ‘Shiva Baby’ (2020).
Emma Seligman was born on Wednesday, May 3, 1995 (age 26 years; as of 2021), in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
As a child, she went to a small art school in her hometown. Talking about her school days in an interview, she said,
We were just a weird crowd of kids but it was a fun group of people. I got lucky because I didn’t go to school feeling awkward about kids giving blow jobs around the corner, or things like that. That only happened when I got to high school and I was like, “Whoa, I was just sheltered for two years because I was hanging out with kids who were playing guitar in the hallway and just doing art projects for French class.”
For her graduation, she sent a short film (that she made) to the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She was accepted but she decided to study at New York University to pursue her graduation in liberal arts. However, in her sophomore year, she decided to study at the Tisch School Of The Arts, New York City. Filmmaker Magazine In May 2017, she graduated from Stonestreet Studios of the Tisch, where she studied films. Washington Square News In 2021, she moved to Los Angeles. She is bisexual. Elle Canada
Height (approx.): 5′ 5″
Eye Color: Brown
Hair Color: Dark Brown
Her father’s name is Theodore Seligman. Her mother’s name is Nancy Dennis who is an entrepreneur.
She has an elder sister named Lindsay Seligman.
She is Jewish and was raised in a Reform Ashkenazi community in Toronto. She had her Bat Mitzvah ceremony (coming-of-age ritual for Jewish girls) on Masada in Israel. Mubi Samantha Leach Talking about her Bat Mitzvah ceremony in an interview, she said,
I wasn’t initially going to have a bat mitzvah party because I had my ceremony on Masada [mountain] in Israel during a two week bat mitzvah trip [throughout Israel]. But then we decided to have smallish, untraditional party at The Drake, which is a very hip hotel in downtown Toronto. My mom was definitely trying to be hip and cool.”
In her teens, she contributed to film reviews in The Huffington Post. She also had a personal blog in which she wrote film reviews. In 2012, she was the production assistant in the Canadian comedy documentary ‘Lunarcy!’.
In 2014, she was a production intern in the Canadian musical ‘Stage Fright.’ While pursuing her graduation, she worked in a variety of short films, working as a costume designer in the American short ‘One Good Pitch’ (2016). In 2017, she made her debut as a director, writer, and editor in the American short film ‘Void’ (2017).
After completing her graduation, she remained in New York and interned with the production company Animal Kingdom to keep her optional practical training (OPT) F-1 student visa status active. After her visa ended, she began working on her film ‘Shiva Baby,’ which was initially a thesis for her last year in college. She made her debut as a producer with the film ‘Virgencita’ (2018).
In 2018, she wrote and directed the short ‘Shiva Baby.’
The movie was made into a feature film in 2020 with the same name. Through the film, she made her debut as a director and writer in a Canadian feature film. The film stars American actress and comedian Rachel Sennott in the lead role of Danielle, a directionless young bisexual Jewish woman dealing with the relationship between women and sex.
According to Seligman, the film’s themes of identity and empowerment reflected her struggle in college. She said,
What I wanted to be the backbone [of the film] was reckoning with your self-worth as a young woman, realizing that it has been based on sexual validation and that it needs to go beyond that. I also sprinkled other parts of her life like my family, my sexuality.”
Awards & Achievements for Shiva Baby (2020)
- Adelaide Film Festival – Audience Award for Best Feature in 2020
- Indie Memphis Film Festival – Award for Best Narrative Feature in 2020
- Outfest – Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Screenwriting in a U.S. Feature in 2020
- Named one of Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch in 2020
- Named one of Filmmaker magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film 2020
- Named one of Indie Wire’s 20 Rising Women Directors You Need to Know in 2020
- Filmmakers(s): Joey Soloway, Ava DuVernay, Lynne Ramsay, Karyn Kusama, Ana Lily Amirpour, Mike Nichols, John Cassavetes, Coen brothers, Marielle Heller, Chloé Zhao, Billy Wilder, Steven Spielberg, Frank Capra
- Actress(es): Barbara Stanwyck, Olivia Wilde, Mischa Barton
- Artist: Marc Chagall
- TV Series: The O.C. (2003), Transparent (2014), Queen Sugar (2016)
- Film(s): Roman Holiday (1953), West Side Story (1961), The Godfather (1972), Chinatown (1974), The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015), Call Me by Your Name (2017)
- Emma Seligman grew up in a large extended family that she saw every month, sometimes every week at weddings, shivas, bar or bat mitzvahs, bris’, Jewish holidays, and summer cottage weekends.
- While studying in high school, she ran a film review blog. Her journalist aunt advised her to apply to the Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children, an event organized by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) that enlisted teens to review and award jury prizes to a section of family-friendly films. Owing to her blog, she was selected as a jury member in the event.
- Emma Seligman confessed that her film (Shiva Baby) was inspired by the Russian-French artist Marc Chagall, Dutch singer Leo Fuld, and American Klezmer and jazz entertainers The Barry Sisters. In an interview, she explained,
There is still so little I know about my ancestors who lived in the time period Chagall referenced in his paintings. Looking at them makes me feel connected to that distant part of my family history in a mystic way that’s hard to describe. When I first started writing Shiva Baby, I listened to Leo Fuld and The Barry Sisters on repeat as I typed to put me in the mood. I don’t understand Hebrew or Yiddish so I liked that I didn’t get distracted by some of the lyrics.”
- She is a dog lover and has a Shitzu-Terrier-Bijon dog named Morty Seligman. She has dedicated a whole Instagram page to her dog.