Category Archives: Charlie Kaufman

Not what I am

I wanted to do something that I don’t know how to
do, and offer you the experience of watching someone fumble, because I think maybe that’s what art should offer. An opportunity to recognise our common humanity and vulnerability. So rather than being up here pretending I’m an expert in anything, or presenting myself in a way that will reinforce the odd, ritualised lecturer-lecturee model, I’m just telling you off the bat that I don’t know anything. And if there’s one thing that characterises my writing it’s that I always start from that realisation and I do what I can to keep reminding myself of that during the process. I think we try to be experts because we’re scared; we don’t want to feel foolish or worthless; we want power because power is a great disguise. I even feel odd calling myself a writer or a screenwriter. I do when I have to – I put it on my income tax form – but I feel like it’s a lie, even though it’s technically true. I write screenplays for a living but it’s not what I am.

Charlie Kaufman on Synecdoche

Q. Is there someone in charge of this movie in the same way [as in Adaption and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind]?

A. No, I think this movie is different than either of those movies you’re talking about, because it doesn’t… I think those movies ultimately have a safety valve, in that there’s a clever conceit that you come to understand, and that in a way is safe. And it’s also something you can go, ‘Oh yeah, oh God, that guy’s smart’, you know, which is ego-stroking for me. This movie, and the script, was intentionally not like that. I didn’t … there’s no clever ‘reveal’ in this movie, it doesn’t turn out that this is anything other than what you’re watching, it doesn’t give you any place to land, which feels to me more honest […] Things flying away, things flying off, things becoming unhinged, and things being … incomprehensible, seems to be … to be the process of existence, when you strip away the conceits you have in your own life. You know, to put it in a kind of framework that makes sense, which we do. And that seemed like a real and valid thing to explore, and I wanted to explore it in a real and valid way […] And what I’ve noticed with this movie in terms of the response is that people tend to have these responses a day after, or a week after, probably not with everybody, but with the people that respond to it, there seems to be a kind of growing response, kind of like it’s a virus, it’s multiplying inside them… which to me says that there’s something going on in the movie that’s worth thinking about.

Charlie Kaufman