Lynn Shelton, a director, writer and producer known for her work on Humpday and more recently the miniseries Little Fires Everywhere, died Friday in Los Angeles from complications of a previously unidentified blood disorder, a rep for Shelton told Deadline. She was 54.
The Hollywood veteran was a leading voice of the new American independent cinema movement of the 2000s, employing her signature style to award-winning films, including Your Sister’s Sister (2011), Outside In (2017) and last year’s Sword of Trust, which starred Marc Maron as a pawnshop owner who obtains a sword that may prove the South actually won the Civil War. Shelton had a role in the film as Maron’s ex-girlfriend Deirdre.
She was collaborating with Maron on a script for an upcoming film, and was in a romantic relationship with him at the time of her death.
Shelton’s television directing credits included Mad Men, GLOW, The Morning Show, Fresh Off the Boat, and as previously mentioned, Little Fires Everywhere, from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, Kerry Washington’s Simpson Street and ABC Signature Studios.
Witherspoon paid tribute to Shelton Saturday on Instagram.
“I’m in complete shock that this vibrant, talented, and soulful filmmaker is no longer with us,” she began. “Lynn was so passionate about our show, Little Fires Everywhere. She said the book truly spoke to her, and that she longed to direct a show that spoke meaningfully about motherhood, sexuality, race, and class in America. And she did. She cared deeply about the whole cast and crew, making sure we all felt heard, seen and appreciated.”
Shelton was born August 27, 1965 in Oberlin, Ohio and grew up in Seattle. After high school, she attended Oberlin College in Ohio and the University of Washington School of Drama. She moved to New York and pursued a Master of Fine Arts in photography and related media at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.
She didn’t begin making films until her mid-30s. After hearing French director Claire Denis speak in 2003, and saying she was 40 when she directed her first feature film, Shelton realized she still had plenty of time to launch a directing career.
Shelton would write and direct eight feature films over 14 years, including We Go Way Back, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2006, and My Effortless Brilliance, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2008 and led to Shelton winning the Independent Spirit “Someone to Watch” Award.
Next would come the career-defining Humpday, which premiered in 2009 at the Sundance Film Festival. Starring Joshua Leonard, Alycia Delmore and Shelton’s frequent collaborator, Mark Duplass, the film was acquired by Magnolia Pictures for distribution and became a cultural touchstone for its depiction of male sexuality through a female lens. The romantic drama received the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award in 2010.
Joshua Leonard called Shelton “one of the greatest forces of nature I’ve ever encountered — a brilliant enthusiast to her core,” in a statement on Instagram.
Shelton is survived by her son Milo Seal, her husband Kevin Seal, her parents Wendy & Alan Roedell and David “Mac” Shelton & Frauke Rynd. She is also survived by her brothers David Shelton, Robert Rynd and sister Tanya Rynd, as well as Marc Maron, with whom she spent the last year of her life.