How was Lena different than Paz and the kids you hung out with downtown?
Lena is quite a special one because she never really belonged to any kind of crowd. At school you had weirdos and goth kids and punk kids and the too cool for school and never went to school kids, and Lena could hang out with all of them. Everyone loved her. She was kind of clueless but rocked it. Lena had so many friends and yet she didn’t really hang out with anyone, she was sort of a loner who would much rather be at home writing. She came in with the strangest outfits and you could tell she was just trying on identities and being a total geek but people found it endearing.
What crowd of New York kids is Tiny Furniture about? Who is it for?
There’s a very specific perspective in the movie. All the characters are based on people that Lena and I know and we basically just shit talked about different aspects and stories to figure out what characters would wear or how they would behave. We belong to a demographic that I can’t describe without fucking up, but basically kids who are trying to figure out what they want to do but they’ve got to be artists of some kind. I had pressure from my family to be the most- it could be the most brilliant or the person who was latest to the party, but I felt I had to make an impression and stand out. But it can be difficult to be compelling and passionate if you feel like shit. I think Lena probably had similar feelings. But what’s impressive about her is that she didn’t let that pressure push her away, stayed with her writing and let it be a gradual process. I’m surprised that so may people like the movie because it’s so specific, but they do and I guess it’s because any girl in their mid twenties who’s just gotten out of college can relate to that uncomfortable feeling of not knowing who you are outside of school. Anyone can relate to not knowing what they’re going to do or who they are. I’ve come to find that who you are doesn’t have much to do with what you do, who you hang out with, or what you tell people you’re about, either. I think any title you give yourself is a kind of sacrifice and a compromise, and that’s what people are relating to. I was drawn to Streetwise as a kid because their identities were so simple: they were homeless and they were prostitutes and incredible. I tried to incorporate their personalities into my life, but I was much more complicated than any of those things and very far from those movies. Lena’s movie is great because it’s complicated.
How does it feel to enact experiences you had when you were younger?
It’s therapeutic and great. To look at the kind of person I tried to be when I was younger and how I thought of myself, and to make fun of myself and have that be art and be funny is great. I happen to love performing and I have a good understanding of what Lena is going for. Acting, you’re a part of a team and you have to be on time and it’s not all about you. Ultimately, I want to paint and would love to become a successful painter, but I’m not having an internal conflict about it anymore.