Lynn Shelton, nominated for her work on Little Fires Everywhere, was a theater actor and trained photographer before becoming a film and TV director.
Lynn Shelton was a theater actor and trained photographer before becoming a film and TV director. Erin Simkin/Courtesy of Hulu

She had many awards to her name, including a Stranger Genius Award and a Special Jury Prize from the Sundance Film Festival. But the director, whose untimely death in May shocked the world, never got an Emmy nomination, until this morning.

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Shelton was nominated posthumously for her work on the Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere. She directed four out of the eight episodes. One of the stars of the show, Kerry Washington, was also nominated, for her acting, and the show itself was nominated for best limited series.

"Lynn's nomination is so incredibly meaningful and so deserved," Little Fires Everywhere showrunner and executive producer Liz Tigelaar told The Stranger this morning.

"I hope this recognition brings even more attention to her entire body of tremendous work and comfort to her family and loved ones. Lynn would be so moved and touched by this, as is the show on her behalf. I wish we could hear her giddy laugh of joy, celebrating all she's accomplished. This is one more moment in her legacy. She will never be forgotten."

Shelton (second from right) on the set of Little Fires during the shooting of the episode Find a Way.
Shelton (second from right) with cast and crew on the set of Little Fires during the shooting of the episode "Find a Way." Erin Simkin/Courtesy of Hulu

The specific episode Shelton was nominated for directing is "Find a Way," the last episode of the series. In a previous interview with The Stranger, Tigelaar described her memories of working on that episode with Shelton:

I really remember a shot she was so excited about getting, and I remember her saying 'I have this crazy idea, I want to put the camera between the three kids about to burn the house down and they're making the decision, and I want it to be so the camera is spinning around in the center going from kid to kid to kid'—a wordless scene where they decide silently they're going to burn the house down. That just felt like Lynn to me. Of course that would be the shot. It was almost like in that moment we went inside of them. We were inside of them, and then we were really inside of the fire in some ways, looking out at the kids. Looking at what they'd done.

Tigelaar added that Shelton's skill was making "moments feel so internal and intimate."

In 2015, the Frye Art Museum created a exhibition, catalog, and video series about everyone who'd won a Stranger Genius Award, and they produced this bit of footage of Shelton talking about her life and career:

In addition to films like Humpday and Your Sister's Sister, Shelton directed episodes of many TV shows, including Mad Men, The Morning Show (also nominated for awards this morning), GLOW (where Shelton met future boyfriend Marc Maron), Fresh Off The Boat, Master of None, Santa Clarita Diet, Shameless, Casual (which Tigelaar was also an executive producer of), New Girl, The Mindy Project, and Dickinson.

"Not only would an Emmy honor her work on Little Fires," Shelton's longtime publicist Adam Kersh recently said, "but it would also acknowledge her contributions to so many other important TV shows in the last decade."

Shelton made a Message to the City in March of 2020 for The Stranger's series of morning messages from artists. She said that what keeps her sane during insane times is being creative, and she encouraged aspiring artists to use their time in quarantine to make films with their smartphones.

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Lynn Shelton on the set of Little Fires Everywhere, with the actor Gavin Lewis, who plays Reese Witherspoons son.
Lynn Shelton on the set of Little Fires Everywhere, with the actor Gavin Lewis, who plays Reese Witherspoon's son. John P. Fleenor/Hulu

Half an hour after the Emmy nominations were announced this morning, her parents Wendy Roedell and David "Mac" Shelton released a statement.

"That Lynn is honored by the Television Academy is not only a tribute to her accomplishments as a director but her style of directing," they said. "Always in control but kind-hearted. Making the final decisions but always soliciting input from her co-workers. Co-workers, yes, that is how she regarded everyone on the set, from grips and gaffers and set and costume designers to the director of photography and the actors. This is an honor for the ultimate collaborationist who knew that she would produce her best if she teased the best out of her teammates."

The 2020 Emmy Awards air on September 20.

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