Writer Jason Tanz continues with the overshare on his behind-the-scenes blog for a Wired profile of screenwriter/director Charlie Kaufman, best known for Jim Carrey vehicle Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Today Tanz has uploaded a rough draft of his story. Forgive the typos and factual errors, he asks, in return for the peek at his process. We couldn't resist the urge to crowdsource his editor's response:
To: Jason Tanz Subject: RE: Kaufman draft Jason, thanks! This is a GREAT start. Just a few questions and reax here. If you don't mind, could you turn this around soonish? Copy desk said they're not going to read another draft-within-a-draft — we need to get them something they can file and be done.
- Great job on the billboard: "Charlie Kaufman's ability to bend moviegoers' minds has made him one of cinema's most respected auteurs. But with his directorial debut, has Hollywood's brainiest screenwriter gotten too smart for his own good?" Don't change a word here. (NOTE TO VW READERS: The billboard or nut paragraph, as it's known in the magazine business, contains the essence of the story, and appears close to the top of the article. Usually after an introductory anecdote that establishes a scene. Finding and memorizing this paragraph lets you talk convincingly about the article at a party. Smart of Tanz to include this in his rough draft, since few will read the next 2,500 words in a browser.)
- "After penning some of the defining movies of recent years ... " Unless Kaufman actually writes with a pen instead of a keyboard, let's revisit this metaphor. We wouldn't want readers to imagine Charlie scribbling longhand like Neal Stephenson. Btw, we're still mopping up the ink stains around the office from His Nealness's 114-page quill-on-parchment "clarifications" to our profile of him last month. Jesus, what does Chris see in that guy?
- "Synecdoche, Kaufman's most Kaufmanesque film yet. (Yes, that's a tautology.)" Ok, enough with the self-referentialism. You're 700 words in, let's get the plot hopping.
- "Maybe it doesn't end with Kaufman's moment of triumph in Cannes. Maybe after Cannes, Synecdoche sees a limited release. Maybe audiences don't love it. Maybe Kaufman doesn't emerge victorious. Maybe he spends five years pursuing the truest expression of his artistic vision, only to find it misunderstood, or underappreciated, or — worst of all — ignored. Maybe this is a story of frustration and disappointment and failure." Maybe let's not run a feature that falls apart at the finish line? Let's try something else: "But were he writing the script, Kaufman would never end with his moment of triumph in Cannes. Instead, the story goes on to the film's limited release. Audiences don't love it. Audiences don't get it. Kaufman's five year struggle to project the truest expression of his artistic vision onto a movie screen turns on him. Kaufman, the director, is forced to explain himself to Kaufman, the audience of one. It's not the closing scene he wrote, but it's the truth he's always sought. The End." Just a suggestion, of course. Feel free to use your own words.