Your Sister's Sister director Lynn Shelton hates to wait
Writer-director Lynn Shelton only recently handled her first TV jobs, shooting episodes of Mad Men and New Girl, but she’s already on her fourth feature. The Seattle-based filmmaker, who has also acted in and edited several titles associated with the low-budget mumblecore movement, has a particular handle on the way men behave. She made that clear in her second feature, My Effortless Brilliance, and its more widely distributed follow-up, Humpday.
In Your Sister’s Sister, which opens Friday (June 22), the male figure, played by Humpday’s Mark Duplass, flaps between two females one weekend at a family vacation home. These half-sisters are played by Mad Men semiregular Rosemarie DeWitt and Emily Blunt. Emily Blunt? Whoa, we’re not in Mumble Land anymore.
“I was incredibly lucky,” Shelton says, calling from Los Angeles. “Her agent was a big fan of Humpday, and apparently she liked my treatment right away. I think it was only really possible because we only needed to keep her for about three weeks. Plus, we were able to offer her the chance to improvise, which she hasn’t really been able to do since her first big film, My Summer of Love.”
Most of that work time was spent at a gorgeous house on one of the San Juan Islands; as promised to the cottage’s skittish owners, Shelton won’t say which island.
“Everyone stayed at a house a few doors away, so we were able to hang out and cook together and then roll over to the set to make our movie. It was the greenest production ever,” she adds with a laugh, “because our energy footprint was so small.”
The cast ultimately shared creative credit with Shelton, since most of the words, and some of the plot twists, were their own. All are strong improvisers, but the director admits that Blunt displayed that extra movie-star something.
“The first time I shot her was when I really understood the expression ‘love affair with the camera’. There’s a little pop that happens, and it’s not vanity or self-consciousness, but just that special awareness of where to put herself at all times.”
Shelton, who has a master’s degree in photography and also worked on a fishing trawler, among other jobs, says it took a while to find her niche.
“I started late at this game, at 39, and now I truly have the directing bug. I can’t make ’em fast enough. The main advantage of these low-budget movies is that you’re not waiting around for permission to shoot. I have friends who’ve been waiting for years to get the green light from whatever studio has already booked them to make a project. I’m just too impatient for that.”
That’s why, when her next planned feature fell through, she decided to go ahead and shoot another one, but with many more actors and locations. Called Touchy Feely, the new comedy again stars DeWitt, this time as a conflicted massage therapist working out the kinks with Ron Livingston, Allison Janney, and Canada’s Ellen Page.
“It’s not that I have anything against bigger budgets,” she concludes. “It’s just a lot easier to put little ones together.”
Watch the trailer for Your Sister's Sister.