This week, we reflect on the incredible creative force of Lynn Shelton and all that she contributed to our Seattle film community. A Seattle native, Lynn grew up studying acting, painting, poetry, and photography, later earning a degree in drama from the University of Washington. Lynn helped put Seattle’s indie film community on the map with Humpday (Seattle, 2009), and was awarded the Seattle Mayor’s Film Award in 2009.
At the Office of Film + Music, we celebrate Lynn’s generous spirit and gift of collaboration, and thank her for her leadership in promoting Seattle as a place where independent films can thrive. We celebrate her for highlighting Washington as a premier filming location and incorporating our idyllic scenery as a backdrop to many of her films such as Your Sister’s Sister (Anacortes & San Juan Islands, 2011), Touchy Feely (Seattle, 2013), Laggies (Shoreline & Seattle, 2014), and Outside In (Snohomish County, 2017).
“Lynn Shelton was one of Seattle’s most iconic filmmakers, and we are deeply saddened by her passing. Lynn was such a singular creative force: She captured human connection with such grace and humor. And she always worked to lift up her fellow artists and put Seattle on the map as a center for independent film and music. The City of Seattle thanks Lynn for her endless contributions to the cultural and civic life of our City, and we extend our thoughts to her loved ones,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan.
Lynn spent a decade learning the ins-and-outs of cinema before writing and directing her first feature-length film, We Go Way Back, premiering at SLAMDANCE 2006, where it received the Grand Jury Award for Best Cinematography. As a two-time-opener for Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF), Lynn’s films were featured in 2012 with Your Sister’s Sister and in 2019 with Sword of Trust. Lynn spent her career directing award winning, critically acclaimed feature films and television shows including $5Cover Seattle, Mad Men, The Good Place, GLOW, and New Girl.
Lynn helped set a high bar for Seattle’s independent film community’s filmmaking process: Crewtopia. Filmmakers reference it and filmmaker panels have been hosted about it. If filmmaking is the journey to the finished picture’s destination, to achieve Crewtopia is to achieve filmmaking nirvana. While she did not coin the term, Lynn embodied this ethic in every aspect of her filmmaking. Even with her personal success, Lynn always returned to Seattle and Washington State, and to Crewtopia.
Lynn fiercely championed Washington’s film incentive program and fought to bring film production to Seattle and the state. Lynn endlessly supported her collaborators and the local film community, backing the growing careers of local filmmakers including SJ Chiro (Lane 74) and Mayor’s Film Award winners Megan Griffiths, Jennifer Roth, Ben Kasulke, and Lacey Leavitt.
Lynn was a champion of all Seattle creatives, collaborating with musicians such as Ben Gibbard (Laggies) and Tomo Nakayama (Touchy Feely), and hand-picked the 12 local bands featured in the innovative 2010 $5 Cover – Seattle web series she directed for MTV.
“The film and music crossover was second nature to Lynn,” says Chris Swenson, OFM Acting Director. “She came into the project already knowing most of the bands she wanted to work with and had a deep connection with the bands-as-fans-of-other-bands community and concept. Her love for and support of Seattle creatives made the web series innovative and something special.”
Today, May 21 Northwest Film Forum will celebrate the life and work of Lynn Shelton on their Facebook videos page. Lynn Shelton had planned to participate in a livestream of her film We Go Way Back with Northwest Film Forum before her sudden passing. This event will still take place, with the accompanying live chat repurposed as a space to share memories of Lynn.
Authentic in her convictions and passionate about her craft, Lynn will be remembered not only as a talented filmmaker but also as a friend. Thank you for everything, Lynn. You are loved and will be deeply missed.