Lynn Shelton on Overcoming Her Darkest Second on Set

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Lynn Shelton on Overcoming Her Darkest Moment on Set

I last spoke to my friend Lynn Shelton on March 17th, just weeks before she suddenly passed away. She was also one of my role models as a director, one of my favorite interview topics, and a true friend in an industry known for being fake.

I asked her a favor on a book I'm working on, How I Got Through, Self-Care Interviews for Creative Guys, and as always, Lynn was eager to contribute. She called me from her romantic and creative partner, Marc Maron, and we talked for almost two hours. As befits our friendship, she was open, unguarded, reserved and thoughtful when she talked about one of the most difficult times in her life when she filmed her Sundance sensation "Your Sister's Sister".

Although she talked about turning to therapy for other situations and also getting more sleep, in this edited excerpt from our conversation she talked about what happened and how she ultimately turned to meditation.

What was the toughest or one of the toughest times of your adult life?

There was that time, I don't remember when it started, but it hit really hard just before and in the middle of filming. When I woke up and thought, oh this is a real thing.

"Your sister's sister" was my third feature. And when I made these [first] two films, I had never been happier in my entire life. I felt like my whole being was on fire. I was so happy. And I was surrounded by people I loved; I've worked with them. I couldn't wait to get back on set because I was so high up there.

["Your sister's sister" filmed] in one of the most beautiful places in the world [the San Juan Islands in Washington]. We were able to complete this perfect marriage. We could all sleep and live on the same property. We walked to the picture house every day. And we had friends who made meals for us. It was this two week beautiful retreat, that perfect little bubble of all my favorite people. Sky. Correct?

And I was just miserable every day. I would only sleep about four hours a night. I would wake up in the morning and think why are we doing this? What is the purpose? What's the point It was so sad and no one knew I was going through it because I was genuinely ashamed. Because I knew how privileged I was and what a nice experience this should be. And it was so mysterious. I didn't understand why I was so depressed. I didn't share it with anyone because it was so embarrassing.

How did Do you deal with the topics that were raised on the set?

It took a couple of years. I remember an article on NPR, a woman taking a testimonial about her experience with postpartum depression. She said I look at this baby and objectively understand what I should be feeling. And I didn't feel anything. That's exactly how I felt about the film in the editing room. Will people take care of it? I just couldn't connect with the movie.

I heard this piece [NPR] and thought, oh my god, I'm going through postpartum depression. I feel exactly the same. When we actually did it at festivals, or maybe only at the festival premiere, it finally hit me. I remember like a mist lifting up. Oh my god i love my movie. Thank you God. Thank god it exists.

It felt so hormonal. I mentioned my sleep problems and the like. Now I have friends whose lives have been saved by drugs, antidepressants. But I really wanted to explore every other option first. It just felt like I could probably handle it in another way.

What helped you

Meditation is a really important piece. I started by reading every book I could and trying different practices. There weren't any apps at the time.

But someone gave me "Catching the Big Fish" by David Lynch. I read this book [which is about transcendental meditation] and I remember saying, oh my god, I want this. He talks about how that affects his creativity, and that really interested me too. I've always been interested in different states of consciousness and longed to be in this other place that he was describing.

After making "Laggies," a studio film that earned her first decent paycheck, she tried transcendental meditation.

The first time, I felt like I was on some kind of hallucinogenic drug journey. I've come so high It's funny because I say high and low at the same time, but it's like flying low. I don't even know how to explain. It was so different from anything I had ever experienced in any other form of meditation. That was & # 39; s; I was hooked.

Shelton practiced wherever she could find a seat twice a day for 20 minutes each time, even in a fixed trailer or parked car.

And what does this time do for you?

It's like that gigantic reset button. It's like going high twice a day with nothing but great side effects, no hangover. I will say it changes. Sometimes when I'm really stressed and my brain is busy, I go over the monkey mind thing and have to gently return to the mantra.

I'm a pretty excited person or I was. Fire has to be put out on the first day of shooting. It can get very stressful. And then you get that reset button. You're just like that, OK, I'm ready for the next part of the day.

Do you have any idea how it dealt with what you felt at the time?

As prisoners describe it, it is freedom from this dire situation you find yourself in. And to this day when I have a really bad day, I still have a blue day that I don't even know where it's coming from – when I meditate it feels like such a relief.

Shelton went on to describe how meditating had changed her.

On my first feature film, I remember that we lost a place and we had a day less [and also] no longer had a movie or something. We had two more scenes ahead of us. So I had to get involved – it was kind of fight or flight. My adrenaline levels spiked, my cortisol levels spiked, and I was able to cut out about three-quarters of the coverage I would get and figure out how to address this problem.

But then I couldn't go back to normal. I couldn't come back. And my second AD [assistant director] had to take me for a walk and say, Lynn, pull it up. You are OK. Everything is OK. And I had to work really hard to get back to the base level. After meditating for a few years now, I can do that. I can respond appropriately to this situation, but then I can reset and be fine.

[When] my depression peaked during the production and editing of "Your Sister & # 39; s Sister", I developed an eating disorder. I became a compulsive eater, just out of control, like what the hell is going on?

I got the idea that [meditation] would be a miracle cure. It will solve my depression, it will solve my eating disorder. I will be a perfect person. Of course that didn't happen, but it changed life. It really helped at every level of dealing with stress, with toxic work situations, with addictive behaviors, with all kinds of self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. When I go back and remember certain circumstances or experiences five years ago compared to today, it's like, oh yes, I am a different person.

Michael Dunaway, filmmaker and editor at Paste Magazine, is working on How I Got Through It.

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