8 Great Quotes from Charlie Kaufman's BAFTA Screenwriters' Lecture

8 Great Quotes from Charlie Kaufman's BAFTA Screenwriters' Lecture

Oct 05, 2011

A few days ago Charlie Kaufman spoke as part of BAFTA's Screenwriters' Lecture series, which over the course of the past month or so has featured other writers like John Logan, William Nicholson, Guillermo Arriaga and more. Kaufman is the most intriguing one for us, though, partly because his scripts are so mind-boggling "out-there" that you can't help but want to listen to what this guy has to say about writing. So, while we wait for BAFTA to put up video of his entire lecture, we've compiled eight great Charlie Kaufman quotes from the lecture, thanks to these BAFTA highlights and this Guardian article called "Why I Wrote Being John Malkovich."

1. "A screenplay is an exploration, a step into the abyss, a secret, even from you. There's no template."

2. "I wrote Being John Malkovich while I was waiting for [the next sitcom] hiring season. My idea was that I would write a script and use it to get work. I had this idea that someone finds a portal into someone's head, and I had another idea that somebody has a story about someone having an affair with a co-worker. And neither one was going anywhere, so I just decided to combine them."

3. "Do not simplify. Do not worry about failure. Failure is a badge of honour. It means you risked failure."

4. "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."

5. "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. As an experiment, write a non-story. It will have a chance of being different."

6. "Seriously, I don't consider myself a writer. I don't think I have writing talent. But I will continue to do it."

7. "I can't tell you how to write a screenplay. If you offer something with authenticity + generosity, I will be moved."

8. "My first writing job was on a TV show called Get a Life. The show was mostly in the voice of its creators, Chris Elliott and Adam Resnick, who'd worked on the David Letterman Show. Adam's scripts were the best thing about Get a Life – and we all tried to write in Adam's voice. That was the job.

I was frustrated with the results, but it occurred to me that there was no solution as long as my job was trying to imitate someone else's voice. The obvious solution was to find a situation where I was doing me, not someone else. The major obstacle to this is your deeply seated belief that "you" is not interesting."

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