Learn to love all forms of storytelling

Posted by Heather in Screenwriting // April 27th, 2015

timthumb.phpWriters and screenwriting teachers Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir share their insights on writing with partners, developing scripts for television and adaptations.

By Heather Hale

Life has a way of getting in the way of writing. How much of our own writing we get done depends on how and where we’re earning our income, our personal responsibilities and our creative energy levels. Add two personalities to all that ebb and flow and the dynamic can get quite squirrely. But this husband and wife team makes it look easy!

I spoke with Nunzio DeFilippis, Chair of Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy, and Christina Weir, who teaches Sequential Art and Transmedia, to see what kinds of insights we could glean that would be of practical use to emerging screenwriters today.

christina-and-nunzio

Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis

The Importance of Plotting

Nunzio and Christina’s writing time is structured around their teaching schedules at NYFA. In an ideal world, they do everything together: plot, write the first draft and rewrite.

Christina suggests: “Writers like to believe that plotting is something different from writing. They think that too much of it flattens out the creative process and sucks the joy of discovery from writing but plotting is just the first step in writing. And you discover plenty when you are figuring out what’s going to happen in your story. That’s not to say you shouldn’t adjust as you write but adjusting a plan is easier when you have an actual plan.”

When they write together, Christina usually sits at the keyboard while Nunzio paces. “That gives her all the power as to what’s actually in the script, ” he teases, “and me the illusion of making all the decisions by virtue of how much I talk.” While they do strive to at least always plot together, it’s not always practical to complete the whole process as a team. When “life” gets in the way, they divvy up the first drafts and shoot to do the rewrites together. If those best laid plans get derailed, too, they swap notes and trade rewrites on one another’s work, in an effort to maintain their seamless, unified voice and keep the pipeline moving.

TV Development

kim-possible-2-250x188

Kim Possible

Possible Nunzio and Christina have written for and developed television programs for the likes of HBO and Disney. “At HBO, we never got to pitch our own material,” Christina explains. “We worked on Arli$$, which was very much Robert Wuhl’s show (and his baby). We knew our job was to help him on his show – and we enjoyed that. But at Disney, we got to do both.”

“We loved Kim Possible [the animated Disney show originally broadcast from 2002 through 2007],” Nunzio shares. “We asked our agent to try to get us in – and she did! We got to write a couple of episodes. We love it when it works like that!”

Disney liked what they did with their episodes and appreciated their comics, so they were given the opportunity to work with some Disney execs to develop some series ideas for animated projects. “They never went beyond development,” Christina explains, “but it was a great opportunity. When we were both in film school, television was thought of as the weaker medium but some of the best storytelling is now on TV.”

arliss

Michael Boatman as Stanley Babson, Jim Turner as Kirby Carlisle, Sandra Oh as Rita Wu and Robert Wuhl as Arliss Michaels in Arli$$

Studio vs. Independent Pitches

Having worked with independent producers as well as developing with networks, Nunzio and Christina have discovered that their story sensibilities are definitely different. “Networks and studios need to know who their audience is going to be – and they build from that, whereas independent producers tend to focus on theme and build around that. In the end, both paths get to story, but they get there very differently.”

Pilots vs. Spec Scripts

In his capacity as NYFA’s Screenwriting Chair, Nunzio has adjusted the curriculum to focus more time on writing pilots with less emphasis on spec episodes of existing TV shows. He explains: “Specs are vital for learning how the language of TV is structured. They teach how to write for other people’s characters and in a specific show’s story style but the more useful skill is writing pilots.”

nunzio-and-christinaTaking Notes

Being able to receive constructive criticism and meld conflicting opinions throughout the development process is essential to the success of a professional writer. “It’s such a basic writing skill – but so few writers have it,” Nunzio explains. “They view notes as an assault on their story. Or a criticism of their skill. Or, at the very least, a refutation of their intention. Aside from being a part of how the business works, notes are vital to storytelling. Nobody gets it right on the first try. Notes tell us what worked and what didn’t. And if they’re rejected outright, then the story can never improve. You’re left with a script that never gets much better than the best version of your first ideas about the story. And sometimes they don’t even make it to the best version of that first idea, because even those notes are rejected.”

The flip side is that taking every note takes away your voice. “Sometimes what you want deserves a fight on its behalf,” Nunzio explains: “The key to taking notes is finding out why you’re getting a note. What didn’t work? If you know that, then even if you don’t take a note specifically, you can take something from it – diagnose the problem even when you don’t agree with the suggested solution.”

