Watch Charlie Kaufman deliver his 2011 BAFTA and BFI Screenwriters Lecture.
“I do believe you have a wound too. I do believe it is both specific to you and common to everyone. I do believe it is the thing about you that must be hidden and protected, it is the thing that must be tap danced over five shows a day, it is the thing that won’t be interesting to other people if revealed. It is the thing that makes you weak and pathetic. It is the thing that truly, truly, truly makes loving you impossible. It is your secret, even from yourself. But it is the thing that wants to live.”
I begin this post with the above selected quote from Charlie Kaufman’s BAFTA and BFI lecture, as I feel it best sums up the communal secret that bonds individuals into the human family. It is sad, yes, but so very poignant. Not only is it a perfect summation of why an artist creates, but it is also the underlying motivation that drives every person’s mission to live. This wound — whatever wound, physical or emotional, or even spiritual if one prefers — is what forms individual philosophies. It is the secret that divines what we desire in life, what paints our individual perception of the world writ large. Above all else, I feel as though it exemplifies why I find myself forever an admirer of Kaufman’s work.
Charlie Kaufman is a personal inspiration for reasons as varied as they are numerous, but primarily because he seeks to present some deeper honesty through fiction. I do not kid myself; screenwriting is a profession that thrives off of providing a modicum of escape — not only for audiences, but for authors themselves. The film industry is one littered with the hollow shells of mind-numbing adventures and oft-vapid flights of fancy into worlds seemingly more interesting than our own. It is piled high with monuments to humanity’s wasted time; however, every so often, a writer such as Kaufman is allowed passage through the intellectual No Man’s Land that is the Hollywood system.
From Being John Malkovich to Synecdoche, New York, one would be hard pressed to describe Kaufman’s works as consisting of orthodox tales of life-as-we-know-it drama. Like our shared influence, Kurt Vonnegut, Kaufman’s tales are absurdist, post modern stories that present life in an almost alien manner. His characters find portals into celebrity psyches one moment, while others find themselves creating life-sized models of New York City inside of a soundstage in New York City, which itself houses a life-sized model of New York City, and so on — on and on ad infinitum. But, like Vonnegut or Philip K. Dick before him, Kaufman’s surrealist yarns manage to portray life exactly as it is.
Charlie Kaufman’s works transcend their metaphysical whimsy by virtue of highlighting what it means to be human — race, sex, or creed be damned. He beckons the viewer to see this shared experience through the eyes of “the other”, aiming to dispel any such notion of an “other” come the closing credits.
In Being John Malkovich, he does this by beginning the film with loathsome puppeteer Craig Schwartz as our protagonist. Over the course of the film, our sympathies shift towards his wife, Lotte — a woman who discovers (after living as John Malkovich for mere minutes) that she identifies herself as a “man living in a woman’s body”. Lotte comes to long for the affection of Craig’s object of desire, heart-breaking-ball-buster Maxine, revealing that these two seemingly disparate people are nursing the same wound: To be loved in spite of their hidden wounds.
In Adaptation, Kaufman presents a more existential pining for his fictionalized take on writer Suzan Orleans. She has, by all appearances, the perfect life. Still, she is unhappy. Her desire is to find passion in something — anything — unable to find gratification in her hollow marriage, and largely unfulfilling career as an author. Orleans’ dilemma, we find, mirrors that of every principle character in the piece (including Kaufman’s fictionalized and exaggerated portrayal of himself). They are all going through the motions, trying to sequester some semblance of passion and meaning out of mediocrity. He warns us, “That way lies madness and futility.”
In his directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York, Kaufman takes things to the Nth degree. For every character in the story, there is an actor who must play a fictional version of each principle character, and in turn there are actors hired to portray the actors portraying the principle characters. His protagonist, disenfranchised theater director Caden Cotard, wants to make sense of his own life by examining the lives of all others. It isn’t until Caden steps into the literal shoes of his ex-wife’s cleaning lady, Ellen Bascomb, that he learns the penultimate truth: Regardless of individual circumstances and experience we are all, in essence, the same person. There is no such thing as “the other”.
