Two-thousand and nine has been a good year for alumnus Lynn Shelton (MFA 1995 Photography and Related Media): in January, her feature film Humpday (which follows two straight male friends who dare each other to make an amateur porno film) was one of the darlings of the Sundance Film Festival, winning the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for The Spirit of Independence; when the film opened in theaters over the summer, reviewers piled kudos on the indie comedy.
As the year wraps up, Humpday is being released on DVD, complete with bonus features like deleted scenes and a commentary track from writer/director Shelton (her previous film, My Effortless Brilliance is also just out on DVD). She spoke with the Briefs about writing a screenplay collectively and the benefits of making art under the radar:
How did the story idea for Humpday originate?
I start with a single person, I pitch them a character, a scenario, a very loose storyline. If they’re into it, we start to cast around them. In this case, I wanted to work with Mark Duplass. Each actor is brought in early enough to be heavily involved in the development of their characters. It’s kind of an upside-down model—I find the actors first, which then bleeds into developing the script. All of the actors are credited as script consultants.
Are there key things you learned at SVA that still inform your filmmaking?
I’d always wanted to be an artist, and everyone at SVA took the idea that I was an artist so seriously that I was able to take myself seriously, too. It helped me find my voice, which has been continuing to evolve and grow in the years since, but I got the inner strength there to find my inner voice and follow my instincts.
As someone who makes independent films, how much creative control are you able to retain?
You’d be hard pressed to find a film more independent than Humpday. All I had to do was please myself. That’s where it begins and ends. We had a micro-budget and were limited in various ways, but creative freedom is a beautiful thing.