Lynn Shelton, the independent filmmaker and TV director who helmed episodes of Mad Men, GLOW, and Little Fires Everywhere, among many other shows, died Friday due to a previously unidentified blood disorder. She was 54.
Shelton was a prominent figure in the indie film community, with her directorial efforts including Humpday, Your Sister's Sister, and last year's Sword of Trust. Her work was noted for its naturalistic acting, skillful integration of improvisation, and understated approach to both comedy and drama. She was also a prolific director of television, beginning with the Mad Men season 4 episode "Hands and Knees" in 2010.
Born in Ohio in 1965, Shelton grew up in Seattle and went on to pursue acting and photography, eventually beginning her film career as an editor. Her first feature as writer-director, We Go Way Back, was released in 2006, and Shelton directed seven more films over the next 14 years, writing all but one. Her work earned substantial critical acclaim and many awards, including the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award for Humpday in 2010. She had recently been collaborating with her romantic partner Marc Maron on a script for her next film.
Shelton's TV career began when Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner hand-picked her to direct "Hands and Knees," and she went on to work on such series as New Girl, Fresh Off the Boat, Shameless, The Morning Show, and many more.
In addition to Maron, Shelton is survived by her son Milo Seal, her husband of many years Kevin Seal, as well as her parents, brothers, and sister.
On Sunday, Maron released a statement obtained by EW regarding Shelton's death, saying that "she collapsed yesterday morning after having been ill for a week. There was a previously unknown, underlying condition. It was not COVID-19. The doctors could not save her. They tried. Hard."
He continued, “I loved her very much as I know many of you did as well. It’s devastating. I am leveled, heartbroken and in complete shock and don’t really know how to move forward in this moment. I needed you all to know. I don’t know some of you. Some I do. I’m just trying to let the people who were important to her know.
“She was a beautiful, kind, loving, charismatic artist. Her spirit was pure joy. She made me happy. I made her happy. We were happy. I made her laugh all the time. We laughed a lot. We were starting a life together. I really can’t believe what is happening. This is a horrendous sad loss."
Many others in the entertainment industry paid tribute to Shelton on social media, shocked and saddened by her sudden passing.
"We made so many things together. I wish we had made more," Mark Duplass wrote on Twitter. "Her boundless creative energy and infectious spirit were unrivaled. She made me better. We butted heads, made up, laughed, pushed each other. Like family. What a deep loss."
You can see more tributes below.
We lost our dear friend Lynn Shelton. We made so many things together. I wish we had made more. Her boundless creative energy and infectious spirit were unrivaled. She made me better. We butted heads, made up, laughed, pushed each other. Like family. What a deep loss. pic.twitter.com/LcowmbGqum— Mark Duplass (@MarkDuplass) May 16, 2020
Lynn Shelton loved actors and we loved her back. She was a dream on set. Her lovely, sunny energy was infectious and actors always drifted to video village between takes to be around her. She had such a quiet power and I will miss her. Rest In Peace, Lynn. Love you. pic.twitter.com/jGvbSV3fN1— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) May 16, 2020
Devastating news. I was lucky enough to play a small role in a Lynn Shelton film & she treated her cast & crew like a family. I learned about directing from watching her. The kindness with which she treated people. The room she left for spontaneity. We've lost a great one. 😢♥️ https://t.co/vzMwhL0yic— Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs) May 16, 2020
I loved Lynn Shelton's work so much. All her characters are so real and nuanced, and funny, and I wanted to work with her so badly. What a talent. This is such sad news.— Abbi Jacobson (@abbijacobson) May 16, 2020
I am truly shocked at the passing of Lynn Shelton. She was a friend, a kind heart, so talented & only just getting started, despite her stellar work so far. My heart goes out to her family and loved ones. She's left us too soon. I can't believe I'll never hear her laugh again.— edgarwright (@edgarwright) May 16, 2020
I had the great pleasure of working with Lynn Shelton on Touchy Feely. She was an actors director extraordinaire. I loved being in her presence. She was warm and gracious and supremely talented. Rest In Peace my friend. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/iP9HM4lwKx— Allison Janney (@AllisonBJanney) May 16, 2020
Lynn Shelton, I am forever grateful for the little time we spent together. You lit up the set of Dickinson the second you arrived. Thank you for your unbelievable energy. You will be deeply missed.— Hailee Steinfeld (@HaileeSteinfeld) May 16, 2020
I’m so devastated to hear about Lynn Shelton’s passing yesterday. I’m in complete shock that this vibrant, talented, and soulful filmmaker is no longer with us. Lynn was so passionate about our show, Little Fires Everywhere. pic.twitter.com/E8s4dozfDO— Reese Witherspoon (@ReeseW) May 16, 2020