Lynn Shelton Celebrates Humpday

This year has been a bit surreal for me.

Humpday is my third feature and the first of mine to be accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. I made the film on a shoestring budget in Seattle, the town where I live, with talented, wonderful friends whom I love—just as I have made my previous two movies.

My quest as a moviemaker has always been to craft good art and to have a good time doing it, as opposed to fishing for fame and fortune. Still, I will confess that getting into Sundance was a dream come true, and I assumed that our very respectable reception at that festival would be the peak experience in the life of our modest, homegrown film. As it turns out, more good things were in store for it and for us.

Present at our Park City world premiere was Frédéric Boyer, then a member of the selection committee for Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight (and now the artistic director). Our sales agent, Josh Braun, regaled me the next day with an impression—in a beautifully rendered French accent—of Boyer’s comment to him after the screening, “I do not like zhees film… I love it.”
Olivier Père, the artistic director of Directors’ Fortnight at the time, attended a later screening and he must have liked it (or “loved it,” as the case may be) as well, because a month and a half later we received our official invitation to the 2009 Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (the Directors’ Fortnight).

The fact that I was going to Cannes was a difficult concept for me to absorb. My arms were still black and blue from all the pinching they had suffered over the fact that Sundance had premiered my film. Now I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was actually living someone else’s life. This feeling only intensified as the trip to France approached, and, frankly, it continued right through the festival itself.

Let me just say a few words about wardrobe: Seattle is a casual town and I’m a casual girl. This same adjective could easily be applied to the other members of the Humpday team, along with such descriptive phrases as “rumpled chic,” “skateboard punk,” “thrift store bin scrounging” or, simply, “never-occurs-to-him-that-he-could-occasionally-take-his-hoodie-off.” The level of stress hormones released into our collective bloodstreams at the mention of such terms as “black tie” and even “semi-formal” could have easily woken a heavily tranquilized pachyderm.

Somehow, miraculously (mostly through the classic trio of begging, borrowing and stealing), we each managed to gird ourselves with appropriate apparel for the occasion. (Seeing the male members of my cast and crew in tuxes was, I have to admit, an unexpectedly thrilling fringe benefit to this entire experience.)

Cannes is a remarkable combination of the highest culture and the crassest commercial dreck. Boulevard de la Croisette, the street that runs adjacent to the shoreline, is lined with large hotels, most of them quite grand. The exquisite façade of one of them, the famous Carlton Cannes, was obscured from head to toe by enormous likenesses of G.I. Joe and his spiritual brethren, the Inglourious Basterds; its front lawn had been gaudily sprayed to overflow with fake snow and a large Jim-Carrey-in-A-Christmas-Carol Christmas tree. A few feet away, a billboard of Jean-Claude Van Damme glowered down, aggressively asking: “Can the Master of the Ancient Arts Conquer the Caged Fighters of Las Vegas?” (An intriguing question that I still find myself chewing over daily…)

La Croisette is jammed with humanity. So jammed that traversing from one end to the other becomes at times perilous. (The situation is not helped by the presence of vulture-like photographers skulking at the curb, waiting to inhibit your already tortoise-like progress with their best imitation of your own personal paparazzi, the photographic results of which you are expected to pay for yourself, naturally.)
None of this unpleasantness matters of course, because you are in the south of France. The food is incredible, the weather (mostly) perfect and the language a genuine salve to the ears. Then there are the French.

The French are not only more attractive than mere mortals—our film’s publicist, Camille, looked like an even prettier version of Julie Delpy—but they are better versed in film, art history, politics, literature, cultural theory, languages not their own and philosophy. They also seemed quite bent on bringing every drop of this excessive knowledge to the fore during my Q&As and press interviews. I therefore found myself directing most of my energy toward trying to hide my own American dunderheadedness. (One kind, yet still intimidating, woman quoted Nietzsche to me “as a gift.” Oddly, it actually felt like one!)

