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Audrey

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot. (D.H. Lawrence)
I'm just jealous that you got to spend the weekend with Steve Mazur!

Babs

Mernit - Great post. How do have time to write all this stuff?! I'm still digesting David's article -

Scott the Reader

What's Kaufman working on now, does the article say? Does he largely just write spec stuff, or is he taking on assignments?

Jenna

Allow me to be completely off topic and ask how you like that new Placebo album? I've abandoned them as of the past couple years and am feeling slightly guilty. Is it better than Sleeping With Ghosts?

mernitman

Audrey: Well, D.H. would know, wouldn't he?

Babs: Insomnia.

Scott, the article alludes to some hush-hush "new project" that's clearly a spec; to my knowledge, he doesn't do on-assignment stuff anymore.

Welcome, Jenna: Better than Sleeping, I think, which I never really listened to either, but Without You I'm Nothing still rules (for "Pure Morning" alone, if nothing else).


Craig

I saw Jody Foster speak at U of Pennsylvania's commencement today and she echoed the same ideas. (I'm paraphrasing) That when she started to tell stories it helped her sort out and discover who she was. Several times I've been tempted to write stories based on commercial appeal. However, in the process of developing them, I inevitably steer them in a different direction that I want to explore. That direction usually tends not to be obviously commercial, but it does makes me a lot happier.

On a side note, I'm currently working on a very unorthodox rom-com, and I'm in the middle of reading, and thoroughly enjoying, "Writing the Romantic Comedy."

E.C.Henry

Billy,

Couldn't agree more, Charile Kaufman is a great, great story teller. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is brillant,and very cleaver. People who think all rom/com's are predictable need to pop a couple of Charlie's films into their DVD or VCR.

In an age where there is a tendancy for movies to copycat the beats of past sucesses Charlie Kaufman is welcome breath of fresh air -- I can't wait to see what he's up to next!

Thanks for sharing a little of what you know about the man behind the mask. I always appreciate knowing a little more about the stud screenwriters in Hollywood.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

MaryAn

Where the passion lives. Great line.

Chris Soth

Anybody got a link to the article?

And what if you don't like the third act of Adaptation so much you never go back? Wouldn't an act that you LIKE the first time thru then realize the brilliance of in your countless other beloved viewings and fawnings over have been even better?

Clever = self-referential? And a speech by your main character admitting self-indulgence transforms self-indulgence to Oscar -winning genius?

Could any of US get away with that?

Ok, maybe a LITTLE jealous. I DO love Eternal Sunshine and like Malkovich...

chris

shecanfilmit

Chris, here is the link:

http://www.latimes.com/features/magazine/west/la-tm-kaufman20may14,1,4924686.story?coll=la-headlines-west

Billy, so glad you covered this. I read it online on Sunday (looking for West's short fiction piece) and thought - "Wow, I'd like to write about that but can't do it justice." You did it justice.

Charlie Kaufman is one of my writing heroes. I had the sublime experience of reading an early draft of Adaptation before the movie was on the public radar. A friend sent me a messy, large file that consisted of individual scanned images of the screenplay. I read it, and was completely taken away. Years earlier, when I was in graduate school and didn't have a TV, I had read the original Susan Orleans article from the New Yorker (that was turned into a book) and knew what he was dealing with.

On the page, the 3rd act worked for me the first time through. However, many friends who saw it first in the theater noted they thought the 3rd act was weak. (Until they saw it again.)

And then Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - I think it might be even BETTER than Adaptation. It inspired Jim Carrey to one of his best roles ever.

I call his movies "existential comedies" because they ask "Why am I here? How did I get here?" sorts of question. He's like the Talking Heads of screenwriting.

Seriously, the only other film that I think fits into the category is I Heart Huckabees by David O. Russell. IMHO, it almost worked. But not half as well as a Charlie Kaufman story. I think I Heart Huckabees failed because David O. Russell told the story through the wrong "access character." The Mark Wahlberg fireman was much more interesting (and passionate!) than the David Schwartzman drip - he should have been the protagonist.

mernitman

Craig: Yes, it's great when your heart steers you towards... doing what you should be doing. Hope the book helps!

Thanks E.C. and MaryAn...

Chris: the link is in my post -- where it says "the article by David Ulin" (top of the 4th para).

I hear you re: the third act, but since the first two-thirds had been That Good, I went back to see "what went wrong." What I'd reacted to was what seemed a deliberate going against the grain of audience expectation -- I felt that, and felt it so strongly, that I was curious to explore the movie further... and when I did, I found the experience revelatory.

No "fawning over" here -- simply appreciation of exceptionally good and substantive work. And I don't think the Oscar was awarded for self-indulgence. I think it was awarded for someone taking the kinds of risks rarely taken in mainstream moviemaking... like, for example, writing a third act that would piss people off -- but which was the logical, appropriate and organic development of everything that had been set up at the front of the film! :-)

SheCan, re: Kaufman... what you said. Re: Russell... I'll have to confess I found that movie a struggle, but I'd be willing to take another look at it.

Jenna

I'll have to check it out. Sleeping is kind of hollow and creepy, I could never get into it. Without You is how I got drawn in, so it's obviously still my fave.

chesher cat

Thanks for the great post, Billy.

I've always known that passion is the fuel that drives creativity. Thank God it doesn't cost $3.50 a gallon.

Bill Sebring

I agree that Kaufman is a good writer, but "his" films all too often leave me cold. I found Adaptation, in particular, to be extremely painful (can still hear Nic's kvetching, which almost had me running from the Sunshine screaming all the way down Houston). Cleverness does not a movie make, and the intervening cinematic moments--the car crash in "Adaptation," the visual erasing in ESotSM, the 7.5th floor in BJM--fade when confronted with belabored solipsism. I personally wish he'd stay on the page.

Chris Soth

Link in post. DUH. And to clarify...yes, he IS brilliant, but I think it's only obvious in Eternal Sunshine. Jealous, I said...jealous.

cbs

mernitman

Chesher, I never thought of that -- passion is priceless!

Bill: And that's what makes horse racing, as they say, but I like that you pointed out three moments of inspired Kaufmania that even an anti-Charlie can respect.

Chris, you think YOU'RE jealous? Sheesh, considering that Eternal is a rom-com I only wish I coulda come up with, just know that it hurts me, too...

Ray-Anne

Great post- many thanks for crystallising thoughts on theme and universal appeal. Thanks to the insight, it took only a few minutes to clarify my set-up scene and self-revelation for my novel re-write. Party on dude.

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