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The Lenny Letter HBO Series Will Turn Production Gender Norms On Their Heads

Behind the scenes, Lena Dunham's and Jenni Konner's upcoming short film series will employ men and women in equal numbers.
An exuberant Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner appear at the 20th Annual Webby Awards in New York City.
An exuberant Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner appear at the 20th Annual Webby Awards in New York City.

Lenny Letter just launched in September, but the feminist newsletter already has its own book imprint, an HBO series and a podcast in the works. 

At the Northside Festival Thursday in Brooklyn, New York, Lenny co-founder Jenni Konner and editor Jessica Grose spilled some details on the upcoming short film series. Calling them "Lenny Shorts," Konner said the six films will be made by "female-identifying people based on short stories by female-identifying people."

But what's really unusual about the series is what's slated to go on behind the scenes: The crew supporting its production will be 50 percent diverse women.

The dearth of female directors in the film industry has received more attention in recent years, but what's less often considered is just how few women occupy roles like writer, editor, cinematographer and other off-screen titles. According to one study out of San Diego State University, when women are put in positions such as Konner's and Lena Dunham's, they're more likely to pull up other women to fill spots around them.

"You would not believe how huge a number that is compared to what it actually usually is on our crew. That's insane," Konner enthused. Lenny has struggled, she added, to drum up support for a bill she said would require shows to employ crews that are 4 percent female. ("Call your congressperson," Konner half-joked.)

According to Konner, achieving gender parity in every corner of Hollywood is as simple as committing to it.

"It is that easy. You make the choice, and you stick to that choice," she said.

The so-called "Lenny Shorts" will debut in the fall on HBO Now, the premium cable provider's streaming service and future home of Jon Stewart's short video series. In the same way the Lenny newsletter provides a platform for diverse perspectives from celebrities and Normals alike, Konner said the videos will "use some famous people" but also "a lot of people you've never heard of."

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