top of page

REMEMBERING LYNN SHELTON 27 August 1965 – 16 May 2020

Updated: May 11, 2023



27 August 1965 – 16 May 2020

On Friday 17 April 2020, as part of our Reclaim The Frame Female Filmmaker Friday strand Eye to Eye, Mia Bays, our then Director, was in conversation with Lynn Shelton.  It was a conversation that was full of warmth, insight and humour and is one of our all-time favourites. Lynn died suddenly and unexpectedly a month to-the-day later. We will continue to miss her humanity, humility, and humour and all the wonderful films she would undoubtedly have given to the world. Our thoughts today are with all those who knew and loved her.

If you would like to watch this conversation again, it’s here on our Facebook Live page. Live captioning is available.



Lynn Shelton was born in Oberlin, Ohio, and raised in Seattle, Washington. She described herself as having been audacious as a young girl, but having lost confidence in her creativity in adolescence. This experience contributed to a theme she explored in her 2006 film We Go Way Back.

After high school, Shelton attended Oberlin College in Ohio and then the University of Washington School of Drama. She then moved to New York and followed the Master’s of Fine Arts program in photography and related media at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. 

Shelton began working in the film industry as a film editor and made a series of experimental short films which have been described as “accomplished” and providing the basis for the “subtle, almost anthropological scrutiny” brought to bear in her later works.  Among the jobs she held to support her film career was working aboard a fishing trawler in the Bering Sea.

Shelton had wanted to be a director, but was worried that being in her mid-30s, it was too late to begin. When she saw French director Claire Denis speak at Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum in 2003, Denis revealed she was 40 when she directed her first feature film, and that revelation made Shelton realise that she still had plenty of time.

In 2004, Shelton began writing and directing her first feature film, We Go Way Back. Described as “polished” and “impressionistic”, the film depicts a 23-year-old actress, Kate, confronted by her 13-year-old self. The dialog between the older and younger Kates begins in memory, and then climaxes in an apparitional experience with the spectre of her own, repressed, precocious youth. We Go Way Back premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2006.

In 2008, Shelton’s dark comedy My Effortless Brilliance played at South by Southwest and Maryland Film Festival.

Her film Humpday premiered at Sundance, was acquired by Magnolia Pictures, and has been shown at Cannes, SIFF, South by Southwest and other film festivals. It opened in theatres in New York and Seattle on July 10, 2009.

Her film Your Sister’s Sister premiered in 2011 at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film starred Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Mark Duplass. When asked about exploring the relationship between sisters in a 2012 interview with FF2 Media’s Jan Lisa Huttner, Shelton said:

“Everybody has had that experience of going home for Thanksgiving and starting to act ten years old again because they’re in the same situation with their parents and their siblings. So you get back into this rut again of who you were when you were first becoming a grownup. It’s not until you get out that you can break out of those bonds, but we still get trapped by them when we return.”

Touchy Feely premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2013, where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. It starred Rosemarie DeWitt, Allison Janney, and Elliot Page.

Laggies was the first film Shelton directed that she had not also written. The film starred Keira Knightley and Chloë Grace Moretz, and premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival where it was acquired by A24 Films.

In 2015, Shelton was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Director’s Branch.

In 2017, her film Outside In premiered at Toronto International Film Festival. It starred Jay Duplass, Edie Falco, Kaitlyn Dever, and Ben Schwartz.

Her 2019 comedy Sword of Trust had its world premiere at South by Southwest. In it, Cynthia (Jillian Bell) inherits a sword from her deceased grandfather, which he believed proves the South won the Civil War.

Shelton directed episodes for TV shows since 2009 including The Good Place, GLOW, New Girl, Mad Men, Casual and, in 2020, the Hulu miniseries Little Fires Everywhere, starring Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon.

Shelton described her approach to comedy as doing the opposite:

“When we were on set, it was really essential that none of us—not the actors or myself either—think that we’re in “a comedy,” because that’s when I find (especially with improvisation) you start reaching for jokes. You start sort of “soft-shoeing,” and trying to entertain people, and I don’t want that. I want us to just always be playing to the truth of the scene and I really have no idea how many laughs there are going to be. We’re playing it so straight that it’s really hard to tell the forest for the trees.”

Click HERE to see where you can watch the films under.


When Cynthia and Mary show up to collect Cynthia’s inheritance from her deceased grandfather, the only item she’s received is an antique sword that he believed to be proof that the South won the Civil War.


An ex-con struggling to readjust to life in his small town forms an intense bond with his former high-school teacher.

LAGGIES (2014)

Overeducated and underemployed, 28 year old Megan is in the throes of a quarterlife crisis. Squarely into adulthood with no career prospects, no particular motivation to think about her future and no one to relate to, Megan is comfortable lagging a few steps behind – while her friends check off milestones and celebrate their new grown-up status. When her high-school sweetheart proposes, Megan panics and- given an unexpected opportunity to escape for a week – hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year old Annika and Annika’s world-weary single dad Craig.


Abby is a sought after massage therapist and a free spirit, while her brother Paul thrives on routine, running a failing dental practice with his assistant and daughter Jenny. Suddenly, Abby develops an aversion to bodily contact, which not only makes her unable to do her job, but also severely affects her relationship with her boyfriend. As Abby navigates her way through an identity crisis, her brother’s dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his “healing touch.”


Iris invites her friend Jack to stay at her family’s island getaway after the death of his brother. At their remote cabin, Jack’s drunken encounter with Hannah, Iris’ sister, kicks off a revealing stretch of days.

HUMPDAY (2009)

Imagine your life is somewhat complete with a house, job, and wife but then your best friend from college comes knocking at your door at 2 AM. During a pot-induced hedonistic party, a plan is hatched between the two friends to create an Art Film of “two really straight men having sex.” If they only knew how much this would affect all of their lives.


A study in the relationship between cocky, fussy, thoroughly-city-mouse author Eric (Sean Nelson) and his ex-best-friend, the tersely powerful journalist and wood-chopper Dylan (Basil Harris). Dylan, fed up with Eric’s self-involved antics, dumps him and disappears to live in a log cabin in the woods of Eastern Washington; two years later, Eric arrives (sporting a Prius, white sneakers, and a fear of spiders) to mend the friendship.

Unfortunately “My Effortless Brilliance” is no longer available to stream on Netflix UK. It may return in the future and you can always ask Netflix to put it back again. For information about how to request films and TV shows please follow this link: How To Ask Netflix To Add Your Favourite Movie or Show 


A tragic-comic tale with surrealistic tendencies about a lost 23-year-old who is haunted by her disappointed 13-year-old self.


A tragic-comic tale with surrealistic tendencies about a lost 23-year-old who is haunted by her disappointed 13-year-old self.

Main photo by Carlo Allegri


bottom of page