Women in Film: Shelton, Lynn–Indie Director (Humpday) Dies at 54 (Sundance)

Lynn Shelton, the quintessential indie filmmaker, who directed HumpdayYour Sister’s Sister and My Effortless Brilliance, has died. She was 54.

Lynn Shelton

Shelton died Friday in Los Angeles as a result of a previously unidentified blood disorder, her publicist Adam Kersh announced.

Shelton also was a prolific television director who worked on series including Mad Men, GLOW, Little Fires Everywhere and The Morning Show.

Her films were known for naturalistic acting, often-improvised dialogue and a focus on interpersonal relationships.

On Twitter, Mark Duplass, a frequent collaborator, wrote: “We made so many things together. I wish we had made more. Her boundless creative energy and infectious spirit were unrivaled. She made me better. We butted heads, made up, laughed, pushed each other. Like family. What a deep loss.”

An aspiring actor and photographer, Shelton didn’t begin making films until she was in her mid-30s. When she saw French director Claire Denis speak at Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum in 2003, Denis revealed that she was 40 when she directed her first feature. This made Shelton realize that she still had plenty of time.

She wrote and directed eight feature films, including We Go Way Back (2006), winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival, and My Effortless Brilliance (2008), which premiered at SXSW and earned the Independent Spirit “Someone to Watch” Award.

Her career took off after Humpdaybowed at the 2009 Sundance Film Fest. Starring Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore and Duplass, it was acquired by Magnolia Pictures for distribution and screened in the Director’s Fortnight section at Cannes.

Humpday received the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award in 2010.

Your Sister’s Sister (2011), a comedic love triangle, starred Duplass, Rosemarie DeWitt and Emily Blunt and premiered at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.

Touchy Feely (2013) starred DeWitt in an idiosyncratic story of a massage therapist who develops an aversion to human touch.

Laggies (2014) featured Keira Knightley as a young woman in life crisis.

Outside In (2018), her first dramatic film, featured Jay Duplass as an ex-con who develops an intense bond with his former high school teacher (Edie Falco).

Sword of Trust (2019) starred Marc Maron as a pawnshop owner who comes into possession of a sword that may prove the South actually won the Civil War. (She played Maron’s addict ex-girlfriend in that film.)

Born on August 27, 1965, in Oberlin, Ohio, Shelton was raised in Seattle. She attended Oberlin College in Ohio and then the University of Washington School of Drama before moving to New York to follow the Master’s of Fine Arts program at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.

TV Credits

In 2010, she was selected by Matthew Weiner to direct the “Hands and Knees” episode of Mad Men.

Her TV résumé also included Master of NoneCasualSanta Clarita DietThe Mindy ProjectNew GirlShamelessMaronFresh Off the BoatAP Bio and Dickinson.

She also directed Maron’s recent comedy special End Times Fun and his 2017 special Too Real and served as an executive producer on Little Fires Everywhere.