Slow and steady sometimes does win the race. Indie filmmakers would do well to emulate Lynn Shelton. Trained as an actress and photographer, Shelton shot documentaries and music videos and has been championed by film festivals at her home base Seattle as well as Sundance, Toronto and SXSW. She broke out with her Sundance jury-prize-winning "Humpday," starring Mark Duplass, who shares her improvisational acting aesthetic. In fact, they did so well together with "Humpday" that Duplass came back to her with a new idea for a movie, which she ran with –and totally changed. The end result is her must-see fourth feature "Your Sister's Sister" (June 15). Shelton gets better with every film.
"Your Sister's Sister" (June 15) grabbed raves at Toronto, where it was acquired by IFC Films, and Sundance, Tribeca, San Francisco and Seattle. The director focuses her roving camera on a complex love triangle that twists through past relationships, sexual identity, and sibling rivalry. (See the new official trailer and my flipcam interview below.)
Duplass plays a man lost and depressed after the death of his brother. His best friend (Emily Blunt) sends him to a remote island to recuperate. He huffs and puffs on his bike out to a cabin in the woods and is surprised to find her lesbian half-sister (Rosemary DeWitt) there. After much alcohol, the two sleep together. And then the next day her sister shows up. Much hilarity ensues, and all is not as it seems. It's a relationship comedy, but nothing tops the quote Duplass gave to the LATimes:
"It's a dramatic Shakespearean bed-switching comedy with a certain emotional gravity behind some of the incredible lighthearted buffoonery, so it feels rooted in something. And I also love the idea that people can do some dumb, crazy things and maybe be a little bit forgiven for it. We felt that was a nice anchor."
In our interview, Shelton talks about her ongoing collaboration with Duplass (he talks about working with Shelton here) and how she changed gears on "Your Sister's Sister" to accommodate two actresses who were not as confident with improvising as as he is. She explains how she and her crew shoot these extremely intimate movies.
She talks about why she likes working on such TV shows as "Mad Men" and "New Girl" as well, and how she and the Duplasses fit into the emerging cross-pollinating indie moviemaking model. And she discusses her two upcoming projects, the just-wrapped ensemble "Touchy Feely," starring DeWitt, Ellen Page, Ron Livingston and rising star Scoot McNairy ("Killing Them Softly"), which she pushed to the front burner after the delay of another project, her first film based on someone else's screenplay, Andrea Siegel's "Laggies," which she still plans to shoot later on with Paul Rudd and Rebecca Hall. Hollywood has approached Shelton, and she is willing to listen. But she's tuned in to her own drummer. It's worked for her so far.