|Mark Duplass and Lynn Shelton|
Sometimes male bonding can be taken a little too far.
-- Humpday tagline
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Last night, through a series of neat coincidences, I ended up on the set of Lynn Shelton's upcoming film, Humpday. The shoot began on Sunday, June 22, and had been in progress for four days when my friend and I arrived at the spacious Ballard home of Matt Sullivan (founder of local independent label Light in the Attic).
We were met by line producer/unit publicist Steven Schardt and jack of all trades David Lipson (True Adolescents), who immediately made us feel welcome. It was just after 9pm. While the crew set up for their first scene and the sun disappeared over the horizon, we mingled in the backyard with Schardt, assistant director Jennifer Maas (Sullivan's girlfriend and housemate), second unit camera operator Megan Griffiths (The Guatemalan Handshake, Zoo), and actor Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project).
When I interviewed Leonard's co-star Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair) during this year's Seattle International Film Festival, he described it as "a dude movie," so I suspect it shares thematic elements with Shelton's previous full-length, My Effortless Brilliance, which revolves around three men, played by Basil Harris, Calvin Reeder, and writer/musician Sean Nelson.
|Leonard at Sundance Film Festival 2005|
After that, the three-man camera team moved to the second floor. (There were around a dozen crew members altogether.) While they set up for the next scene, Schardt, Lipson, and Maas filled us in on the production. In the process, I learned that Maas has worked with Shelton before and that she's also behind Wheedle's Groove: The Movie, a documentary about Seattle's soul scene. Duplass showed up, and recognized me from SIFF, which was nice. We all grabbed a few bites from the craft services table and had a chat.
Regarding Facebook, to which I'm addicted, Leonard said he's wary of social networking sites, but Shelton is a believer (more in Facebook than MySpace). It was through Facebook that I ended up on the set of Humpday, and Shelton's been doing a great job of providing updates on her profile page. When I checked earlier today, I noticed she had posted the following: "Lynn Shelton has finished acting in her own film. Thank God."
Leonard became more enthusiastic on the subject of Scrabble. Duplass noted that he made a short film (2004's Scrapple) in which a man and woman (Duplass and his wife, Puffy Chair co-star Katie Aselton) play a game. (Things don't go well.) When I asked if it's possible to view it online, he recommended Atom Films and the Duplass Brothers website.
|Star of the first Duplass movie|
The two men had such an easy rapport that I assumed they'd met before. They had. Duplass says he brought Leonard to Shelton's attention in the first place. Afterwards, Duplass headed upstairs. He and Shelton talked about his scene for awhile, and then they started to roll. In this sequence, Ben (Duplass) enters the bathroom and shuts the door (we watched via Maas's monitor). Then he looks in the mirror, runs his hand through his hair, and calls his wife, Anna (Alycia Delmore). He's been drinking and explains that he shouldn't be driving. Some awkward chitchat follows. As Shelton later explained, "Alycia was on the other end of that call. She was being filmed in the other key location (a few blocks away from Maas's house) by Griffiths at the same time we were filming Mark in the bathroom."
We watched Duplass run through the scene three times. He changed his dialogue, but the gist of the conversation remained the same. I told him I liked the off-the-cuff line about the cat and the mouse; it reminded me that he had said, earlier that evening, that he and Katie are allergic to cats.
After that, we mingled around some more while the crew set up in the bedroom on the second floor. Schardt explained that they'd be shooting an intimate scene, and wouldn't be wrapping up until 3am in the morning. By this time, it was around 11pm. My friend and I decided to leave before shooting resumed at midnight. Four actors and a camera person were going to be sharing a small space, so we would've only gotten in the way. Nonetheless, Shelton recommended we take a look at the room, which was done up in filmy fabrics and blue lighting. While there, we had a brief chat with Kasulke about free food at public events (everybody's favorite!).
Regarding that last scene, I appreciate the fact that no one asked us to leave. As long as we stayed out of the way and didn't make any noise while Kasulke's camera was rolling, the crew didn't seem to mind our presence.
|My Effortless Brilliance|
So, that was my first visit to a film set. Shelton was surprised to hear that, but no one had ever asked me before, and nor had I ever requested a visit (it never would've occurred to me). I suspected a Shelton set would make for an accommodating environment, and that was exactly what I found. Everybody seemed to know what they were supposed to do, and there were no arguments of any kind. For some observers, that might sound boring, but to me it felt like a relaxed house party (and Leonard confirmed that Hollywood movie sets are a lot less interesting).
According to Schardt, Humpday represents a 10-day shoot, which is amazing by any standard. When I spoke with Duplass a few weeks ago, he said that his shoots usually last around 19 days. And in case this report reads like a puff piece, I should note that I have no idea whether this micro-budget film will actually "work" or not. Based on the quality of Shelton's previous films, though, I have faith. The scenes were intriguing, and since she's working with a more experienced cast, the movie might even attract more attention than We Go Way Back and My Effortless Brilliance despite--or maybe even because of--the fact that she made it on a smaller scale.
In the meantime, Mark and Jay Duplass's second feature, Baghead, opens August 8 (they're already into post-production on The Do-Deca-Pentathlon), while Leonard is in pre-production on his narrative debut, Spectacular Regret, with Danny Huston, Kelli Garner, and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson.
Had I known at the time that Leonard, like Duplass, doubles as a writer/director, I would've asked him about this project (or about his music documentary, Beautiful Losers), but I had no idea until I checked the IMDb (he also has more credits than The Blair Witch Project, including episodes of CSI: Miami, Men of Honor, and Allison Anders' Things Behind the Sun).
During SIFF, I asked Shelton to keep me apprised on her distribution plans regarding My Effortless Brilliance, and I may update this post once I know more about when and where it'll be screening next. And as more information trickles out regarding Humpday, I may add those details, as well.
Endnote: Click here for my SIFFBlog interview with Shelton and here for my Tablet interview with Sullivan (his label is providing the music for Craig Johnson's Northwest-set True Adolescents, which features Duplass and Melissa Leo). Images from The Austin Chronicle, IFC Films, and SAGindie