Inspirational Women in the Entertainment Industry: Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham comes from a famous family who have the connections and cash to help her do anything in the entertainment industry that she may want to– and she has admitted that when she was first starting out, they helped her along the way (“but they’ve all been paid back at this point, which is something I’m proud to say!” she stated). Dunham could have all the connections in the world, though, and it wouldn’t make a difference if she didn’t have a passion and a talent for the art form. While so many who come from famous families simply choose to get by on the celebrity their last names create for them, Dunham dives right into a number of ways to make her own mark. She is a writer, a producer, a director, an actress, and now, thanks to HBO, a showrunner.
Dunham’s role is one on Girls is of a young girl two years outside of college who, in the opening of the pilot episode is cut off financially by her parents and has to quit her unpaid internship in the writing world in which she is actually interested to get a quote-unquote real job to pay her bills. Dunham herself is actually only about three and a half years out of college, and though she pointed to baby-sitting jobs and working retail in a baby clothing store as odd jobs she held, too, struggling to start her career, let alone make ends meet, may be a bit relative here. Still, Dunham’s style is not one of excess, and even when she fund-raised to shoot what became her independent darling Tiny Furniture, she kept things simple.
“Tiny Furniture cost $25,000 to make. So that was more money than I had ever dealt with in my life, but to [those] who have worked on real productions, it sounds like it’s a day’s catering bill and somebody’s nanny. So I begged and borrowed…I was working with a great group of kids who had gone to NYU, and film school kids are really scrappy and sort of have this understanding of how to make a movie by the skin of their teeth,” Dunham shared.
Obviously, working in the world of television– especially high-quality cable television– is very different from independent film. Dunham admitted that on her first day on the soundstage, she heard the bells ring to signify cameras rolling and thought it was a fire drill.
“It’s decidedly different, but the thing that was amazing was I was expecting to go in and be totally overwhelmed by this new machine and these new collaborators, and it actually felt as personal and understanding as making a movie with me mom and my sister. I just didn’t have to buy the pizza!”
Like with Tiny Furniture, Girls deals with the themes of young women who don’t quite have it figured out– or at all– professionally, but perhaps primarily personally. If you’re not an entitled twenty-something growing up in today’s age of “coddling” the youth, it’s easy to look at the characters Dunham has created and shake your head. Though they’re not as spoiled or rich as those on Gossip Girl, they are still making a lot of the “dumb kid” mistakes you just want to slap out of them. But to Dunham, that’s exactly the point of the series. The Girls, so to speak, are not necessarily role models, nor full-on cautionary tales, but they may fall somewhere in between– just like how they fall in between the teens of Gossip Girl and the overgrown princesses of Sex and the City:
“I think we’ve all been really conscious of making sure that it’s clear that they’re trying their hardest and that they make mistakes, but they’re also—they are working toward something. It’s a “two-steps forward, one-step back” situation. They do need to grow up. That’s what the show is about. It’s about that sort of effort to change,” Dunham explained.
“This is about girls who aren’t from New York. They grew up watching Sex and the City and thought they were going to live the dream, and now that they’ve arrived, it’s something decidedly different…I always say that sort of Gossip Girl does the sort of teens duking it out on the Upper East Side, and Sex and the City was about women who sort of figured out work, figured out friends, and now want to nail family life. And there was this whole in-between space that really hadn’t been addressed.”