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Charlie Kaufman Says Netflix Didn’t Ruin Movies: ‘Studios Ruined Movies’

"I could play around and experiment, but the business has changed enormously," said Kaufman.

Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman

Mark Davis/2015 Getty Image

For years Netflix’s growth in the world of film — especially in terms of critical acclaim and winning awards — has been a topic of conversation with regards to the experience of seeing films and the industry in general. An argument is constantly made about the juggernaut streaming services being responsible for “destroying” all of that. A number of filmmakers have participated in this debate over the years, from Christopher Nolan, to Steven Spielberg, to Edward Norton.

Charlie Kaufman is the latest filmmaker to chime in on Netflix’s influence on the movie industry, especially as he has an upcoming Netflix film being released on September 4, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” Written and directed by Kaufman, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” is based on Ian Reid’s novel of the same name, a psychological thriller about a woman who drives with her boyfriend to his family’s isolated farmhouse.

“I was looking for something that somebody would let me direct and it’s easier to get something made if it’s based on a book, or a comic book, or a movie that’s already existed,” Kaufman told the Wall Street Journal. “The producer I work with happened to have a deal with Netflix. I don’t know that Netflix knew going in that I was going to make it into something that was less of a thriller than the book, and I don’t think I knew that either. The book is leading you to a reveal, and I felt like that might be obvious and disappointing in the movie. Things are more mysterious in words than they are in images.”

Kaufman notes his own “terrible” box office record when it comes to films he’s both written and directed, like 2008’s “Synecdoche, New York” and 2015’s “Anomalisa,” as opposed to screenplays he wrote for other directors. He explained how it was much easier to get an original screenplay made earlier in his career.

“I could play around and experiment, but the business has changed enormously, and it all happened around 2008 when studios stopped making movies and started making tentpoles,” said Kaufman. “The reason something like Netflix attracts filmmakers is because there’s nowhere else to make those things. It’s infuriating to me when people say Netflix is ruining movies because—no, movies ruined movies, studios ruined movies, and that’s the truth.”

Kaufman went on to explain how an original musical screenplay he wrote called “Frank or Francis” — with big movie stars attached — couldn’t even get financed for a budget of $11 million, which is why he’s started branching out into writing novels as well. His debut novel, the 700-plus page “Antkind,” is set to be published by Random House on July 7.

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