TheSuiteSheet_White.png

IDEAS. STRATEGY. TACTICS. INNOVATION. INSPIRATION.

Jenni Konner On Making It In Hollywood


Jenni Konner American television writer, producer and director.
Jenni Konner American television writer, producer and director.

Jenni Konner is an American television writer, producer and director. Konner is no stranger to working in television as her mom wrote for Hart to Hart and Cagney & Lacey, and her dad has been writing for television since 1976. After attending Crossroads, a prep school in LA, and Sarah Lawrence College, Konner spent her 20s working temp jobs in New York. There she landed a job working with film director, producer, screenwriter and comedian Judd Apatow. Later, Sue Naegle at HBO hired Konner as the co-showrunner and co-writer of the HBO series Girls with Lena Dunham. Together with Dunham, she ran a production company, a feminist newsletter Lenny Letter and its Random House imprint Lenny Books. Konner is currently working on several new projects. One of those projects is tv series Single Drunk Female set to air on Freeform in January. In the following interview, she shares her experience in Hollywood and why hiring people of color is a way to get their stories told.


What was your biggest breakthrough in Hollywood, and how did that come about?

I was a staff writer on Undeclared, a fun sitcom about the trials and tribulations of college life. I was really lucky to work on such a great show right out of the gate. It’s where I met Judd Apatow, who became a mentor. The writer’s room had so many superstars: Seth Rogen, Rodney Rothman, Nick Stoller and many more. It was like grad school.


What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of what you do?

Every job is challenging, and I’m sure that most of us face the same challenges around getting adequate resources, finding challenging projects that are interesting, and dealing with the day-to-day of managing big teams of people. The rewards of my job are immeasurable. I get to tell interesting stories and work with fantastic people and do something I love. I don’t take that for granted.


What mistakes have you made during your career, and what did you learn from them?

Who doesn’t make mistakes? I think we should all be more open about mistakes because they are an opportunity for everyone to learn. One mistake that stands out to me because I did it so much early in my career was leaving my family too much for work. I recognize it’s a privilege to be able to prioritize my family and organize my time around my passions. My daughter is gorgeous and hilarious, my son is a thoughtful and kind human and my husband makes it all worth it. I’m really lucky. Shoutout to my baby daddy, Ben Cooley, the perfect co-parent, who made it all possible.


What kind of stories do you want to tell? What is the importance of telling women’s stories?

I like stories about complicated women, but I don’t think of my work as one note or about just one thing. Any story that needs telling is interesting to me. I am proud to do work that elevates women’s voices. Like Michaela Cole said: Find the story that frightens you and write that. (Paraphrased)


Every hiring manager should question their process if they do not have women and multiple people of color as final candidates for jobs.

How do we get more women and POC in the positions to tell their stories?

Just hire them. Find them, hire them, promote them and don’t make any excuses. Every hiring manager should question their process if they do not have women and multiple people of color as final candidates for jobs. If you do not, then you have to go back to the drawing board. I also suspect that more agents of color would have a big impact on this process.


What is the secret to navigating Hollywood and getting projects greenlit/funded?

Is there a secret? It is an incredibly hard world to navigate for structural reasons so it takes a lot of tenacity and some luck. The gatekeepers have to change for it to be an equal world for everyone.


What is missing in your line of work or one thing you would change? How would you fix it?

What is missing is a transparent way for more people to enter this business. We need more marginalized people to have a seat at the table.


How does social media influence television? How does the feedback you receive from viewers impact how your approach to creating future episodes?

Social media is obviously fun, and who doesn’t love a good response to their work? That said, I do not make television for the response from the public. I work with amazing writers who create wonderful expansive storylines.


Do you have any reflections on the success of Girls?

Only that it was completely a surprise. Capturing lightning in a bottle is not something you can organize. We were lucky to have both lovers and haters to keep the conversation alive.


What are you working on now?

So many things! We just shot the last day of Single Drunk Female, a comedy coming to Freeform in January, and we have a dozen projects in the works. I have just started co-showrunning an amazing tale of the Chippendales Murders. It’s a really fun, true crime story with a lot of oiled-up men dancing in the background. I work with a genius writer, Rob Seigel who is teaching me so much every day. The writer’s room is a dream. So many smart, accomplished humans. Nora Silver, Katherine Belgrad and Ekaterina Vladimirova keep my production company running, and they are firing on all cylinders. I am so proud of what we are building together and so inspired to work with the next generation of executives and creatives in this industry. The future is in good hands.