Over the last decade Lynn Shelton has directed six movies. The films, all but one of which she has also written, have generally fallen somewhere on the mumblecore spectrum and have featured talent as disparate as Keira Knightley and Jay Duplass. Their subjects have ranged from fear of adulting to the lasting effects of incarceration, and their settings vary from Alabama in the summertime to the Pacific Northwest in the winter. Her latest feature, Sword of Trust, stars Marc Maron as a small-town pawn shop owner who meets-strange with a lesbian couple (Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins) interested in selling a family artifact believed by its former owner to be proof that the South actually won the Civil War. Like much of Shelton’s work, the movie is quietly funny, finding most of its humor in odd characters and their atypical story arcs.
The film, which debuted at the SXSW Film Festival and will open on July 12, might be Shelton’s last—at least for a while. For years Shelton has directed television episodes as a way to support her feature-film career. The strategy has coincided with the streaming wars and put her squarely in the center of the current TV boom. She’s helmed episodes of GLOW, Master of None, and Casual, among others. And lately her work in the field has paid off in ways that her film directing hasn’t exactly. In April it was announced that she had been hired to direct and executive produce the highly anticipated Hulu adaptation of Celeste Ng’s best-selling novel Little Fires Everywhere, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.
In an interview this week ahead of Sword of Trust’s release, Shelton said the TV project is unlike anything she’s done before, and it came at a moment when she was absolutely ready to take it on.
“It’s probably the biggest opportunity I’ve had ever,” said Shelton about the new series. “It’s unbelievable.”
Shelton and I spoke at a coffee shop in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles while she was on a very brief respite before heading to set to finish directing the first of the four episodes on her docket while also overseeing the entire eight-episode production alongside Witherspoon, Washington, and others.
“I’m good at this,” said Shelton, a speed talker who exudes enthusiasm and possesses an infectious laugh. “That was why I wanted to pitch to do this and why I wanted to take on a job like this. I feel like I was born to do this. I related to every single character on some level and I felt deeply, personally connected to the themes of the story: race, class, culture, white privilege, all of this stuff that I don’t feel like I’ve had an opportunity to really address but that is definitely something I’ve been wanting to do.”
The series comes at a time when serialized, streaming programming is on the rise and small, indie films—S