Lynn Shelton sticks to the script with ‘Touchy Feely’

Lynn Shelton's fifth movie, "Touchy Feely," takes her back to her filmmaking roots. Credit: Getty Images
Lynn Shelton’s fifth movie, “Touchy Feely,” takes her back to her filmmaking roots.
Credit: Getty Images

When starting out, filmmaker Lynn Shelton tried it the normal way.

“With my very first films I sat down in a room, like you’re supposed to, and I wrote a film. Then I found people to play the parts,” she remembers. “I found it really constraining.” Spending most of her time on technical details, she had little time for her actors.

Her next film, 2009’s “Humpday,” put acting up front: It was entirely improvisational. Takes would sometimes last 40 minutes, and she would cut them down in post-production.

But even that became constraining. “It just got a little exhausting,” she confesses. “I wanted to say, ‘Screw this collaboration thing for once! Let me make them say what I want them to say!’ I just wanted to shake it up a bit. I was interesting in going back to my initial impulses as a filmmaker, now that I had four films under my belt.”

Her fifth feature, “Touchy Feely,” had a proper script. Also unlike her last three films — each starring three people in one location over a weekend — there was an ensemble cast. Rosemarie DeWitt, Josh Pais and Ellen Page play family members, but there’s also Scoot McNairy, Ron Livingston and Alison Janney as friends and lovers.

Shelton blames the shift to a more traditional shooting method on her stint shooting an episode of “Mad Men.” “It was so heavenly, after working on ‘Humpday,’” she says. “It was so much less stressful. They say the words and you don’t have to be writing them on set!” She started as an editor, and says while watching improv on her own movies, she’s always making sure everyone’s getting all the right info in. “[‘Mad Men’] made me realize how stressful it is to work with improvisation.”

Still, there was room to fiddle with the material. “I would say 75 percent of what is on the screen is what I wrote down,” she says. With “Humpday” and “Your Sister’s Sister,” her first with major stars (including DeWitt), the percentage was flipped. “There’s a lot of gray area, where they say my words but slightly out of order. Josh [Pais] talked about how the words were in his bones, but he wasn’t sure exactly how they would come out.” Sometimes her actors would stick to the script but launch into a digression together.

“I’m such an actor geek. I’m so obsessed with them,” she says. “I’m so interested in how each of them has a completely different way of working. It’s like I’m trying to find the specific little key to unlock their full potential in playing these particular parts. Not that I take credit for what they do, but giving them the space or the right nudge to help them find it themselves — it’s just endlessly thrilling to me.”

Her films are noted for the believable relationships between actors, which is especially impressive in “Your Sister’s Sister.” DeWitt joined only that film only three days prior to filming, and yet her and Emily Blunt have the lived-in camaraderie of actual sisters. She says she tries to get them to spend as much time together as possible. She said before filming, she came from Seattle, where she lives and shoots, to Los Angeles to make dinner for DeWitt, Pais and Page.

“I didn’t want to rehearse, because I like to keep the freshness,” she recalls. “We just hung out. I made vegetable fish curry for everyone. Those three had to have a family dynamic. It helps to create an intimacy that’s going to carry over onto the set.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

NHL

Rangers' speed versus Flyers' size makes interesting playoff…

Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size,…

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.