Charlie Kaufman – Writing With Honesty | CRISWELL | Cinema Cartography



this video is sponsored by mu B I curated online cinema streaming exceptional films from around the globe get one month free at MU be calm / channel Criswell you what was once before you an exciting mysterious future is now behind you lift understood disappointing you realize you are not special you have struggled into existence and announced the being silently out of it this is everyone's experience every single one as I read out loud the script that I've wrote for this video I'm overwrought with the knowledge that all the thoughts and ideas that were formed in its creation and now being made real if you're hearing this then those abstractions that were once only mine and now actually out there and as I wrote that sentence that notion filled me with worry for the obstacles that I find the most impossible are the ones I fabricated for myself is the kind of person that I am and all my characteristics and decisions that I've got me in this very spot at this very moment on this page I hold in my hand I'm obsessively questioning whether or not why I'm writing is me and at the same time I don't even know what me is I'm constantly trying to figure out who I am and one of the few things I can do by myself that brings me closer is to put something out there that hopefully gets me to look back and explore myself through a newfound lens but the struggle when creating something fictional to create something real out of that which isn't real is how to translate every my new feeling of anxiety of uncertainty of never really knowing where you're going or what you're doing a screenplay is an exploration it's about the thing you don't know to step into the abyss it necessarily starts somewhere anywhere there is a starting point but the rest is undetermined it is a secret even from you when that which is so personal is unknowable how do you make that resonate with people everything you've just heard was written a long time ago and the only reason you're hearing it is because I have to accept that writing is the journey of self-discovery of all the things inside you that you don't want to acknowledge and in the work of Charlie Kaufman the craft and struggle of the writer is ever-present with the raw sincerity in which the angst if every person is put on display how to start a coffee coffee would help me think I should write something first then reward myself with coffee the art of screenwriting is based around a specific craft the screenplay form was bred with supposed yeah even the greatest screenwriters adherence to these rules is a prime demonstration that they do in fact work whether it be said fields popularization of the three-act structure or Robert Mickey's divulgence on what story is these methods have been proven successful even to this day someone goes hungry somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman if you can't find that stuff in life then you my friend don't know crap about life and why the fuck are you wasting my two precious hours what you're moving our inclinations when it comes to fictional writing them more towards that of the author but a great film isn't a great novel and to convey any message screenwriters must learn the form of the screenplay the language of cinema on paper so how can you fully express what's inside of you when you know that there are such tight restrictions on your writing well the first thing to realize is that there isn't I just think that there's a kind of a very very kind of one route way of making movies in this culture and then and that there seems to be sort of this mindset that it has to be this one thing and this is the structure of it and this is this is what has to happen to the characters and and I think that there's a like in anything like in any art form there's the the what the world opens up when you take that away and you and you allow yourself to kind of think in a kind of a larger and more creative way about the process these guidelines are exactly that guidelines there's no right or wrong way to write a screenplay because cinema ultimately is storytelling and although these conventions can be good to follow a story can be anything the movie exists rather rather than be artificially plot-driven great exactly sure what that means oh I'm not sure I know what I mean the form of Kaufman scripts are what I want to focus on less because I think most of his process can be understood through how he handles that content the distinguished writing of Kaufman evokes such idiosyncratic identity because his preeminent topics are consistently engrossed in what is most important to him the courage to venture into the deepest depths of our very being and explore our most sacred of places if there was everything that we as humans don't understand is ourselves the plague in growing concepts of life death love loneliness what it means to exist Calvin ports are a vulnerability of not knowing how to deal with any of these as the centerpiece for his work his films focus is less about the individuals are more about their very existence being something they will never solve terrible curse I think I feel I suffer all I ask in return is the opportunity to do themes of control are predominant in Kaufman's work his character arcs are centered on regaining control through attempting to bring closure to whatever is causing them to stress there isn't much in the way of transformation their journeys consist of fixing their lives until they feel complete but such as their futility because how do you end heartache how do you perfect your are piece you can seen you're not just where as traditional screenwriting would ensure that a screenwriter is in complete control and understanding of what they write Kaufman relishes the stay of the Kaufman all are constantly changing faiths levels ever perplexed about the kind of person we are we'll never really know if we are moral if we will die with fulfillment the unknown is what leaves us in a perpetual state of anxiety and their refusal against what we don't know is what slips control from our subjects grasp you feel sorry for in restaurant are we the dining dead their anguish comes from their lack of acceptance that wife does not owe them reasoning behind every one of its secrets I don't like in any way like in any way did you change like while we were together like did I change you did you change did anything change do the changer Michael you're freaking me out rather than burying the truth that life means living with pain and imperfections they search for connections to make everything make sense because that's what we as humans need causality but most of the time things end unanswered mostly dead analysts self-reflection epitomizes the writing of Kaufman because the tests of his characters is something we all experience although we know what we feel we have no idea what to do with this emotion the purpose is not to demonstrate a narrative path to reveal any answer as the only semblance of any narrative progression we see is the understanding on the part of the viewer that every single human being experiences the same things our subjective tendencies halts us from seeing their Universal connection as if we are the only person in the world to feel that wanting but the truth is that the unknown is an inevitability of life that requires acceptance so because it's the one thing we all share each person you speak to has had a childhood what is it to be human I do not know what the wound is I do know that it is old I do know that it is a hole in my being I do know it is tender I do believe that it is unknowable or at least in articulable I do believe you have a woman – I do believe it is both specific to you and common to everyone this sentiment of an all-inclusive entity leaves us Kaufman's signature bittersweet take on life the fact that our prime commonality is that we're all completely separate from one another can't help but VOC the feeling that to be alone is ingrained in our very existence Kaufman takes this concept and shows the inability to escape one's own malaise the lack of realization that detachment is what unites us all exercising his exploration of the human condition is only achievable for Kaufman by placing his own anxieties at the center of his work his naked ego is completely exposed to the audience to the point of unbridled self scrutiny insofar as writing himself as a main character in adaptation it's kind of weird huh self-indulgent it's narcissistic solipsistic it's pathetic I'm pathetic I'm fat pathetic positioning his very being into