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A Quick Charlie Kaufman Story

In light of the recent release of "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" (as well as "Antkind") -- I thought I might share this quick story about Charlie Kaufman. When "Anomalisa" was released, he (along with co-director Duke Johnson and producer Rosa Tran) did a Q&A after a screening of it at the Landmark.

As someone who has been to many Q&As -- the audience question part can be wild, particularly in Los Angeles. I went to an awards screening of "Master of None" where a woman in the audience accused them of stealing her work to make the show. More typically though, you often get a questioner (or two) who somehow is trying to break into the industry or otherwise rise up and somehow the interaction goes astray. Perhaps the questioner goes on too long or the filmmakers react badly -- in my experience it's honestly 50/50. You can almost feel the audience turn on the questioner as the question is being asked -- almost like, "Look at this rube." I've always found this dynamic particularly strange -- because if there's anything this town knows, it's starting at the bottom.

A questioner said that he (I believe it was a he) -- was an aspiring screenwriter and had found it particularly difficult to break into the industry, to get his work read, and to basically create a career for himself -- and if he had any advice for him. This is pretty standard. I would say I hear this question at 60-80% of these types of Q&A. Charie Kaufman's response -- I never hear. 

He -- if I remember correctly -- beyond talking about work habits and always being able to write on your own -- posited that the two of them were not all that different. That he had the seeming trappings of career success when in reality, he had to really grind, using the making of "Anomalisa" as an example. Just how stunningly difficult it was for him to get financing for it (they even had to raise the initial funds on Kickstarter) and how many no's he received when taking out the project.

But the real difference between that and almost every answer I ever hear to that question was -- was that Charlie Kaufman didn't hold himself off as even a whisk better than this person. On some level it was borderline tragic ("Wow! It's this hard for Charlie Kaufman.") On other level, it was one of the most generous and gracious answers I've heard from someone in that position of esteem and power.