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Film Interview: Lena Dunham + Tribeca

Tiny Furniture by Lena Dunham 
Lena Dunham is a rare find, a true New Yorker who still resides in the city where she was born and bred (we’ll forgive the sojourn to Oberlin College where she graduated in 2008 with a degree in creative writing). Currently, Dunham spends her time writing and directing independent films and features. In 2009, Dunham was chosen as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film and for the past two years, her films Creative Nonfiction and Tiny Furniture have been chosen to play at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference held annually in Austin, Texas. This year, Tiny Furniture won the juried narrative film prize. The head of the film festival, Janet Pierson, told the NY Times in an article about Dunham, Tiny Furniture is “so original, so smart, so funny. Lena came here last year and had this creative experience, met all these people and then turned around and came back with a film that was just a huge leap forward.”
Tiny Furniture is making its New York premiere at BAM Cinemafest this Friday and Sunday is playing this Sunday at 8pm as a part of the Rooftop Film series in Fort Greene at the outdoor parking lot of BAM Cinematek. But if you miss Tiny Furniture this weekend, it will be coming to the IFC theater in the Fall.
What should we know before we go to Tribeca
Tribeca is a fascinating mix of kooky artists who have been embedded there since the 70s and yuppies with strollers and celebrities who want to walk down Greenwich Street in peace. Fresh condos stand beside beautiful warehouse buildings from way back. Despite its fancypants reputation, it’s a neighborhood where you can most certainly leave the house in sweatpants or skulk on a stoop.

Tell us about your latest project and where you chose to film it and why?
My most recent film is called Tiny Furniture, and it’s the story of a girl who has just graduated from college and moves home into her mother’s Tribeca loft to grapple with her uncertain future. I filmed it almost entirely in Tribeca, almost entirely in my family home, with a few brief jaunts into DUMBO and Greenpoint. I chose to set it in Tribeca not only because I had a free location, but also because the neighborhood inspires me. Its more desolate portions evoke early Hal Hartley, and some of its decadence is like a Jay McInerney novel, and I have lived in or near this ‘hood since birth.

Tiny Furniture Trailer from Lena Dunham on Vimeo.


Do you have any local filmmaking heroes?
My favorite New York filmmaker Woody A. seems to have jumped ship in recent years. I think Nicole Holofcener has presented a really interesting side of New York in her latest film. Some of my favorite New York movies right now are Party Girl, Tadpole, Daytrippers.
Are there any up and coming filmmakers we should look out for?
So many! And I’m very lucky because so many of them are my friends. If you want to get a sense of what’s new and exciting in the world of indie film, the lineup at BAMCinemaFEST next week can’t be beat… You should also check out Daddy Longlegs by Josh and Benny Safdie, You Won’t Miss Me by Ry Russo-Young, Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be The Same by Jody Lee Lipes. So many I’m missing too…
What are your favorite film houses and where should we eat and drink around there?
My favorite movie theater is the IFC center, and not just because they’re distributing my film. They show a great variety of hard-to-see movies, the seats are comfy, the snacks are top notch. If I want to eat nearby, I’m partial to Red Bamboo and Vegetarian Paradise 2 (vegan junk food.) My friend C. Mason Wells who works at IFC also introduced me to the excellent Taim Falafel and Smoothie bar.
Any local film festivals or events we should put on our calendar?
BAMCinemaFest, any Rooftop Films screening, the Stranger Than Fiction series at IFC (my friend Jeff Deutchman‘s provocative experimental doc 11/4/08 is playing on June 15th.)
Is there a “Tribeca style”? Or is there an arts community/scene vibe in Tribeca?
There is certainly a Tribeca mom I noticed during my career in Tribeca childcare. Casual but decidedly put together, just hip enough… Then there are also a lot of women in Issey Miyake and eccentric hats. Then there are vaguely homeless people who chill near Washington Market Park with their dogs. Then there’s Beyonce, who lives across the street. Let’s just call our neighborhood look Sasha Fierce.
As for an arts scene, there are certainly a lot of artists who live in the hood. And over the years galleries and theaters have come and gone. The epicenter of my arts scene is the Battery Park megaplex
What is your favorite place to see art and where should we go to eat around there?
It is a TRUE pleasure to see Art at the Neue Gallery and then eat in their restaurant. I also have an allegiance to the Guggenheim, in which case I’ll eat Dean & Deluca takeout on the wall outside.
What’s your perfect day/night out in Tribeca?
I tend to cross the boundary into Soho/West Village fairly often. If it’s summer then I want to read and write by the pool on the roof of my gym, The Printing House. I just joined. In past years I’d lounge on my own roof or in Battery Park. Then dinner at Sou-En and a movie at the Angelika or IFC and I’m a happy camper. I also favor a jaunt over to Chinatown for Vietnamese food.
Any other musts to see and do in Tribeca?
I like to get a ten minute massage at Tribeca Nails on Greenwich street. I’m nuts for Pakistan Tea House on Church. Steven Alan is good for a splurge, or more often a wistful browse. I used to be proudly employed by Bu and the Duck, the best children’s clothing store in the nation which happens to be on Franklin Street.
Besides New York of course, what is your favorite city to travel to for festivals or shooting and why?
I love Austin Texas. I’ve had so many wonderful memorable experiences there, and the breakfast tacos are a hot topic, and Barton Springs makes me feel like I’m having the teen-movie experience I missed in my real life. My other favorite non New York city is Stockholm, Sweden. The people are friendly and beautiful and make the best pop music. Even pediatricians wear skinny jeans, which is almost stressful, but the shopping is unparalleled (and insanely expensive.) There is a sushi place there called Helen’s that makes green tea ice cream cake. My favorite Stockholm museum is Millesgarden.
IFC Center
323 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10014-4403 – (212) 924-7771
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Red Bamboo
140 West 4th Street New York, NY 10012-1049 – (212) 260-7049
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Vegetarian Paradise 2
144 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012-1024 – (212) 260-7141
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Taim Falafel & Smoothie Bar
222 Waverly Pl, (between 11th St & Perry St), New York, NY 10014 – (212) 691-1287
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Regal Battery Park 11 Megaplex
102 North End Avenue New York, NY 10282-1238 – (212) 945-4370
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Neue Galerie
1048 5th Avenue New York, NY 10028 – (212) 628-6200
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