the axis of the unknown allows a complete freedom in the exploration of that which plagues us the most because the further he probes into his characters the deeper he actually delves into himself we never existed so remember to smile the benefit of placing oneself in the thick of a screenplay is at the heart of writing is to take yourself to unknown places government chooses to focus on the enigmatic and often elusive nature of the inner self rather than the elta the outer self is simple to watch as our inner self is ephemeral Kaufman in this sense is literally testing his own persona as he's placing himself in situations that he doesn't know how to overcome he watches others watching himself giving him the liberty to rights as he discovers I don't like the idea that it's all set up and and I just go this scene the scene the scene the scene the scene I try to you know see oh this is something interesting about Clementine that I didn't think of before then I go back in the early part in to figure it out and it's sort of like so that this kind of like this holistic kind of approach to the to the writing process for me and then I discover a connection between these two things there's a somatic connection that I just you know fortuitously come upon and and that excites me and I get excited I mean my biggest goal I think in writing is to keep myself excited throughout the process because of this the structure of Kaufman's writing tends to go against a traditional template being reliant on the inner self means that countless stories are not about the watt or even the why they're about how how does this person experience the things they do the kind of person we see in how reactive they are in situations is how Kaufman stories propel themselves because it's not about traversing through the various plot points that is the basis of his screenplays is how to illuminate the internal being and the only way that can be done is to create circumstances in which the character is tested emotionally I assume you fucked someone tonight you know how you get people to like you and for maximum effect we're put directly into that perspective eternal sunshine allows for a non chronological narrative so that we can experience the literal memory loss that Joel house Synecdoche New York is a meditation on death and living a life unfulfilled and so Kaden's life flashes before us with every caught to the point that even whole years passed by without even knowing the story is the structure I don't think there's any distinction between structure and story i I think that there are two parts of the same thing and I think if your story and your structure don't reflect each other then you're not doing your job the exploration of the inner self requires those getting as close as possible to the experience of our subjects the mystery this causes a being in their own own and I'll structure to be made malleable and grow beyond our expectations the narrative may develop seemingly larger than what may expect but it's because when you expose yourself to your emotions for long enough although never fully understood we begin to literally feel as though we know more about them it's near impossible to explain why we feel the ways we do and for Coffman his work demonstrates that emotion isn't something to be explained his alternative to following a logical framework is that in order to illustrate the blueprints to make up our emotional states he instead deems the best way of showing this is to careen through the realms of the abstract now I wish I'd stayed we've done a lot of things because that's what emotion is it doesn't follow any logical form of rationality it can be as incredibly simple as it can be intricate and complex Calvin aims to create a path of logic within a framework that is intrinsically opposing it to do so he establishes his own rules within his worlds so that growth is explained through the abstract as a result his writing style and imagery is heavily reliant on metaphors and symbolism so I'll see you after of course the thing about writing symbolically is that there is no logical form of explaining what we see when we see Michael's faceplate falling off what does it mean ultimately it means whatever we want it to and so what I try to sort of do isn't fuse my screenplays with enough information so that upon repeated viewings you can have a different experience rather than the movie goes linearly to one thing and at the end it tells you what the movie is about it's sort of I try to keep it kind of like a conversation with the audience I guess that's what I try to do a conversation with the origin yeah all right with each individual member of the audience hopefully that's the purpose of writing within the abstract by removing it from the laws of our reality we take away its definitive meanings instead we have to implement our own logic and when you create something that we have to put ourselves into we will see things only from our perspective all the messages become conveyed through it's within the realm of the surreal that Kaufman creates personal drama and it's the only way that all the emotions he wants to convey can be placed within the architecture of a screenplay a common theme in Kaufman's work is that of being alone moreso thinking that you're alone Calvin's protagonists are often misunderstood not being able to convey what they want to get across to others although you're trying to reveal yourself as much as possible those that you try and connect with quite literally can't understand you just here for a day you know sorry I'm not getting that my name is Craig Schwartz and I have an interview with dr. Lester please have a seat mr. Horace Schwartz I'm sorry I have no idea what you're saying to me right now portals to the head of John Malkovich a fake twin brother you writers real adhere to play the size of a city taking priority over the end of the world all these are clear Peaks into the soul of Kaufman his attempts to reconcile his personal foible and through this we recognize our own frailties and anxieties in his yet all these anxieties that we feel contradict one another one moment we feel that nobody's recognizable to everybody being exactly the same thank you right this way sir my name is Dennis I perhaps all our affairs is what makes us feel alone because life is something that doesn't owe us anything yet we have to trust it Coughlin's characters just like us analyst Lee speculate on their failures because much of what the experience is doomed around its elusiveness every choice you make can destroy your life every time you choose but what makes the writing of Kaufman such a triumph is that even his writing style is carefully crafted to address us directly about our most tender of areas something that is uniquely ours and yet is felt by everyone and our biggest obstacle as a species is to accept that we can never know say who you are really say it in your life and in your work tell someone out there who is lost someone not yet born someone who won't be born for 500 years your writing will be a record of your time it can't help but be but more importantly if you're honest about who you are you'll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognize him or herself in you being exposed to ourselves one of the scariest things we can do we don't want people knowing all of the things that make us feel inadequate but Charlie Kaufman shows us the importance of learning to live with these things even if we never understand them whether it's our relationships our dreams our life we have to realize that we're not special but that doesn't matter because when we get to acknowledge our faults as people we get to see ourselves and maybe understand ourselves a little bit more and is only by living honestly however painful that honesty may be the our lives are given that little bit of closure we don't know anything about us and we never will thank you all for watching I create these videos in order to spark conversation about films that some may have yet to see and if you're struggling with what to watch next that's where mu B comes in mu B is an online streaming platform that showcases films from around the world but what makes movie different is that every day one film is added and one is taken away as of right now you can check out jumpy Renee's delicatessen one of the eccentric directors most iconic works but there are always 30 perfectly curated films to watch on the platform movie is a streamlined streaming service for all film lovers over your extended free trial with Ruby comm slash child care as well you

