20 April 2012

"Say who you are" - looking back at the Charlie Kaufman lecture

On 30 September 2011 Charlie Kaufman gave a BAFTA screenwriting lecture. In perfect keeping with his films, the lecture was nothing like any other lecture... and it reminds me that I'm no Charlie Kaufman - but instead a craftsman in the business of screenwriting, proud to be good at my craft but, essentially, a hack. ... but hey -  

Say who you are
If you're a member of the screenwriting world, you've probably watched it. Then again you might have been busy writing, like this here dude. Never watched it until last night and I can assure you, it's 40+ minutes well spent. Here's the link to the lecture including transcript (great work by the BAFTA people, by the way, hats off) - watch it, read it, enjoy the time you'll be spending in Charlie Kaufman's unusual world.

The lecture also reminds me that I'm no Charlie Kaufman - but instead a craftsman in the business of screenwriting. I'm proud to be good at my craft but, essentially, I'm a hack compared to the mind and passion of Charlie Kaufman. Heck - I've only just started twenty years ago! Learning, moving in that direction, one script at a time. Well then, here a quick glimpse at some of the many good quotes from that lecture:
  • " ... I don’t know anything. And if there’s one thing that characterizes 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." 
  • "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 that."
  • "The world needs you. It doesn’t need you at a party having read a book about how to appear smart at parties – these books exist, and they’re tempting – but resist falling into that trap. The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know,’ and being kind." 
  • "A screenplay is an exploration. It’s about the thing you don’t know. It’s a step into the abyss." 
  • "There’s no template for a screenplay, or there shouldn’t be. There are at least as many screenplay possibilities as there are people who write them. We’ve been conned into thinking there is a pre-established form.
  • "I think the danger of craft is that it needs to be in second position to what it is that you’re doing. It’s seductive to put it in first position, often because what you’re doing is meaningless or worthless, or just more of the same. So you can distinguish yourself by being very, very good at it. I think you need to be willing to be naked when you do anything creatively in film or any other form."
  • I can’t tell anyone how to write a screenplay because the truth is that anything of value you might do comes from you. The way I work is not the way that you work, and the whole point of any creative act is that. What I have to offer is me, what you have to offer is you, and if you offer yourself with authenticity and generosity I will be moved."

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