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Life·6 min read

Lena Dunham on Her New Movie, On-Set Essentials, and More

Including how she stays organized and what she listened to while making "Sharp Stick" (hint hint: Taylor Swift).
Lena Dunham
Aug 4, 2022

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Major key alert. Lena Dunham’s here to share her favorite on-set essentials in honor of her newest film, “Sharp Stick.” Which, btw, she wrote, directed, and acted in — all in the middle of a pandemic. *Pause for applause.* It’s out in theaters now, so check it out and give our girl some love…

What’s always on my desk when writing…

If I'm not on set or in meetings and I'm having a writing day, I do 99.9% of it from my bed, which is a king-sized Keetsa mattress (my mother insists I sleep on an eco mattress if I'm going to be there that much)…I create a kind of nest with my Macbook Pro, my iPhone in its Bailey Hikawa case (I have five or six now, they're an obsession), a pile of books and scripts, a few copies of Architectural Digest and The World of Interiors for breaks and inspirations — plus my two dogs and usually the cat. I always have a Pilot Kombucha, an Ito En bottled green tea, an almond milk latte, a Trip CBD seltzer — interesting drinks are my favorite diversion.

Three things I need in my trailer…

A cozy blanket (usually a polar fleece one, softness over style) — [Skimm HQ recs this one] — a fridge full of iced green tea and a Wi-Fi signal. I love small spaces, so the trailer is always a sanctuary for me no matter how petite or where it's located.

Self-care habit/product I turn to after a long day on set…

A hot shallow bath — it's such a comfort to me to run just a little water and sit there until it grows cold. Maybe it's leftover from my Irish nanny's aversion to wasting water, but I don't need much and I'll lay back and I'm in heaven. 

My go-to product that keeps me organized…

I keep obsessive lists — I joke that I want to give a TED Talk on my Notes app approach, which allows me to function. If they were deleted, it would be like I was deleted. My Notes app contains a macro to-do list divided into personal and professional tasks, plus my daily schedule with more urgent items to tick off. I also have notes listing the status of writing and producing projects, things to discuss with my producing partner Michael during our morning check-ins, what needs doing around the house, doctor’s appointments to set. 

The Notes app is a place where my creative and logistic lives intersect, and while I don't nail it all every day, it makes what I do achieve possible. I also try to remember that lists, while exceptionally helpful and pleasurable to tick off, are not life — and when life intervenes it's okay. Like many women, I feel enormous pressure to show up in every area of my life and cutting myself the slack needed to actually have a fulfilling inner life is always the biggest, and hardest, item on the list.

What I read while writing “Sharp Stick” and what I’m reading now…

“Sharp Stick” was very much about exploring how women's identities become subsumed by the men they are involved with, and so I was interested in reading books by women whose lives were publicly entwined with high-profile men. 

“Flash” is a really provocative novel by Carole Mallory [that] delves into the unapologetic life of a woman in Los Angeles whose addictions — alcohol, men, attention — both inspire and destroy her. Now I'm reading Jean Rhys' “Wide Sargasso Sea” for the first time, and I can't believe it took me this long — I love how it functions as a prequel to “Jane Eyre” while being entirely its own creation. I just finished Constance Wu's book “Making a Scene,” which I read in one night because it was so captivatingly immediate. It has something to say about both the inner life of an artist and the perils of public attention that I've never seen expressed before, and it's adorably funny.

Soundtrack I listened to on set…

T. Swift's "Evermore" had just come out, so — like every person of quality — I was listening to it every day on the way to set, just living in the storytelling. My favorite song on the album is “Ivy.”

Something people wouldn’t expect about set life…

I love set life because it has a lot of the same qualities as summer camp. People who are strangers on day one feel like family on day 30, and you are completely enmeshed in this world of collaboration that leads to a plethora of inside jokes and sweet support. I love that we're all there because once upon a time, we fell in love with movies. Especially making a COVID-19 movie, I realized how lucky we are to get to show up every day and do a job that was born of dreaming. It gave me back the butterflies I felt when I started 15 years ago. It's cheesy, but it's true.

Psst: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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