Love of sto­ry­telling pays off

Lena Dun­ham found the more per­sonal a story, the more it hit home, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY TV -

AC­TRESS, film­maker and writer Lena Dun­ham ad­mits she was a lazy lit­tle girl grow­ing up in New York. ‘‘I asked a lot of ques­tions, did a lot of talk­ing but I was phys­i­cally lazy. And I al­ways read a lot, and spent a lot of time with my par­ents and with adults, and was re­ally sort of in­ter­ested in telling sto­ries and more fo­cused on grown-ups than on kids my own age. I would say that was an ac­cu­rate as­sess­ment,’’ she says.

It turned out that all the ques­tions and the sto­ry­telling paid off for Dun­ham, who is star­ring in and writ­ing US cable net­work HBO’s new comic se­ries, Girls.

While her lead char­ac­ter may be an­other 20-some­thing hurled into the the big city, she’s no Car­rie Brad­shaw. This girl hasn’t a clue.

‘‘She doesn’t know who the good and bad guys are. It takes a lit­tle while for her in­stincts to kick in,’’ says Dun­ham.

‘‘And she doesn’t al­ways un­der­stand im­me­di­ately what peo­ple’s in­ten­tions are or how kind they are go­ing to be to her. Which is some­thing that I re­late to – it takes a minute to know who has your best in­ter­est at heart.’’

Dun­ham, who’s known for her in­de­pen­dent film, Tiny Fur­ni­ture, grew up in a fam­ily of artists. Her dad is a painter and her mum a pho­tog­ra­pher.

‘‘We were re­ally en­cour­aged to ex­press our­selves that way,’’ she says.

‘‘My par­ents were al­ways – both their stu­dios were in our home, so the room where my sis­ter and I used to play was called the of­fice – it was the place you go to do your work . . . if any­one was bored we were en­cour­aged: ‘Draw, here is a typewriter, here is a note pad’. There was no ex­cuse not to be mak­ing stuff.’’

Even as a kid she was at­tracted to sto­ry­telling and to movies.

‘‘About five years ago, I learned that those things could re­ally be­come one, that it was a real job you could do.’’

That job was She har­boured no ex­pec­ta­tion for her fledg­ling movie.

‘‘My fan­tasy was that it would have a DVD re­lease, or at most a week of the­atri­cal play. When peo­ple saw it, I was shocked, and when it res­onated with them, I was even more shocked, be­cause it was so per­sonal to me,’’ she says.

‘‘That gave me the re­al­i­sa­tion that per­sonal is univer­sal – the more per­sonal you make some­thing, the more pos­si­ble it is to hit with an au­di­ence.’’

So her mis­fit Han­nah and her am­biva­lent friends from Girls fol­lowed suit. Dun­ham in­sists Han­nah isn’t her al­ter ego.

‘‘The dif­fer­ence be­tween her and me is I al­ways had a clear idea of what I wanted to do and was tak­ing steps to get there,’’ says Dun­ham.

‘‘You don’t make a movie ac­ci­den­tally. That was some­thing that I knew I wanted to do, and was work­ing at, but I did ex­pe­ri­ence aim­less­ness in my life and a lot of fear – fear that my pro­fes­sional life isn’t go­ing to pan out,’’ she sighs.

Han­nah’s prob­lems of­ten in­volve the op­po­site sex. Dun­ham, 25, says she un­der­stands that dilemma.

‘‘I’m still fig­ur­ing it out. I wish that, be­cause I wrote it, it meant I un­der­stood it and had put that chap­ter be­hind me. But you never re­ally know who’s grungy un­til you try them out for a lit­tle while.’’

Mon­days, 8.30pm, Show­case.

Lena Dun­ham

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