Lena Dunham: Casual voice takes control

10 Screenwriters to Watch

Travis Beacham | Sheila Callaghan | Adam Cozad | Michael Diliberti | Tim Dowling | Lena Dunham | Seth Grahame-Smith | Mike Jones | Jones & McCormack | Simons & Schoolcraft

America’s new shoestring auteurs have gotten a bad rap lately, thanks to a number of DIY helmers who ditch the script and let their actors improvise heavily. Not Lena Dunham.

“I’m a complete and total control freak,” says Dunham, an Oberlin grad who studied creative writing, not filmmaking, even though she also shows a gift for directing (her first full-length feature, “Tiny Furniture,” won the SXSW narrative jury prize).

Dunham doesn’t disapprove of improvisation, per se. “It’s just that I’m so into the scriptwriting process,” says Dunham, who spent the summer at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab helping recovering improviser Ry Russo-Young write her next movie, “Nobody Walks.”

Dunham’s disarmingly personal voice may sound casual, but depends largely on zingers and a carefully planned sense of self-deprecation, which she extends to the semi-autobiographical HBO series she’s preparing with input from Judd Apatow.

“Where I was being all delicate and WASPy, he can cut right to the center of the scene,” says Dunham, the child of photog Laurie Simmons and painter Carroll Dunham.

One of the things she loves about HBO is that it allows for creators to move back and forth between film and TV. As soon as she’s done writing, directing, producing and starring in her pilot, it’s back to work on her first adaptation, the Gotham-set YA novel “Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares,” for Scott Rudin.

Age: 24
Provenance: New York City
Influences: “My favorite writing is the kind that makes me jealous,” says Dunham, who envies Whit Stilman, Woody Allen, Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson most.
Reps: UTA’s Jenny Maryasis (film) and Peter Benedict (TV)

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