Combustible Celluloid

Interview: Lynn Shelton

Director Lynn Shelton (left), with Emily Blunt on the set of Your Sister's Sister

'Sister' Acting

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

June 5, 2012—Directed by Lynn Shelton, Your Sister's Sister -- which opens Friday in Bay Area theaters -- is a rare beast: a low-budget movie about actual characters.

For Ms. Shelton, who recently spoke with the Examiner by phone, it's an example of an affordable model that has worked over the course of several films.

"This is my third movie in a row with three characters in one location and taking place over a long weekend," she says, adding that the film was shot in just 12 days, with a small crew.

Yet, without compromising her working methods, Shelton has also graduated to a more recognizable cast.

Rising star Emily Blunt plays Iris, who offers to let her best friend Jack (Mark Duplass) stay in her family cabin. When Jack arrives, he finds Iris's sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt, from Rachel Getting Married) already staying there.

After a night of drinking, Jack and Hannah sleep together, creating a sticky situation when Iris unexpectedly arrives the next day.

Shelton had worked with Duplass -- also a rising star, appearing in four films so far in 2012, as well as directing two others -- in her previous film Humpday.

Both Duplass and Shelton have been associated with the independent filmmaking movement known as "mumblecore."

"I don't think I would mind if not for that horrible word," Shelton laughs. "The good thing is that we were getting written about. It's a way to lump all these things together. We weren't waiting around to make our movies, and we had a high bar for truthfulness."

Truthfulness abounds in Your Sister's Sister, with the three characters interacting in a most realistic way. They actually converse with one another, rather than simply reciting dialogue.

The director even gave her actors 'creative consultant' credits. "We worked together for months," Shelton says. "I wanted it to feel like a second skin for them, to find the overlap between themselves and their characters."

Additionally, Shelton's screenplay is not exactly standard. She started shooting with a 70-page "scriptment" (a cross between a script and a treatment), which she wrote in-between conversations with the actors.

She also asked them not to memorize their lines, but if they liked a particular line, they could feel free to use it.

Despite the close, personal touch, Shelton says that the characters are not based on her own life. "Those relationships are uncomplicated and boring," she laughs. "They're much less interesting than the ones you see on the screen."

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