Lynn Shelton‘s new movie, Humpday, has been generating quite a bit of buzz due to it’s interesting title and even more unique subject matter. The movie is about two straight male friends who decide to make a porn together in order to prove something to themselves. After talking with Lynn Shelton, and hearing her reasons for making this film I liked it all the more.
In the interview, Lynn talked about how she came up with the idea of two straight friends having sex, writing the script with the Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard, why she used such an non-traditional method of filming, and then slippped into the interview what her porn name is…
Check out what Lynn had to say in the interview…
Why did you decide to make a film about two straight friends who decide to have sex with each other? What drew you to the concept?
LS: A friend of mine came to visit me in Seattle and he went to Hump, which is a real festival in Seattle, and he talked about the gay porn that he saw at the festival. I started to think about this relationship between straight guys and gayness. I just sounded like a ridiculous and funny pitch. I just had a feeling that it had the possibility to open up and explore all these things. We didn’t want it to be a broad farce. We wanted it to be believable, which we believed would probably be impossible, but we were excited about the challenge. If we failed, it would die a quite little death in Seattle. It would have been a bunch of friends and I making a movie.
The whole concept is sort of a red herring to get you into the theater, and then the film ends up being about all these other things like male friendship and coming to the realization that the image you have of yourself may be a little distant from who you actually turned out to be. Yes, sexuality is definitely a part of that, but it is about so much more. In a way, the dare itself is not about the sex. It is more about trying to break out and do something they are terrified of doing.
I have always been fascinated by the boundaries of sexual identity and how fluid or rigid those boundaries are for different people. I read studies that showed that, in general, men tend to be more polarized on either end of the spectrum and they tend to be pretty damn straight or pretty damn gay. Culturally, why is there such a tension between straight men and gayness? Why does there have to be like a nervous joshing when two straight guys say to each other, “I love you”? Why do they get so nervous? Why is there low-grade homophobia there? I’m not talking about homophobia in the sense of “I hate gay people” but a genuine, literal sense of the word; terror or fear of homosexuality and one’s personal homosexuality. I thought that making these guys put themselves into this situation would be deliciously ironic. These two guys are so straight, and they are taking themselves to the extremities of straightness by not letting themselves back out of this ridiculous dare, and the dare happens to be being gay for a day. I thought that would just be a beautiful thing.
The theme of self-discovery, at every stage in life, is such an important theme in the film. Can you talk about that and how it has affected you?
LS: It is true. Someone pointed that out to me. Now it seems like it is okay to go through that type of a questioning many times, or throughout your whole life. You can rediscover who you are or question who you have become at 60. Thank God I had permission to do that because it has been a revolution for me. I have to say that when I made my first feature, when I was 38 or 39; it really felt like, “Oh my God! I finally found exactly what I was meant to do!” I don’t think I could have done it 5 or 10 years earlier; I really think I had to take this long route to get there. I don’t think I am invalidating the work that I made in other mediums and formats before, but I really felt like I had come into my own.
How did your previous experiences as an actress and editor affect this film?
LS: It affected the process in every way. This process and methodology I have come up with, while working on my last two films, are completely based on my background in acting, editing, and even photography. I got a degree in photography and I held the second camera during this movie. I shot probably 40% of the film. It felt like I was reconnecting with the love of the visual and framing up the human face.
As an actor, I remembered when a director would trust me and value my input, I brought so much more of myself to the project and I did a better job. I had that in mind. That was why I brought the actors in early in the process. I wanted to invite them, in a really genuine way, to develop their characters and to give me input of how they would behave in a scene. I knew that it would increase the level of naturalism that I am looking for and because I know that if I give them that trust, they are going to have a sense of ownership and really bring it. This movie would have never worked if they hadn’t been completely, 100% engaged. The acting background really helped there.
The movie wouldn’t have worked at all if I didn’t have the editing chops. On set, we turned the cameras on for 20, 30, or 40 minutes sometimes. We would do these long rambling takes, and because of my acting background, I let them rev themselves up to where they needed to be. I knew that I would be able to take stuff out. This could have been a terrible film or, at least, a very mediocre one in the hands of less-skilled editors. It was a tough process. I didn’t know if the whole movie would hang together until we, sort of, conquered some of the scenes. The editing was really important.
How did you find Joshua Leonard to play the character of Andrew?
LS: What happened was, I started working with Mark Duplass and he very quickly thought of Josh; he thought Josh would be a really good match for this particular dynamic that I wanted, so he introduced us.
How did you develop the idea of Alycia Delmore’s character Anna?
LS: I wanted to bring an extreme naturalism to the film. I wanted to bring the actors in early on. I worked with the two guys for a while, and we had a lot of the stuff sketched out. I realized there were these huge, gaping holes. I couldn’t write these scenes with the wife because I didn’t know who she was! I needed to know who it was going to be before I could write the character and at that point I invited Alycia. I realized this was a really tricky character because she could be so awful. I have seen so many male-dominated dramas or comedies where there is a cardboard-cut-out of a wife or girlfriend and it drives me crazy. So just on principal, I knew she had to be fully fleshed-out, flawed, and as sympathetic as the guys. She had to be full of little surprises. I knew it was absolutely crucial for Anna to give Ben permission right before he goes to do it, otherwise the audience wouldn’t believe he could really do it and be redeemable as a character. So the two of us came up with “The Secret Life of Anna.” We were figuring out what would make get here to that point. It was a very collaborative process.
Who came up with the idea of the duck on the mantel?
LS: He had gone shopping and found this thing! Nobody knew about the duck! That day was the first day we shot. We had a start off picnic, and three or four hours later we actually started the shoot and he [Joshua Leonard] pulled that thing out. It was amazing! I loved the sense of entitlement when he puts it right on the middle of the mantel. Every actor had these little surprises they pulled out of their back pocket.
What was it like only shooting for 10 days?
LS: It was very comfortable. It wasn’t like a sixteen-hour per day shoot. It was really unhurried and just the right amount of time. I knew I probably wouldn’t have that much time with these guys because they were all really busy. I specifically structured the film where more would take place in longer scenes, instead of lots of little scenes. It is also not location heavy. We were in one location and moving from room to room. This way of working is very efficient because you are not relighting constantly. You are lighting it once and doing one long take. So it can take 2 hours to do a scene instead of a day and a half.
What is your porn name?
LS: Oh god! Mine is terrible. My first pet’s name was Rhoda and the first street I lived on was Brooklyn. It is not a very good porn name. We need to change the formula.
Are you working on any new projects?
LS: I am shooting a web series called “Five Dollar Covers-Seattle” that is being produced by MTV. It is a music based web series. The original version is “Five Dollar-Memphis” and it is online now. It was the brainchild of Craig Brewer, who also an independent filmmaker; he made Hustle and Flow and Black Snake Moan. Now they are going to different cities. It is like a feature film; it comes out to about ninety minutes of material. I am really excited about it. I am shooting it in the same way as this film; we have two cameras, there will be an outline instead of a script, and non-actors this time. The musicians all have little storylines, and they are all playing themselves. There are musical performances involved. We are shooting that in August. I have another film that I hope to shoot at the end of the year. It is a simple Humpday-style shoot with a two-person cast. The structure is a lot like My Dinner With Andre. It is extremely simple.
Humpday will be released in a limited amount of theaters on July 24.
Check out the trailer…