Charlie Kaufman’s Take on Screenwriting

Charlie Kaufman is far and away one of my favorite working screenwriters. He’s written such meta masterpeices as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, and Adaptation. In this recent interview, Kaufman offers his perspective on screenwriting and the business of film:

On studio filmmaking…

‘In a lot of movies, especially big studio ones, they’re not constructed in any other way than to get people to like them and then tell their friends. It’s a product. It’s like building a Buick. I don’t think the studios would even argue with that. It’s a very big business, a very risky business, and they want some sort of certainty that they’re going to succeed. They push certain buttons. But those movies aren’t interesting to me.’

On being seen as a ‘mathematical’ screenwriter…

‘I’ve heard people say that, and I don’t approach things that way. It often does come down to imagining different permutations of events. But I’m certainly not mathematical by training. I have a personality that tends to be somewhat compulsive, and I do tend to think in a circular way. I dwell on the same things over and over and I try to figure out different ways of looking at the same issue.’

On screenwriting as therapy…

‘I think if I’ve worked anything through with screenwriting it’s that I’m not going to be able to work anything through. It’s an ongoing crisis. You deal with who you are in different circumstances. I don’t think screenwriting is therapeutic. It’s actually really, really hard for me. It’s not an enjoyable process. Sometimes I like it when a script is out in the world and people are talking about it. I’ve been asked this before, and it invariably leads to the question: is there something else I’d rather be doing that’s more therapeutic? When I was young I used to act, and I would say that that was something I could definitely see as therapeutic. I really loved it. With this, it doesn’t feel like I’m solving anything or that I feel any happier by doing it.’

Read more here.

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