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Indie Director Lynn Shelton Passes Away Unexpectedly at 54

The mumblecore director helmed some of this decade's best episodes of television.

lynn shelton

Beloved indie director Lynn Shelton passed away yesterday due to a previously unidentified blood disorder. Shelton was one of the main figures of the Mumblecore indie film movement, alongside the Duplass brothers and Greta Gerwig. She directed Humpday, Your Sister’s Sister, Laggies, and Sword of Trust, among other acclaimed dramedies. Shelton was approached to direct Black Widow, but ultimately preferred to work in the indie sphere.

Shelton won the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2006 for her excellent first film We Go Way Back, about a 23 year old actress who is haunted by her 13 year old self.

Shelton’s work was naturalistic, with an emphasis on improvisation. Her work felt effortless, as she captured everyday moments of authenticity. And while her films never gained a massive audience, she was also a prolific television director. Shelton worked on some of the best series of the past decade, including Mad Men, GLOW, The Mindy Project, New Girl, Fresh Off the Boat, Master of None, and most recently Hulu’s adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere.

Shelton was both creatively and romantically involved with comedian Marc Maron (GLOW), who released a statement saying, “She was a beautiful, kind, loving, charismatic artist. 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. We were starting a life together. I really can’t believe what is happening, … This is a horrendous, sad loss.”

While television directors are rarely famous, Shelton’s work in the medium was truly unparalleled. She directed the season 4 Mad Men episode “Hands and Knees”, which you may remember as the episode where Joan goes to have an abortion, but decides not to go through with it. Shelton also recently worked on the first season of Apple TV+’s Dickinson

Shelton’s death is a devastating and unexpected loss, both on a personal and professional level. As one of the leading female directors of the past decade, she inspired countless others to follow her path. In a 2014 interview with the LA Times she said, “I self-generated my work, and I never went around asking permission to make it, … The main reason women make inroads in independent film is that no one has to say, ‘I pick you.’ I’m not pounding on anybody’s door. I’m just making my own way. You can buy a camera for $1,500. It’s insane how easy it is to make a movie. You can make mistakes and throw it under the rug and keep going. You’re not dependent on other people allowing you to do it.”

Many took to Twitter to pay tribute to the director:

(via IndieWire, image: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, son, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.