‘Sword of Trust’ is a conspiracy comedy relevant to modern culture
They’re the oddest of professional couples — Seattle filmmaker Lynn Shelton and actor, comedian, and podcaster extraordinaire Marc Maron. He’s perfected the persona of the cynical, cranky truth-teller while Shelton exudes a warm geniality that suggests she could be everybody’s best friend or confidante.
And yet the two mismatched personalities have worked together a lot over the last few years. Shelton’s been a guest on Maron’s legendary WTF podcast. And she’s been his director on his own TV show Maron, on his current Netflix hit show Glow, and on his latest standup special Marc Maron: Too Real. And now, he stars in Shelton’s new movie, Sword of Trust, this year’s Seattle International Film Festival’s Opening Night feature which gets a national release this month.
See the trailer here.
I talked to the two of them about their curious rapport. Maron admits he’s resistant to just about everyone, at least at first.
“I initially fight most things, almost everything,” Maron said.
“The first time we worked together, every single note (of mine), there was push back,” Shelton said. “What you said at the end was that you realized maybe I wasn’t just messing with you.”
Shelton thinks Maron has a lot of untapped talent and he turns out to be not at all what you might expect.
“Sure he has a crusty exterior, but he has a big gooey, soft interior,” Shelton said.
“Ugh. I think that’s true,” Maron said. “I’m innately a sensitive, thoughtful person and she’s able to draw that out of me, so I don’t make decisions solely out of that cranky part. In order for me to play characters that work, like Mel in Sword of Trust or Sam in Glow, you can’t just be all jerk.”
Sword of Trust
Sword of Trust is a good-natured conspiracy comedy. Maron plays a world-weary pawnbroker in Birmingham, Alabama. When a couple of women drop off a Civil War era sword that — unbeknownst to them, has an almost talismanic power for a group of off-beat and off-base conspiracy peddlers — Maron’s character Mel gets drawn into an unsavory underground.
Shelton, whose films tend to be sly, character-driven improvisational comedies, admits Sword of Trust is undoubtedly her most “political” movie, although obliquely so.
“Is it political? or is it about just this cultural phenomenon of the loss of footing of truth?” Maron said.
“Because we have a conspiracy-theorist-in-chief,” Shelton said. “Conspiracy theories and alternative facts are having a peak moment in the culture. And I think it’s a big problem. And I did want to make something culturally relevant.”
Speaking of culturally relevant, Sword of Trust opened SIFF the same month that Georgia passed its controversial “heartbeat bill” and Alabama passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country. A number of filmmakers announced at that time that they would not film in either state as long as those bills were in effect. Would Shelton have made her film in Alabama if that was the law of the land at the time of filming?
“I don’t see how I could have,” she answers promptly. Maron concurs, in typically blunt fashion.
“Despite what’s going on in a lot of these southern states around policy, and around theological or theocratic incentive, that’s denying some people rights and freedoms, there are a lot of pleasant people and a lot of good people down there, but I guess they’re a little outnumbered by crappy people,” Maron said.
Despite her disagreement with some of the politics in the South, Shelton, who’s made all her other films in her home state of Washington, says her experience in Alabama changed her in a good way.
“The South is like a different planet!” Shelton said. “I loved so much about it. I came directly from Birmingham to Los Angeles after two months of filming in Alabama, and I’m going up to strangers, ‘Hey, how ya doing? So what’s your day like?’ LA people think I’m out of my mind. That hospitality is so genuine and so beautiful. I had so many amazing connections with total strangers and I really loved that part of the culture.”
Having gotten a taste of out-of-state filmmaking, Shelton says she’s thinking about shooting her next film in New Mexico, and yes, Maron might be in that one too.
Sword of Trust opens on July 26.