Lynn Shelton, Director of ‘Humpday’ and ‘Mad Men’ Episodes, Dies at 54

A previously undisclosed blood disorder was the cause of death

Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Director and producer Lynn Shelton, who stewarded several popular indie films, including “Humpday,” and also directed a number of episodes for prominent TV shows like “Glow” and “Mad Men,” has died from a previously undisclosed blood disorder, her publicist said on Saturday. She was 54.

Shelton’s prolific output included directing five episodes of “New Girl,” eight episodes of “Fresh off the Boat,” five episodes of “Glow,” two episodes of “Maron” and one episode of “Mad Men,” among work on several other TV series.

The Seattle native started off as an aspiring actor and photographer in her 20s but eventually moved towards filmmaking after being inspired by French director Claire Denis, who had shared she didn’t direct her first movie until she was 40. Shelton directed her first film, “We Go Way Back,” in 2006, but her break came in 2009, when “Humpday,” starring Joshua Leonard, Alycia  Delmore and longtime collaborator Mark Duplass, premiered at Sundance and received rave reviews. “Humpday” was acquired and distributed by Magnolia Pictures afterward and later won the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award in 2010.

She reunited with Duplass for 2011’s “Your Sister’s Sister,” a comedy-drama also starring Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt. Shelton went on to direct “Touchy Feely” in 2013 and the Keira Knightly-led “Laggies” in 2014. Her next film, “Outside In,” was her first dramatic film and starred Edie Falco and Jay Duplass in a movie about a convict who falls in love with his old high school teacher. The last film Shelton directed and produced was “Sword of Trust,” a comedy starring Marc Maron, with whom she spent the last year of her life.

Shelton loved seeing her films on the big screen. In fact, in 2013 she told TheWrap that seeing a film with an audience “is like another part of the experience.”

“I am a sucker for the theatrical experience, as I think many, many filmmakers are,” she said during TheWrap’s Sundance Film Festival 2013 panel “How to Make and Sell Your Indie Movie.”

“I love seeing it in a theater and seeing how it felt with the audience, and the whole audience becomes almost a part of the film,” she said. “It really sort of [is] like another character in the film. It’s like another part of the experience.”

Shelton said that although she understands that watching a film at home offers the viewer an “individual experience,” she will “fight tooth and nail for as long as I possibly can for my films to be seen in a theater. And you can call it vanity, I don’t care, it’s I just know in my heart that it’s a completely different film when you see it with an audience than when you see it by yourself.”

Four years later at the Toronto International Film Festival, Shelton chatted with TheWrap editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman about “Outside In,” a drama about an ex-con (Jay Duplass) who struggles to readjust to life, as he forms an intense bond with his former high school teacher (played by Edie Falco). You can watch the video in its entirety below:

Shelton was born on August 27, 1965 in Oberlin, Ohio. She was raised in Seattle and later returned to her birthplace to attend Oberlin College before entering the University of Washington’s school of drama. Shelton also earned a Master’s of Fine Arts in photography from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.

Shelton is survived by her son, Milo Seal, her former husband Kevin Seal, whom she was married to from 2001 to 2019. She is also survived by her parents Wendy and Alan Roedell and David “Mac” Shelton and Frauke Rynd and three siblings.