By Cole Abaius
You Can’t Completely Put Yourself in the Audience’s Shoes
“[Getting perspective while filming is] a problem and it’s not a problem. I think it’s always a problem on every movie I’ve worked on—and I’ve been involved in all of them in post-production and editing—to have the same perspective as an audience member who hasn’t seen the movie…
The conventional wisdom is—people say this all the time—you should only write something when you’re far enough away from it that you can have a perspective. But that’s not true. That’s a story that you’re telling. The truth of it is here, right now. It’s the only truth that we ever know.”
Something Big and Difficult on Set Might Be Small and Easy in the Final Cut
I remember watching Being John Malkovich. We had this one scene, scene 100, which was so difficult for us. It was a scene where Dr. Lester explains how the portal works and it was a bear. We did so many different versions, so many different angles and voice overs. But when I watched it, it goes by pretty quickly. You don’t really think about it…
Thus, another true problem of perspective – you never know that the thing you’re agonizing over might not be such a terrible beast after all. This piece of advice seems less pragmatic. That is to say, knowing it won’t mean you can avoid it. It just means you should be aware that it exists. And maybe laugh about it later on.
Forget Form. There is No Form.
From the full version of that speech: “So what is a screenplay, or what might it be? Since we’re talking specifically about screenplays tonight. A screenplay is an exploration. It’s about the thing you don’t know. It’s a 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. 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. Like any big business, the film business believes in mass production. It’s cheaper and more efficient as a business model.”
If You’re In Charge, You Don’t Get to be the Insane One
Kaufman, after being asked by David Cronenberg about his experience as a first-time director on Synecdoche, New York: “There is a lot of management going on. Maybe that was the biggest surprise-just the amount of tending that I had to do. The different personalities … It’s not my way, and it’s never been my function before as a writer. I tend to be a moody and somewhat withdrawn person, and I felt very clearly that I had to throw that away because that wasn’t allowed here-there were other people who were going to be filling that role. Sometimes it became exhausting, especially around the eleventh hour of the day. So I wasn’t allowed to pout in any way, which is another thing I like to do.”
Cronenberg: “Because when you’re a director, you can’t be that way. People need to hear from you. They need encouragement and support from you. So you have to somehow find generosity of a particularly weird kind in yourself, don’t you?”
Kaufman: “I’m the father of … Well, she’s 8 now, but parenting is a relatively new experience for me, and I feel like there is that same kind of thing. It’s kind of like, ‘Okay, this is my job here. I can’t be so insane around this person. She needs me not to be.’”