Transmedia: Great Self-Starter Mediums

NYFA has expanded their Sequential Art and Transmedia offerings. As a teacher in this specialty, Christina explains: “Transmedia is a broad term that means building something that delivers story across multiple media. Each medium contributes something unique. Practically speaking, you should usually start with one medium and expand the story world into other media.”

The logical starting place, then, is to ask yourself: What’s the best form for this story?

Nunzio explains: “The beauty of working in Transmedia is that you develop a love for all these forms that traditional screenwriters ignore. They focus on features or TV. But the best place to set a story with a big expansive world – that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars as a film – is not as a feature spec. Very few unproduced screenwriters will sell a spec that will cost 300 million to make as a film. Write a comic instead: a comic costs the same to produce if it’s an epic space saga as it would if it were about a small family wedding.”

Amazing Agent Luna

Amazing Agent Luna

Comics

“That’s not to say that you should write a comic just to get a movie made,” Christina clarifies. “If you did that, you’d probably write the comic badly, the story would never appeal to fans of comics, much less the feature execs you want the attention of. Instead, if you decide that a story is best told as a comic, then set out to tell it well as a comic. The rest will take care of itself. If it doesn’t, you’ve still told your story, and hopefully, told it well. If you can find an artist, self-publishing or web publishing a comic is a huge part of that industry.”

Web Series

Web series are great self-starter mediums, too. “With the new models of TV distribution like Netflix or Amazon Prime, and the sheer number of cable channels,” Nunzio adds, “the possible routes to get a series made are expanding.”

Christina adds: “I think every writer should try a web series. They’re easier to produce and the expectations on production quality are diminished which can allow the focus to be on story. It’s a great way to start a career. I also think that comics are proving to be a fertile ground for storytellers and writers would be foolish to ignore those possibilities. Comics are also frequently aligned with Hollywood. A lot of publishers have deals with producers and those producers won’t attach you as a new writer if and when Hollywood comes calling for your comic. So, the control can be more elusive than it used to be. Which is why web publishing or self-publishing may be a good way to have control.

Video Games (Not so much)

Video games are trickier, because unless you can code, you can’t self-start and you find yourself in the same mode as screenwriting: coming up with an idea and trying to get people to make it. But with smaller game platforms, like mobile games – or non video game platforms, like card games – you might be able to self-start as well.”

Nunzio continues: “Video games are based on players making meaningful choices. They are interactive in a way that film can never be – and should never try to be. So adapting a videogame means removing the choices and making the narrative work in a traditional way without flattening it.”

“We wrote one game that relied extensively on cinematics in between gameplay levels. The gameplay was linear, in that you either won and moved to the next chapter or failed and died and had to retry the level. As such, that game was very much like writing a screenplay just with the action sequences skipped (and replaced by a gameplay description). In another game we worked on, dialogue was branching, so the scripting was very different. But we submitted a plot for that and haven’t moved to script yet, so I can’t say we’ve mastered that yet. It’s intimidating, because scripts for branching dialogue in games are often in spreadsheet form, which is alien to most screenwriters.”

nunzio-and-christina-luna-signing-comiccon-2010

Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis at Comic Con 2010

Adaptation Advice

Vital to adapting material from one form to the next is recognizing that each form is its own thing. “Trying to stay true to the source material can kill a project,” Nunzio explains, “because then your film feels like it’s paced for comics or written like a novel. You have to try to embrace the thematic core of the source material and the story throughline – but capitalize on the strengths of the form you’re writing in.”

“Comic dialogue is meant to be read, not spoken,” Christina adds. “Trying to recapture lines from a comic is a mistake. People speak differently in film than they do in dialogue balloons in a comic.”

Learn to love all forms of storytelling. Watch web series. Read comics. If you learn the forms, you’ll start to see what each does well and what they don’t do as well. Let your stories steer themselves towards the form they best fit.

Share

Pitching TV Shows

Posted by Heather in In Production // January 17th, 2015

I’ve been helping dozens of Reality TV Content Creators get ready to pitch at NATPE’s 2015 PRO Pitch.

I’ve been helping them re-edit their sizzle reels, rewrite their one-sheets, practice their pitches and in some cases, even really re-evaluate and figure out what it is they’re actually trying to pitch (i.e.: existing footage to be re-purposed or translated for other territories, themselves as a host or segment guestpert, a replicatable format, or a show they want a financier or distributor to commit to develop or co-produce).

To that end, there are some past blogs that have been helpful to many, so I thought I’d share ‘em with you all (in some cases, again):

 

And here’s a Brown Bag Lunch video interview I did with NATPE a couple of years ago (during the one month I thought I’d try being burnette! ;-) Wasn’t my best look – but the content is good!)

