Lena Dunham Has A Message For Hollywood: Change Or Die

'It's a rough scene,' Dunham said of the state of women in film and TV right now during Monday's SXSW keynote address.

Sure, "Girls" has landed Lena Dunham work on "Saturday Night Live,"
 a book deal and endless praise for her comedic smarts. But, it's still hard out there for a woman to get a good part in Hollywood and the fight is not nearly over.

During a well-received 45-minute keynote address at the SXSW Festival on Monday, Dunham took attendees on a trip through her unlikely climb to the pay cable mountaintop, with stops at babysitting money, her first taco-fueled trip to Austin four years ago and her total disregard for ratings.

"It's a rough scene," Dunham said about the casting choices facing women in movies and TV these days. "It's hard to always offer comforting words on that topic. I think about this in relation to the cast on my show, which consists of three very talented women and also some very talented guys."

For instance, her TV boyfriend, lumbering male lead Adam Driver, had a "bang-up" year in movies ("Lincoln," "Inside Llewyn Davis" and a rumored part in "Star Wars: Episode VII"), which she said he totally deserved because he's a "ferocious genius with an incredible work ethic."

But ... the women on "Girls," well, they're still waiting patiently for parts that are "going to honor their intelligence and their ability."

And while the world seems ready to see Driver as good guys, bad guys, sweet and scary guys, the same can't quite be said for "Girls" co-stars Allison Williams, Zosia Mamet or Jemima Kirke.

"They're all ready to stretch their legs in the same variety of diverse roles," Dunham said. But in the meantime, Williams is relegated to All-American sweetheart and Mamet is asked to play more "flighty noodnicks ... Even though both are capable of so much, they're not asked to do it. And this is not a knock on Adam's talent, which is utterly boundless and he's exactly the actor who should be doing all this. It's a knock on a world where women are typecast and men can play villains, Lotharios and nerds in one calendar year and something has to change and I'm trying."

Dunham, 27, made her pitch for better female roles near the end of an address that opened with her explaining that she wrote the speech "last night high on the Quaaludes known as cheeseburgers." She talked about how SXSW helped launch her career in 2010 when her debut film, "Tiny Furniture," won the narrative prize, a moment she calls "the most thrilling and least complicated" of her career. Like her other early work, that movie, she said, was made on maxed-out credit cards, $5,000 worth of babysitting money and cash from her parents and her best friend's folks.

She kept coming back to one simple point, though: have a "ferocious work ethic" and always be working on something, whether it's a script, screenplay, short film or anything else. And don't worry about money or budgets, because, "lack of budget is no longer an excuse." Also, she said she doesn't worry about ratings, even though HBO really wishes she would, or Republicans. "I'm sure there are some good ones," she said. "I just haven't met them yet."

Some parting advice:

"Don't wait around for someone else to tell your story," she said. "Do it yourself by whatever means necessary."