Sitting down with director Trish Sie
Sat. September 9, 2023 by Jerry Nunn
I saw the potential to tell this story in a playful, little bit irreverent way, and do something sincere.
Bring a rainbow cake to Sidetrack and see what happens
Director Trish Sie is sitting down on release day to discuss her latest project Sitting in Bars With Cake. The Prime Video film will have audiences standing up to applaud thanks to outstanding work from the cast and crew after September 8, 2023.
It is based on a popular book inspired by true events where best friends Jane (Yara Shahidi) and Corinne (Odessa A’zion) navigate life in Los Angeles in their twenties. Corinne, the ultimate extrovert, convinces her introverted home baker best friend Jane to commit to a year of baking cakes and bringing the dessert to bars to meet people and gain confidence.
Sie brings a range of styles to the table by having experience in music videos with OK Go and feature films like Pitch Perfect 3. She steps it up for a major endeavor with Sitting in Bars With Cake and gives a little behind-the-scenes for readers in this recent interview.
JN: (Jerry Nunn) I saw your background began with music videos and I interviewed your brother Damian Kulash from OK Go in the past for Lollapalooza.
TS: (Trish Sie) It’s a tiny, small little world!
JN: Do you recommend that directors get their start by making music videos?
TS: Sure. I think it is wonderful to use music and choreography as one of your tools in telling stories and making pictures because everybody loves music and movement whether they are directing it or not. It is a very strong storytelling device and has a sense of rhythm in the way people talk or come and go from a scene. It is very helpful.
Just the stamina of shooting music videos shows that if you can shoot music videos, then you can shoot anything. There is no better film school than shooting music videos, for sure!
JN: How did you get involved with Sitting in Bars With Cake?
TS: I just fell in love with the script. I did not know about the book until I dove into it after reading the script. I started stalking the writer Audrey Shulman, who is the real-life Jane. I loved the story so much and their friendship. I saw the potential to tell this story in a playful, little bit irreverent way, and do something sincere.
I have done a lot of music and dance stuff with comedy. There was a vulnerability and a chance to go out with your heart in this story. I felt it was a challenge for me, so I chased it down. I begged the producers and the studio to let me try to make it.
JN: Did you have any reservations about someone as beautiful as Yara Shahidi playing a plain Jane?
TS: Yes and no. I knew that we would get the question and I knew that people would say no one that looks like that would have trouble getting guys or being sociable. I also know that is wrong firsthand because there are beautiful people who are incredibly socially anxious, shy, introverted, nervous, insecure and even just confused about where to go in life, which can give a person a head game.
I was not deterred by that. I knew there would be some people who didn’t get it and that is up to them. To me, you can be drop-dead gorgeous and a fashion icon off camera, in one life and still be Jane.
JN: Tell me one funny story about Bette Midler.
TS: We had to cut a scene because of timing. It makes me so sad because I loved this scene so much. One of the running jokes about this boss Benita is that she is a big agent who receives champagne bottles and gift baskets. At one point someone sends her a rowing machine. The scene was her yelling at Corinne while she was rowing. It was originally scripted that she wouldn’t have to get on the rowing machine, but the device would be dragged in behind her instead.
She got on it with stiletto heels, tight pants and full makeup. She was rowing through take after take with different angles. There was one angle where we saw Corinne and Benita rolls in and out of frame. Odessa is trying not to laugh as Bette Midler’s face comes in and out and it is so great. It is comedy gold and I am sorry we had to lose it.
Bette was such a sport and had no problem being on a rowing machine!
JN: Was the rollerskating drag queen in the book?
TS: It was different in the book. They go into a bar and don’t realize it is a gay bar. They have no luck hitting on guys before they realize the men are all gay. To me, that might have flown in 2013 when this all happened, but in 2023 people who don’t stumble into gay bars are disappointed. That is how people in Los Angeles are and we wanted to represent the gay scene here. We didn’t want there to be an “oh no, we are in a gay bar” moment! That would have been off-brand for us.
That drag queen who is on the roller skates is Odessa’s godfather, Sherry Vine.
JN: I interviewed Sherry years ago.
TS: You have interviewed everybody, Jerry!
JN: I have to watch that part again. How do we promote the LGBTQ+ aspect of the film without a spoiler?
TS: I am not too worried about spoilers anymore. I have seen articles where people announce a spoiler alert and vomit out the whole secret. I know people will tell their friends. I hope that people don’t read too much about this movie or if they have read the book they want to see how it is executed.
JN: I liked how you revealed that part in the film.
TS: Thank you.
JN: What is one thing you would like people to take away from Sitting in Bars with Cake?
TS: Right now the world is a tough place to navigate, whether it is trauma from the COVID pandemic, the climate crisis or politics. The world can feel very scary to a lot of people.
I hope this movie brings a sense of handling tough things and finding joy within the apocalypse. We can go through bottomless challenges and still find love, friendship and our way.
I hope people fall in love with life a little bit, no matter what is thrown at them, after watching this film.
JN: The movie made me want to bring a cake to a bar to overcome my anxiety.
TS: It does work. I will say we had production assistants who would take the leftover cakes and go cake barring with them. We would have eight of the same cake and we didn’t need all of them. A hundred percent of the time the room would start chanting, “cake, cake, cake!” If someone brings a cake to a bar they will get phone numbers and attention. That is tried and true.
JN: What are your upcoming projects?
TS: I am writing a horror movie and I don’t know if anyone will even make me make it. I am writing scripts and taking care of my flock of chickens!