21 thoughts on “Charlie Kaufman – Writing With Honesty | CRISWELL | Cinema Cartography

  1. Excellent as always. Thank you Lewis for this video. I'm writing a screenplay at the moment and watching it really helped me to find out what I'm actually writing about.

  2. I love this channel. It's so motivational for me. I just started making my own shorts, exploring my psyche. Check them out if you feel so inclined. I'm trying to learn as much as I can about filmmaking while figuring my life out.

  3. sometimes i just watch your videos because i really like how you narrate the essay. Your voice has ENIGMATIC quality. and thank you for each video.

  4. This is the greatest video essay ever. Kauffman and his astonishing and humble outlook on the world of creativity. And the way you shape it in a pretty little box to summarize it. So beautifully crafted.

  5. My favorite screenwriter. I'm glad I can have someone to fully analyze Kauffman to better apply to start my writing. 🙂

  6. Speaking as a person with mental health issues, I think to myself how much of what is brought up here 'manifests itself' when trying to do a repetitive yet 'tough' job around ppl you don't really feel all that comfortable around.

  7. Causality is too simple. We Need interdependence. Life is lived high upon the tightrope between chaos and order. The unknown you speak of, is accessed, sanely, on that tightrope walk. Live on a pendulum between anxiety and comfort, creativity and boredom, and in trying to center yourself as a well integrated, fulfilled productive person, you'll find out more and more how little you know about yourself. How little you know about how deep your well goes.

  8. I think the reason I love his scripts is because, while there is a clear sense of Nihilism, a "What we do doesn't matter, and we will never fully understand anything" message…it presents it as a beautiful thing rather than something to be tormented about. "What we do doesn't matter, so live your life to the fullest, feel love, pain, loneliness, and let yourself explore and embrace those feelings, allow yourself to be lost in them instead of trying to understand them, because it's what gives meaning to our lives: Feelings" But to be honest, I'm not sure if that's thanks to Kaufman or more to the directors he has worked with like Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry.

  9. This is a great video, especially the part about being open to new ideas and not strictly following the 3 act structure – it can be stifling. But this message is not for new writers. If you've never written a feature length screenplay before, then you should practice using the Syd Field method until you can write three strong acts that would entertain the reader and an audience. Once you've gotten comfortable with that structure, then try to change it up and be creative. It's like cooking – you should always follow the recipe at first, until you've mastered it – then you can add or take away ingredients or even measurements based on your own preferences. If you attempt to throw away the structure before you understand it, you're script will most likely end up dull, contrived, too short or will drone on too long, and it will be an awful experience, both for you and the reader.

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