Love of storytelling pays off
Lena Dunham found the more personal a story, the more it hit home, writes
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.’’
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