My Lynn Shelton Obsession
By Amanda Dill, Film ‘23
When I tell people I am a film major, there are usually two questions I receive in response. The first of which being “Oh! What’s your favorite film?” and my response being “How dare you ask me that question knowing full well you’re not interested in my hour-long response!” With then the second question usually being something along the lines of “Who is your favorite director?”
I’ve thought long and hard about this question, and I haven’t always been able to answer it and be confident about my answer. Usually, I’ll list off a couple of people whose work I admire in passing but I don’t think I could ever really settle on a single person. I will probably never consistently seek inspiration from one single storyteller for the rest of my life. But if you asked me right now, at this exact moment, who my favorite director was, I would definitely tell you it is the late and great independent filmmaker Lynn Shelton.
It is unclear to me when I first discovered the filmography of Lynn Shelton. It might have happened early on in high school. Maybe I googled “Best Films for a Pretentious 15-Year-Old to watch” because honestly, what kind of freshman in high school is watching mumblecore films for fun?
I instantly fell in love. She wrote human interaction and relationships like no other
writer/director could and it completely captivated me. The situations characters encounter in her films are profoundly unique and feel brand new but still find ways to resonate with viewers. Some characters within her films are deeply flawed but express themselves in sincere and admirable ways. Through clever direction she found ways to capture soul and authenticity. There isn’t a single moment I can recall in her films that doesn’t feel natural. Her commitment to staying curious in the craft and being comfortable with actors experimenting created unforgettable on-screen moments. I’ve always been interested in capturing the essence of the human condition in my own work, so she has consistently been someone whose films I look to for guidance.
Style and storytelling aside, I believe what I admire most about Lynn is how normal she is. From all the stories I’ve heard about her, she doesn’t seem like an egotistical, power-driven, “I’m-the-only-one-here-with-the-vision” type director. She was the type of person who made everyone on set feel important. The kind of person you want to be friends with. She was just a warm and eccentric woman from Seattle who wanted to tell stories. And as a fellow eccentric girl from Seattle who just wants to tell stories, I can’t help but reflect on her career and have a little bit of hope for myself and be grateful for the path she paved for filmmakers like me.
So in short, that is why I am obsessed with Lynn Shelton. I could go on forever and probably never do her justice. In the great hunt for even a drop of human connection in a COVID world, I encourage you to stream some of Lynn’s films soon. I promise you’ll leave the viewing experience a slightly different person than when you entered it.
Amanda is a sophomore in the Film program at Cornish. Post-graduation she hopes to write and direct for film/television in hopes of telling stories that convey themes of self-worth, human interaction, passage of time, and the importance of presence.