Unchained at Sundance 2012: Mumblecore goes hardcore


YOUR SISTER’S SISTER directed by Lynn Shelton was my second film of the festival. It actually wasn’t on my list but timing worked out that I was able to get a volunteer ticket in time. Getting there via shuttle on time, however was not as convenient.

The screening itself was packed and word around the fest was that Shelton had missed the premiere that morning due to a crazy snowstorm in Seattle. They were able to do the AM Q&A via speakerphone, which was creative. At our evening screening, the audience learned that Shelton and her crew made the 17 hour drive to Utah at 20 miles per hour through the snow. I don’t know about you but I was blown away. Shows their commitment to the project and being there to support always especially in person at Sundance. Go team Mumblecore! Also makes any of my shuttle troubles look like a walk in the park in comparison.

At this point, I’m still keeping to micro “reviews” just because I am running on so very few hours of sleep and writing via iPod Touch. YOUR SISTER was a strong fun heartbreaking honest whirlwind between a grieving man, his best friend (who is also his dead brother’s exgirlfriend) and her sister. The story follows these three individuals who are avoiding love so they won’t get hurt, only to learn the true destruction yet beauty of vulnerability.

My favorite part of seeing films anywhere is always the Q&A’s afterwards. From YOUR SISTER, I definitely got a better sense of Shelton’s and actor/writer Mark Duplass’ process in filmmaking. Duplass went into depth about the origin of the film. His quote of the night: “We essentially greenlighted ourselves.” the script came from drawer of ideas that Mark and Jay Duplass have, was sent to Lynn Shelton and the original mother character turned into a sister. I found it interesting that Shelton herself said that she wasn’t necessarily under the infamous Mumblecore movement (low budget flicks from new filmmakers with small character driven stories) but “making movies and feeling her way.” I’d seen her previous film HUMPDAY but hearing her speak in person really helped me connect to her work thus far.

The crew also shared more background about the production itself. Lynn Shelton is definitely a regional filmmaker as YOUR SISTER is also set in Washington state (on a private island). They shot the film in 13 days and the small crew held multiple positions. When I heard the composer was also the boom operator, it reminded me of my Ithaca student film crew days. Shelton described the entire production as being like camp because they were so secluded in the wilderness. The film itself, which mostly takes place in one cabin house on the island, was highly improvised from the original 70 page script. Together the director and cast brainstormed, created backstory and wrote dialogue on set. I was surprised when Shelton said ultimately the film was written in the editing room. Sidenote, the boom operator/composer absolutely hit the sound design on the head. I mean who knew what an island off Washington state sounded like?

Overall, I truly got a sense of the Mumblecore spirit. It’s more than making movies on the cheap. It’s about artist constantly creating in order to build a body of strong work. As Duplass admitted: “We work together and have fun. If it does well then it does, but at least we made a film.”

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2 thoughts on “Unchained at Sundance 2012: Mumblecore goes hardcore

  1. […] an audience member/film student who’s removed from the trending artist. I mentioned in my post from Sundance about Mark’s bold “We greenlit ourselves” statement when someone asked about his […]

  2. […] our) favorites were nominated including: BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, BERNIE, MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, YOUR SISTER’S SISTER, AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF HER BEAUTY and SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. Indie movie fans are currently […]


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