Posted April 4, 2018
By JBFC Senior Programmer Andrew Jupin
Outside In is the latest from acclaimed indie director Lynn Shelton. The film had its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. The JBFC always enjoys bringing films by talented women filmmakers to our audience and Outside In is no exception.
Not only was Outside In directed and co-written by a Lynn Shelton (the other credited screenwriter is one of the film’s stars, Jay Duplass, who is great here), it also features two amazing performances by women. The first one is from the up and coming Kaitlyn Dever. At 21, she’s already made quite a splash—check out her work in FX’s Justified, where she goes toe-to-toe with actors like Timothy Olyphant and the incredible Margo Martindale, and Destin Daniel Cretton’s knockout Short Term 12.
The other is of course from the never-not-amazing Edie Falco. Sure, while I (and probably many others) will always remember her first for her untouchable work as Carmela Soprano on HBO’s The Sopranos, her post-mob-wife career has featured incredible and diverse turns in both television—Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, NBC’s 30 Rock, Horace and Pete—and film—she’s great as Pat, the flawed but loving matriarch in Gillian Robespierre’s Landline, and she steals every scene she’s a part of in the film no one will ever see, Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy.
Lynn Shelton also plays in the worlds of both film and television. When she hasn’t been making movies, she’s been directing a ton of television, including some of the best episodes of Fox’s New Girl, as well as episodes of Fresh Off the Boat, GLOW, The Mindy Project, and more.
Shelton is a perfect example—and proves the truth in the idea—that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. She was in her mid-thirties, living in the Pacific Northwest (she grew up in Seattle), and resigned to the belief that the time for her to become a working filmmaker had passed. One night, she went to a screening at Seattle’s Northwest Film Forum—a great institution by the way—to see a film and Q&A with the extraordinary French filmmaker, Claire Denis. During the Q&A, Denis mentioned that she didn’t get her first film made until she was 40 and was 42 when her art house classic, Chocolat, was released in 1988. After hearing this, Shelton was more determined than ever to become a filmmaker.
Her first film came in 2006, the charming debut, We Go Way Back, a surreal film about a woman in her 20s who is taunted, haunted, and followed by a version of herself at 13. The film premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, but didn’t see any kind of official release until 2011. But that didn’t slow Shelton’s career. Since her debut, she’s written and directed a number of fabulous indie films including: My Effortless Brilliance in 2008; Humpday, the film that really put her on the map, in 2009; Your Sister’s Sister in 2011 starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Mark Duplass; and Laggies from 2014, starring Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell and even featured Kaitlyn Dever in a small role.
Shelton came up making films in the indie filmmaking circle that came to be known as “mumblecore”—sometimes also known as “Bedhead Cinema” or “Slackavetes,” an amusing portmanteau made from Richard Linklater’s Slacker and John Cassavetes, a film and a filmmaker whose qualities both very much influenced this group of filmmakers.
Mumblecore, a genre that has since grown, transformed, and virtually doesn’t exist anymore, was a style of filmmaking the started in the early aughts. Along with Lynn Shelton, some other filmmakers to get their start in this circle include Andrew Bujalski, Joe Swanberg, Aaron Katz, Mark and Jay Duplass, and Greta Gerwig. It’s a mostly American filmmaking movement, although countries including Germany and India saw a couple of similar examples pop up over the last 15 years. The term “mumblecore” was supposedly coined at the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival by Eric Masanuga, a sound editor who had worked with Andrew Bujalski, whose first film, Funny Ha Ha from 2002, is considered by many to be the first mumblecore film.
Stylistically, these films feature distinguishing characteristics: naturalism in both performances and dialogue, the use of non-actors, improvised screenplays (in some cases, but not all), conversationally driven storytelling (instead of featuring any kind of action set pieces), the use of real spaces as opposed to sets, and most importantly, DIY digital film equipment. This film movement was born at a time when high-grade (for the time) digital film equipment was being made at a reasonable consumer price point, thus enabling a lot of these first-time filmmakers to get their films made on the cheap.
The reason mumblecore doesn’t really exist as it once did is because a lot of the filmmakers have moved on to bigger budget projects, Shelton included. But even in Outside In, you can see traces of mumblecore’s DNA floating around.
Another great example of how the filmmakers have outgrown the movement is, of course, Greta Gerwig. If you compare her 2017 solo directorial debut, Lady Bird, with the first film she had a hand in directing, 2008’s Nights and Weekends, they couldn’t be more different if they tried. Just compare screenshots from both films to see what I’m talking about.
If you’d like to further dive into the indie world of Lynn Shelton and her filmmaking contemporaries and their influences, you can find a To-Watch list below. Some of these films are mumblecore films, some of them are films that grew out beyond the movement, some of them are films that inspired these early-aughts filmmakers, and some simply echo the stylistic and technical predilections of mumblecore:
*Please Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, the JBFC will earn a small commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you*
Mutual Appreciation (2005, Andrew Bujalski)
The Puffy Chair (2006, The Duplass Brothers)
Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy (1995, 2004, 2013)
Slacker (1991, Richard Linklater)
Clerks (1994, Kevin Smith)
A Woman Under the Influence (1974, John Cassavetes)
Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007, Joe Swanberg)
The House of the Devil (2009, Ti West)
Drinking Buddies (2013, Joe Swanberg)
Frances Ha (2012, Noah Baumbach)
Nights and Weekends (2008, Greta Gerwig & Joe Swanberg)