In honor of its newest release Catherine Called Birdy, Amazon Prime Video transformed the top of The Grove parking lot in Los Angeles into a medieval-themed festival on Friday night, where writer-director Lena Dunham also made an appearance to take in the sights.
“This is my dream — I don’t go out very much but if I were going to, it would be to a medieval rave, and now it’s happening,” Dunham told The Hollywood Reporter of the experience — dubbed “Birdyfest” — which saw staff in character as medieval townspeople and booths for psychics, tarot card reading, hair braiding, candle rolling and massages, along with an apothecary and themed treats like turkey legs and jousting potatoes. “There’s two very appealing men dressed as blacksmiths with soot on their bodies. Let’s just say I’m not mad at any of it, as the kids say.”
Dunham developed the film from the 1994 novel by Karen Cushman, and follows 14-year-old Lady Catherine (played by Bella Ramsey) in medieval England as she attempts to avoid the potential suitors her father has in mind. Andrew Scott, Joe Alwyn and Billie Piper co-star as Dunham brings her modern style to the period age.
“I just thought about the fact that people have been the same forever; that’s part of the great thing about life and part of the problem,” Dunham said of her approach. “So my goal was just not to make it feel like history was distant from us, to make it feel like we were a part of history and we were in the experience.”
She commended her actors for embracing that experience, including Alwyn, who is the partner of Dunham’s close friend Taylor Swift. As a longtime fan beyond their personal connection, “I wrote this role with him in mind and he was actually the first actor to sign on, so I felt really lucky to have him in the cast,” the director said. “He’s amazing in the movie.”
It turns out Dunham, who often also acts in the projects she creates, almost appeared onscreen in this film as well: “There was a scene that was cut where I did a little light cameo, which I removed pretty quickly because I felt like it was kind of a distraction,” Dunham revealed.
“That being said, it was really, really fun to get to wear the costume and I still have it in my office,” she continued, noting that “it was good I did it because I really felt for my actors” in the difficulty of wearing period clothes for hours on set.
The release of the film, after an international press tour and debut at TIFF last month, marks the end of a whirlwind few months for Dunham, after her other project Sharp Stick was also released this summer.
“It’s a funny feeling because I’ve had these two movies out ahead of me for so long, and now tomorrow they’ll both be out and I’ll have to wake up and keep going, decide what’s next,” she said, teasing she has a few projects in the works and would really like to make another TV show. “I’m always my happiest when I’m on set so they won’t be able to keep me away for too long.”
Ahead of the screening, Dunham joined Amazon’s head of movies Julie Rapaport for the introduction, where she joked, “I didn’t have a bat mitzvah so this feels like it’s finally happening.” Birdyfest will remain at The Grove on Saturday, and is open to the public from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Catherine Called Birdy is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.