Charlie Kaufman Calls Out Hollywood for Treating Writers as ‘Secondary’: ‘The Rest Is Window Dressing’

"They’ve tricked us into thinking we can’t do it without them," the Oscar winner said. "The truth is they can’t do anything of value without us."
Charlie Kaufman
Charlie Kaufman
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Charlie Kaufman isn’t waiting for Hollywood to adapt any longer.

The “Adaptation” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” screenwriter was honored with the top film award at the 2023 Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday. Kaufman used the platform to call for a much-needed change in the perspective of screenwriters throughout the industry during his acceptance speech.

“We are trained to believe that what we do is secondary to what they do,” Kaufman said, referencing executives (via Variety). “I have dropped the ball, I have wasted years seeking the approval of people with money. Don’t get trapped in their world of box office numbers. You don’t work for the world of box office numbers. You work for the world. Just make your story honest and tell it.”

Kaufman continued, “Our work is to reflect the world, say what is true in the face of so much lying. The rest is window dressing at best, ‘Triumph of the Will’ at worst. Adrienne Rich wrote, ‘I do know that art means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage.’ The world is beautiful. The world is impossibly complicated. And we have the opportunity to explore that. If we give that up for the carrot, then we might as well be the executives.”

The Oscar winner added, “They’ve tricked us into thinking we can’t do it without them. The truth is they can’t do anything of value without us.”

The “Being John Malkovich” scribe did not explicitly reference the contract negotiations with the guild that are expected to begin March 20 with top Hollywood studios through the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The guild’s minimum basic agreement is set to expire on May 1, including the “regulations for a minimum staff size for television series, a minimum length of employment for television series, and improving residuals for film and television writers.”

To note, the SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) contracts are set to expire June 30 with the AMPTP and will also seek similar negotiation meetings.

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