In Her Own Words: Lynn Shelton, Indie Filmmaker Who Loved Improvisation And Actors, Dies At 54

Lynn Shelton at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)

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Lynn Shelton could relate to the main protagonist of her 2014 comedy, "Laggies", a late bloomer who was trying to make choices that felt right for her.

Shelton had only started filmmaking in her late 30s, inspired by an interview she saw with the French filmmaker Claire Denis.

"I found out that she didn't start making movies till she was 40," Shelton told KPCC's The Frame's John Horn in 2014. "And I was immediately like, 'Oh my God, I still have a few years left to make my first feature and still have a body of work and still have a career.'"

Lynn Shelton (second from left) with "Your Sister's Sister" actors Mark Duplass Rosemarie DeWitt and Emily Blunt. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Shelton would go on to chart an illustrious career path in film and television over the next two decades before she died Friday night from a blood disorder.

Shelton's partner, the comedian and actor Marc Maron, issued a statement published by IndieWire saying that she had collapsed that morning after being sick for a week with a "previously unknown, underlying condition." He said COVID-19 was not a cause.

Maron via IndieWire: "I loved her very much as I know many of you did as well. It's devastating. I am leveled, heartbroken and in complete shock and don't really know how to move forward in this moment. I needed you all to know. I don't know some of you. Some I do. I'm just trying to let the people who were important to her know.

Shelton's credits were eclectic, ranging from beloved, rumpled comedic indies such as "Hump Day" and "Your Sister's Sister," to sitting in the director's chair on leading TV series such as "GLOW," Little Fires Everywhere" and "Mad Men."


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But even as she became an in-demand TV director, Shelton longed for the improvisational moviemaking that first made her mark.

She returned to her roots with her final feature film, 2019's "Sword of Trust." Shelton told The Frame in 2019 about returning to the "terrifying" experience of moviemaking with a loose script and a super-tight filming budget.

"When there's four-to-eight people per scene, it's a little extra daunting, because you only have two cameras and only so much time," Shelton said.

Shelton never knew what she was going to end up with in the editing room. But she was always assured she would have premium content to work with because of her faith in her casts.

Shelton: "There's a lived-in quality that you can't really get any other way. A freshness, because there's a genuine sense of surprise on set. Each actor doesn't know what the other actor is going to say. What I gave them was a 50-page script. So the plot is really tightly structured, and we know what has to unfold. But for the most part, they're finding their way through the beats of the scene. They're coming up with it all on their own.

"It's just amazing what they'll come up with," Shelton said of her "Sword of Trust" cast, which included Maron and Jillian Bell. "And then I just have to make sure not to not to laugh too hard and ruin every take."

Many of Shelton's collaborators became friends, with whom she would work multiple times. On Saturday, tributes poured in from the film community, full of praise for her films, but also her character and kindness.

Shelton told KPCC in 2014 that she made an effort to make her film sets feel like a "really emotionally safe, creative playground."

"It's really important to me, mostly for the actors, but really, for everybody, because I think everybody's going to do their best work if they don't feel like, 'Oh, if I take this risk, I'm going to be hammered down' ... because making art is inherently risky," Shelton said.

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