What Are Charlie Kaufman’s 10 Screenwriting Tips?

Charlie Kaufman may be a strange guy, but he has some simple writing tips.

One of my favorite scriptwriting voices is Charlie Kaufman. His films and scripts, like I’m thinking of Ending Things, Antkind, Anomalisa, Adaptation, Synecdoche New York, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, and other collaborations with Mark Kermode and Spike Jonze have expanded independent cinema and kept the film interesting.

It seems like a guy like this has a lot to teach us about scriptwriting.

Check out this video from Outstanding scripts, and let’s talk after the jump.

What Are Charlie Kaufman’s 10 Screenwriting Tips?

1. Failure is a badge of honor

Nobody writes something perfectly the first time. You will hear “no”, but so will everyone else. Just get back on the car and drive on. Your next script can be your best script.

2. Make the story and themes last forever

What kinds of stories have stood the test of time and relate to the masses? Tap these key feelings.

3. Make your writing honest and meaningful

Tell us the truth about the situation, don’t sugarcoat it. Make sure you connect with your feelings and desires.

4. Say who you are and people will recognize themselves in you

The world is full of different people and audiences, but if you are willing to share yourself and your art, you will find people who will hug you. This is how you really connect with your audience. Be brave.

5. Do not explain topics of your own work, let each individual draw their own meaning from it

There may be universal truths in your work, but there may be many explanations. All art is subjective. Don’t tell people how to feel, just let them feel.

6th Leave it ambiguous for the audience, but explain your thoughts to your staff

You don’t always have to wrap everything in a neat loop. You can leave it to them to want more or to imagine. Sometimes it’s the best. But your team should probably know what’s going on.

7th Approach your work as you would dream and throw away conventional approaches

The first rule in screenwriting is that there are no rules.

Your goal is to provide the blueprint for the film. That means it’s okay to be original and put those bold ideas on the page. It can’t always follow beat sheets or the traditional storytelling structure.

8th. Add layers to your story so that it is interesting for multiple perspectives

The finish can be great, but it may not add to things for repeated viewing. What else can you say or slip in that adds another layer to someone’s appreciation?

9. Find your own way into the industry until you get to the job you are meant to be

It can be scary and stressful when you want to write and work in Hollywood. Tell the stories that are important to you and be okay when you hear “no”. That first “yes” can take a long time to hear, so stick with it.

10. Find the unique writing process that works just for you

So many people will have opinions about how you should do things. Follow your heart and pave your own way. Sure, it’s nice to get tips, but there’s nothing in particular, just the way you find things for yourself. Perhaps you sketch in detail. You may find yourself doing writing exercises that will never make it into the final project. Maybe you start at the end. It depends on you!

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