May 16, 2020

Lynn Shelton, Director of 'Sword of Trust' and 'Humpday,' Dies at 54

Writer, director, producer, editor, and actor Lynn Shelton died suddenly on Friday, May 15, in Los Angeles.

According to her representative, Shelton passed away from a previously unidentified blood disorder. She was 54.

Shelton was a beloved voice within indie filmmaking whose freewheeling approach to storytelling and comedy resulted in unique, low-budget mumblecore movies like Humpday, Your Sister's Sister, and Sword of Trust, which were largely improvised.

She was born August 27, 1965, in Ohio, and grew up in Seattle.

Early in her career, she struggled to decide between acting and directing, later segued into photography and editing, and after this learning process felt prepared enough to take on her first feature. As an actor herself, she knew the pressures a cast could face and strove to create safe, supportive sets.

Shelton's feature directorial debut was 2006's We Go Way Back, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Slamdance.

Humpday premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and received a "Special Jury Prize for Spirit of Independence." The movie starred Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard as straight buddies who dare each other to make an amateur porn film.

She also worked extensively in television and helmed episodes of diverse comedies and dramas, including The Mindy Project, Mad Men, GLOW, and the recent Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere.

Lynn Shelton
Credit: Shutterstock

I met Shelton in 2019, when her film Sword of Trust was about to premiere at SXSW. I was already a fan of her work and thrilled at the opportunity to interview her.

I remember how she entered the InterContinental carrying several bags. I had staked out some valuable territory on the second floor and called her name, and she waved before making her way upstairs. I was nervous. It was so loud in the hotel, and Sword of Trust was such a capable, funny film. But she was modest and cheerful and smart, and she immediately put me at ease. She dropped her many bags and sat with me.

I'll be honest, I gushed. I told her how much I loved her movie and her performance in particular, and she took my hand in thanks, and we fangirled over actor and comedian Marc Maron for a while. She was easy, open, and free with her smiles, a joy to speak to. She laughed easily.

I've thought about that interview a lot, and it's still one of my favorites.

Maron, her frequent collaborator and partner, provided a statement, quoted in IndieWire.

"She was a beautiful, kind, loving, charismatic artist," he said. "Her spirit was pure joy. She made me happy. I made her happy. We were happy. I made her laugh all the time. We laughed a lot."

Shelton is survived by ex-husband Kevin Seal and their son Milo, her parents Wendy and Alan Roedell and David "Mac" Shelton and Frauke Rynd, brothers David Shelton, Robert Rynd, and sister Tanya Rynd.

Shelton is also survived by Maron, whom she was dating at the time of her death.     

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