This interview originally published by Red Carpet Crash
“Your Sister’s Sister” director Lynn Shelton may not be a household name now, but she has built up quite a following since 2006 with her previous work “Humpday,” a film that follows two best friends as they enter into a same sex relationship for an art project. Shelton is a master of single setting dramedies, encouraging her actors to riff off each other in a relaxed and natural way, without ever having them overshadow her intention.
“We did start with written pages,” says Shelton regarding her notoriously loose writing style, “which was different than ‘Humpday’ where we only had an outline and two very experienced improvisers. Since Emily and Rose [DeWitt] were less experienced with improvisation I wanted to give them a sort of security blanket and jumping off point, so I had 70 pages of dialogue written out. Some of the scenes were more outlined, but most of them were written out. I also asked them not to memorize the lines. I told them not to hold on to them too closely, but to be ready to fly off and find their own way.”
Yet her vast understanding of the nuts and bolts of filmmaking allows the actress turned writer/director to take overly simplistic stories and churn-out quality films that never sacrifice character for narrative.
“The idea came from Mark Duplass,” notes Shelton. “It came from the vault of potential Duplass Brothers movies. But because this one involved a guy who had recently lost his brother, they didn’t think it would be a movie they’d make any time soon. He still liked the idea of it, so he called and asked if I’d be interested in directing it.
“The initial idea had no sisters in it, but instead a mother and daughter. So I switched that idea around and made the mom into a sister. I think I was possibly a little squeamish about the mother-daughter thing, but I think it could have actually been really interesting. I just really liked the idea of the parallels of these two sibling relationships, especially the fourth unseen character of Tom, his relationship with Iris (Emily Blunt), and how Tom’s death weighs so heavily on Jack’s (Duplass) soul. It’s ultimately about these four characters, and how their lives get entangled in so many different ways.”
“Your Sister’s Sister” takes place almost entirely in one location, a lake house owned by Iris and Hannah’s father. It is an idyllic, woodsy spot chockfull of places to hide not only memories but secrets.
“Mark’s original concept started on a Brooklyn rooftop and then she would send him away somewhere in New Hampshire or Maine,” mentions Shelton. “But I reset it in Seattle because I like to work close to home. I have this crew that I work with, who knows me and knows that I like to work in a very emotionally safe environment on set that focuses on the performers and allows them to do their work. I knew it had to be on an island, because that is such a part of Seattle and Puget Sound. So when I think of a getaway place I immediately think of an island, but I also really liked the idea of them being physically separated. I wanted them to be in this space where they could do and say things they normally wouldn’t if they weren’t stuck together.”
“I love this idea that there is this big, wide bucolic natural beauty right outside the walls of this little psycho-drama going on with these puny humans, it just feels extra poignant to me,” concludes Shelton. “There’s just this big wide world out there, and I love that context a lot.”
“Your Sister’s Sister” is now playing.