I consider Charlie Kaufman the screenwriter’s screenwriter. He doesn’t write for fame or an easy pay cheque; he never panders to the lowest common denominator; and his work is so idiosyncratic and personal that ‘Kaufmanesque’ has been accepted into the idiom. It can even be argued that he is that rare breed of writer who seems to challenge the traditional auteur theory.
Here are a few of his quotes and ponderings about the craft of screenwriting.
- “Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.”
- “Do not simplify. Do not worry about failure. Failure is a badge of honour. It means you risked failure.”
- “Your goal is to be entertaining. This is true for a story told at a dinner party, and it’s true for stories told through movies. Don’t let anyone tell you what a story is, what it needs to include.”
- “A screenplay is an exploration, a step into the abyss, a secret, even from you. There’s no template.”
- “A screenplay should be something that has to be a movie. If it doesn’t have to be a movie, you shouldn’t make it.”
- “I don’t subscribe to anything. I sit there and I try to think about what seems honest to me.”
In spite of his own unique style and perspective, some of these quotes should be printed, laminated and stuck to the walls of every writers’ room. You may not like Kaufman’s work, but there’s a lot to be learned from it.
Aim high. Risk failure. Find your voice.
That’s all we can do.