Highlights From a Lecture by Charlie Kaufman

I was thinking about the movie "Synecdoche, NY" and Googled Charlie Kaufman. It turned up this lecture he did for the British Film Institute in 2011. If you love Kaufman's movies - or love to get way, WAY overly serious about writing - you may enjoy these highlights as much as I did. Here's the entire lecture, with audio: http://tinyurl.com/ovcu9mm
  1. I'm actually really happy to be here; at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
  2. I’ve never delivered a speech before, which is why I decided to do this tonight. I wanted to do something that I don’t know how to do, and offer you the experience of watching someone fumble, because I think maybe that’s what art should offer. An opportunity to recognise our common humanity and vulnerability.
  3. I’m just telling you off the bat that I don’t know anything. And if there’s one thing that characterises 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. I do believe you have a wound too. I do believe it is both specific to you and common to everyone. I do believe it is the thing about you that must be hidden and protected, it is the thing that must be tap danced over five shows a day, it is the thing that won’t be interesting to other people if revealed.
  7. It is the thing that makes you weak and pathetic. It is the thing that truly, truly, truly makes loving you impossible. It is your secret, even from yourself. But it is the thing that wants to live.
  8. It is the thing from which your art, your painting, your dance, your composition, your philosophical treatise, your screenplay is born.
  9. Your dreams are very well written. I know this, without knowing any of you. People turn anxieties, crises and longing, love, regret and guilt into beautiful rich stories in their dreams.
  10. What is it that allows us the creative freedom in our dreams that we don’t have in our waking lives? I don’t know, but I suspect part of it is that in our dreams we are not constricted by worry about how we will appear to others.
  11. I think you need to be willing to be naked when you do anything creatively in film or any other form, that’s really what you have to do because otherwise it’s very hard to separate it from marketing.
  12. Let’s not worry about what it looks like, let’s not worry about failure. Failure is a badge of honour; it means you risked failure. If you don’t risk failure you’re never going to do anything that’s different than what you’ve already done, or what somebody else has done.
  13. I can’t tell anyone how to write a screenplay because the truth is that anything of value you might do comes from YOU.
  14. 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.