The feeling that I was living someone else’s life reached its apex the day of our official screening. The feeling started to climb as my face and hair were being prettified by ex-models at the complimentary L’Oreal Spa; it continued to rise as Monsieur Père clinked champagne flutes with us at our pre-screening toast; it went higher still as I teetered in my ridiculously pointy (borrowed) Nicole Miller pumps to the stage to introduce my film; up and up it soared as the audience laughed and squirmed even whilst reading subtitles; and finally, the pinnacle was reached as the end credits rolled.

No one had prepared me for what was to come at the end of the film. I guess that’s because sometimes the audience boos or walks out silently. But when they approve of your film, they clap. I mean, they clap! And if they clap loudly enough, and if enough of them stand while clapping, then a spotlight finds you in the crowd and you are expected to stand and receive the love. Which is awesome, unless you are totally unprepared for this and you can’t get your pointy shoes (“wicked” my husband called them) back on again because you’re trying to put them on the wrong feet.

Even then, however, in this ridiculed state, once you finally manage to stand, basking in the embarrassing glow of a minutes-long standing ovation at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs, it’s pretty f’ing incredible. MM

Humpday is in theaters now.

Share the MovieMaker love!

Comments are closed.

Latest Stories
Copy of Copy of Blue Ruin Poster

Blue Ruin‘s director-writer-DP, Jeremy Saulnier, shares one of MovieMaker‘s greatest How They Did It stories of all time, lying, begging and impoverishing himself on the way to Cannes glory with his sleek bullet of a revenge thriller.This article appears in full in our Spring issue, on stands now. Stay tuned tomorrow for Part Two. Prologue [...]

Copy of Copy of Sergey Maidukov_01_HR

In our Spring issue, we asked Academy-Award winning director Oliver Stone if film can make a difference in vanquishing the darkness and rot that has pervaded through humanity’s ages. Stone, whose provocative Showtime documentary series The Untold History of the United States recently spawned an education project, is a veteran in the trenches of political [...]

50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee - SFF 2013 Spectacular Now Screening - Featured

Feast your eyes on MovieMaker‘s complete list of the 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee in 2014. Despite original plan to publish the list in installments (we had already begun here and here), we’ve decided we couldn’t keep the news to ourselves any longer. We’re happy to present our much-deliberated, comprehensive list, featured in [...]

Cold in July Featured

Jim Mickle’s new Cold in July trailer guarantees grit, guns, blood, and tears. Not necessarily in that order. Jim Mickle’s first two films Stake Land and Mulberry St were entertaining, if not very sophisticated, forays into modern horror. His 2013 follow-up We Are What We Are showed that Mickle is developing into a refined storyteller, capable [...]


You can take a moviemaker out of New York, but… When my first son Ben was born in Los Angeles 19 years ago, I cut the umbilical cord, held him in my arms, and said, “Ben, I just want you to know one thing—you may have been born in L.A., but we’re from New York!” [...]


This week, New Filmmakers LA brings you the inside scoop on the moviemaking, featuring interviews with directors Dustin Shroff, John McCracken, Danny Finn, Juan Uribe and John Bevilacqua. NewFilmmakers LA (NFMLA) is a non-profit organization designed to showcase the innovative works by emerging filmmakers from around the world, providing the Los Angeles community of entertainment [...]


Seven years ago, MovieMaker interviewed British director Edgar Wright about the second part of his Blood and Cornetto trilogy: the devilishly sharp cop-movie parody Hot Fuzz. Today Wright turns 40, and to celebrate his singular cinematic style we’re revisiting this typically droll conversation between the director, his longtime collaborator Simon Pegg, and writer David Fear. [...]


Jump Outs is an urban gameshow, produced and distributed by DailyMotion as a part of their new digital programming. Production assistant David Quan walks us through the set of the unscripted shoot, involving eight ENG cameras and a dozen GoPros. It’s quiet on top of the Hill. The four of us sit in silence, but [...]

Made In LA - Social Action Documentary

In our Spring 2014 Activism in Film issue (available to the public next Tuesday, April 22!), we asked the question: Can your movie change the world? In our cover story, Beth Portello, co-founder of Cinema Libre Studio, interviewed representatives from all the different groups that make social change possible: grant organizations, engagement strategists, producers, distributors, [...]