Kaufman’s work aims to dismiss the notion that individual traits such as gender, or even past experience, define us. At our core, a simple truth: I am You, as You are Me. Everything else is merely pretense — assigned to us by preconceptions of the importance of what makes us different from one another.
In an industry that demands we mind the pretense in order to forget our communal wounds momentarily, Kaufman reminds us that it is necessary to confront whatever pains, however humiliating or terrifying. In doing so, perhaps we might learn to love ourselves entirely. Then, and only then, can we come to love one another without reservation.
LIST OF PLACES THAT I’LL BE APPLYING FOR MFA PROGRAMS IN A YEAR AND A HALF:
^Talk about major future choices being made.
If this is a screenwriting MFA, also consider UCR, Chapman, and NYU.
Though I always vote USC.
My cat apparently adores having me home
1) Benedict Cumberbatch gave a phenomenal performance as Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek: Into Darkness.
2) The casting of a white man as Khan Noonien Singh in 2013 is HIGHLY PROBLEMATIC.
3) Both of these things can be true at the same time.
4) No, really; they can.
Writing the picture: Robin Russin
Save the Cat: Blake Snyder
How to Build a Great Screenplay: A Master Class in Storytelling for Film: David Howard
Thinking outside the box: a contemporary television genre reader: Gary Edgerton
For those not familiarized with the term: Memento? Homestuck? 500 Days of Summer?
- Nonlinear Storytelling: what it is, examples in film, literature, and videogames. Pretty much the basics and probably what you already know.
- Story structure: graphic examples of types of story structures, including nonlinear.
- 25 things you should know about story structure: tips, advice about story structure in general, things you’ve gotta take into account. Pretty funny.
- Linear vs Nonlinear: a comparison between linear and nonlinear storytelling.
- Nonlinear storytelling: more talk on nonlinear storytelling.
- Exploring methodologies for a nonlinear story development: now we get to the really good stuff. Explaining in steps the way you can pull a nonlinear story development off. Suggestions on ways you can keep track of your plot.
- Limits of a nonlinear narrative structure: stuff you need to know you’re getting yourself into. Some obstacles.
- Structure and looking at the whole: talking about the difference between structure and plot. Plot is always linear, structure doesn’t have to be.
- Writing nonlinear stories: on continuity, timing, and cues.
- Sypnosis for a nonlinear story: what title says. Talkin’ about sypnosis, I’m adding this in case your story needs one.
- VIDEO: how to write a nonlinear story: Robert McKnee talks and gives advice on how to write non linear stories for screenwriters.
- Out of order: a discussion of nonlinear narrative stories: OP even did a restructuration of Red Riding Hood to make it a nonlinear narrative.For the anon that needed help with anachronic storytelling. Maybe they couldn’t find anything because we don’t use the word “anachronic”, we use nonlinear.
So, I hit 300 followers (actually 307), so I’m doing the only type of giveaway I can really afford.
I have been a television and movie script reader with a few different companies. I have done tons of different type of coverage and treatment writing.
So here’s the giveaway:
I WILL READ YOUR SCRIPT AND GIVE HOLLYWOOD LEVEL COVERAGE and A FULL TREATMENT OF IT.
NOW, this might be harsh, but it can DEFINITELY be useful, especially for someone who has written a few scripts but haven’t had them read by a Hollywood professional yet.
I will not candy coat it. It will be as if I’m recommending it to a producer or not.
(If you’re worried about theft, register your script with the WGA. Also, rest assured that I have enough ideas of mine own, and I won’t be looking at yours.)
U.S. Military’s remake of the - Call Me Maybe
For anyone unfortunate enough to have not seen this yet.
I needed this in my life
THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER HOW ARE PEOPLE NOT MORE EXCITED FOR THIS
WATCH IT JUST WATCH IT
I believed it more from the military guys. You cheerleaders need to step up your game!
Reblogging this for my sister.