Lee Daniels and Lynn Shelton may have two very different films here at Cannes, but sleepless nights and fun banter united them at the American Directors panel at American Pavilion moderated by Eugene Hernandez Sunday. Daniels and Shelton showed up after a busy weekend for their well received films – with Daniels wearing sunglasses inside the newly dubbed Roger Ebert Conference Center. “Go Get Some Rosemary” directors Josh and Benny Safdie were no shows to the panel, which took place seaside at the festival’s international village.
1. Cannes Experience
“I thought Sundance was a great experience with “Humpday”, and thought it couldn’t get better, but I was wrong. This experience is so overwhelming. It’s a once in a lifetime experience,” Lynn stated in regards to her time here, but Lee disagreed. “I want this experience again, and again, and again. “I’ve been Canne’d y’all!!”
2. A Slice of Humble Pie
Both of their experiences in film festivals have made them extremely humble. Lee, becoming more that way after a previous film received bad press. Lynn felt she was “humble from the beginning.” To receive such praise for his film “Precious” and especially here at Cannes, Daniels said it has been a “truly humbling experience.”
3. The Agony of Defeat
Shelton and Daniels are taking their success with these films with a slight bit of trepidation. They both put their heart and souls into their work so fear of failure makes it even more intense. When Lee’s third film wasn’t received well he went into a depressive state, “staying in all day with the covers pulled over” his head. “It’s like a lover leaving you when you’re not liked.” Lynn’s first film didn’t make a “big splash” so she never really encountered the feeling that Lee described. “I’m really grateful it didn’t work…it made me have that protective wall around my heart.”
4. Control Issues Anyone?
Both have control issues and have self-labeled themselves as “control freaks.” It’s hard to give up control on something you care so much for and work so hard on, they said…
5. Upcoming Projects
Lee wants to do something with music. He has to keep excited about working, so other than “needing to get my kids to love me again,” (“They’re 13, I heard they don’t love you again until they’re 17”) one of his many projects on the table is a film about drag queens. Lynn has many ideas circulating as well, but is looking into filming a re-make of “My Dinner with Andre.”
6. Releases in US
Lynn’s film “Humpday” premieres in the U.S. on July 10th and Lee’s “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire premieres on November 6th.
7. Give my Regards to…the Theater
Both had their start in yheater and were very creative from an early age. Lynn was an actress and Lee worked off off Broadway before jumping into the music video business in LA, but both having fond memories of the theater. Lee describes it as a “beast…you have no control. I love it.” An odd statement coming from a self-proclaimed control freak, but it’s the exhiliration of the unknown that freaks his mind.
8. Trust Issues
Each described times when it was difficult to trust. Lee more so with the people he does business with – agents, managers, companies, actors, etc. “I have trouble letting go…the only way to get a great performance from people is to trust.” And Lynn more with trusting her teammates which she says she desperately needs. This trust issue is directly linked to her control issue.” In order to trust I have to let go.”
9. Inspiration to becoming a filmmaker
“I’m a big proponent of not waiting around for someone to give permission to make your film,” is one of the main reasons that propelled Lynn into making movies. She wanted to make her own movies and tell her own stories. Lee, however, wanted a chance to make movies that help change the “sad characteristics of what African Americans were” instead of housekeepers, drug dealers, etc. Being authentic and making his Mama proud were his motivations.
10. Advice to Each Other
Lee to Lynn, “Don’t be afraid of managers, agent, or the Hollywood biz. You’re a fierce fish! Go out and get ’em.” And Lynn to Lee, “Keep on keeping on. You’re awesome. You’re an inspiration to me.”