Sundance Spotlight: Humpday’s Lynn Shelton


Sundance may be over and all of my reviews may be posted, but there is still a ton of cool stuff that I’d like to share with all of you. Chief among those things are some video profiles of some of Sundance’s emerging talents. Among those talents is Humpday director Lynn Shelton, who brought together a talented cast of ‘mumblecore’ veterans to create the hilarious tale of two heterosexual friends and their artistic dreams of having sex with each other on camera. While it was perhaps the most uncomfortable film to watch at times, it was also one of the most charming — and certainly one of the funniest of this year’s festival.

humpday-sheltonWhat’s most impressive about Humpday is that like the other mumblecore movies, it was made without a script. But it doesn’t feel like it. In fact, it feels just as cleverly written as any of the other comedies screened this year in Park City. And as Shelton explained to Karina Longworth at Spout, it is all about the collaboration between her and her cast:

I really, really, really wanted to have a strong narrative drive in this film. And I believe that you can do that without writing a script. To make it more accessible to some people, the best way I can describe it is that it’s a lot like Mike Leigh. He goes through months of improvisation and he uses the words of the actors, he doesn’t write the words himself. He lets the actors do that and he just writes it down and then rehearses the shit out of that script and makes a movie.

I do the exact same thing, except that instead of writing down those words, I write the final draft in the edit room. It really is the same. After months of developing their characters in tandem with them and already having a loose plot, as the characters are developed I’m getting the plot tighter and tighter and tighter. And I’m letting them contribute but I’m ultimately the one who says, “No, I really want this to happen.” And then by the time we get on set, we really have all the components of a script, except for the actual script. So I can’t emphasis that enough. It’s really the opposite of showing up without a script and saying, “Let’s make a movie.” You know what I mean?

For a little further information, the official Sundance YouTube channel has posted a little featurette about Shelton, who won a Special Grand Jury Prize for “The Spirit of Independence” for her work on Humpday. The film was acquired by Magnolia Pictures, who intends to release it theatrically and on On-Demand sometime in August. We will keep you posted on that — for now, just check out the video below.

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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