Share

PRODUCER’S POV: Mind Map New Ideas For Higher Concept Scripts

Posted by Heather in In Development, Projects, Screenwriting, Speaking/Teaching, Writing for TV // January 12th, 2015

We all know that great writing comes from great rewriting. And that second acts are where the real writers live. All that’s true. So very true. But it’s also true that we can all be guilty of nursing a labor of love script to death. At some point, you just have to let go and move on. It doesn’t matter how brilliantly you execute a marginal idea, if you don’t begin with a concept that intrigues or excites your pitch listeners, script readers or trailer viewers, today’s market is simply too insanely over-saturated with competition for a weak project to get noticed above the din.

Start_thinkstockStart A New Script

Don’t begrudge all those hours you invested on “that” script (and we all have one!). Every hour or page you write empowers you to write better, faster, smarter. KEEP WRITING. Put in the “ten thousand hours of practice” that Malcolm Gladwell, in his third great book, Outliers, identified as “the magic number of greatness.”

 

MindMapNewIdeaswithbulb-300x183One of the best ways I know to access the genius of your mind, the richness of your memories, sensory life experiences and unique expertise is to mind map. Capturing the chaos of your creativity via a visual representation does a great many things. One: it stops time. It allows you to remember (or barf out) the never-ending slew of stream of consciousness fragments that course under your imaginative skin. Two: it gives you a chance to breathe. It holds all these fleeting gems in a malleable state allowing you to sculpt and manipulate them. And three: it allows you to cherry pick and create a collision of concepts, to play with the building blocks of your unique, personal take on life contrasted with the universal and timeless gems to achieve that elusive but precious “familiar but new” mash-up.

MadLibs-croppedRemember Mad Libs from when we were kids? You’d replace the nouns, verbs and adjectives and adverbs? I had an English teacher once who made us play Mad Libs with arguably one of the longest, most sprawling sentences in English literature (from William Faulkner’s brilliant short story, A Rose for Emily) – an exercise I (clearly) never forgot. Play these word games with loglines from your favorite films or genre comps. Play concentration with magazine clippings of characters, worlds, settings, vocations. Themeplay a vision board collage. Select input from your life that inspires or intrigues you.

What is your character’s absolute worst fear? How could that coming true be the best thing that ever happened to her? Opposites attract – but they also repel. What’s the Yin and Yang of why your Protagonist must dance with this specific Antagonist? What do they have to learn from one another? What do we have to learn from vicariously parrying with them? What situation would the absolute worst (or best?) for your TV ensemble that promises to deliver drama or comedy week after week? What epic image system or minute actors’ business best brings your theme to life?

Enlarge, study and even print out the above mind map as a great starting place. Journal. Take an Artist’s Date. Refill your inner well. Work your ideas backwards and forwards. Doodle. Walk. Sit in silence and just think. Braid and repeat.

WordMapEvery hour of brainstorming can save 5 hours of writing

Imagine what five hours of brainstorming would save in writing down rabbit holes. Or a week. Play with the the circulatory system of your inner psyche. Mine your fears, dreams and themes. The brilliant William Martell, a treasured member of the Script Magazine blogging tribe, wrote a great blog about four years ago on High Concept Generation Script Secrets and offered 5 Tips to Turn Your Script Into a High Concept Idea that are both worth checking out. I, myself, teach classes for The Writers Store’s Screenwriters University on Creating High Concept Ideas (and I try to do the homework anew, too, each class to keep my own writing chops honed and current).

We’ve all heard a million times that “ideas are a dime a dozen.” I know where that comes from but the truth is: it’s simply not true.

stack-of-dimesStory Is Everything

Everything.

Yes, execution is critical.

Yes, collaboration is key.

But we all know a brilliant idea when we hear one – and everyone can run with one.

Write one.

Sell one.

Make your career off one.

Why not today? Why not right now? Go back to the drawing board and take a running start at something fresh and new? It might not only raise the bar on the quality of the scripts you have in your inventory – but you’ll inevitably enrich the caliber of your craft for any opportunity that you may be able to create.

Keep Writing: the world needs your stories.

For more of Heather Hale‘s Producer’s POV Columns for Script Magazine, please visit: http://www.scriptmag.com/author/heatherhale/

Share

Producer’s POV: StorySelling – The Art of Pitching

Posted by Heather in Producing, Screenwriting // June 17th, 2014

Example_ScapularLoading_Bad_BillyWagner_2006_023Pitching can be creative and (dare I say it?) even fun. And if you get good at it, it can empower and liberate you to do more of what you love to do:  write.

Writers are storytellers. But when they have to sell their stories, they often freeze up. That’s an unfortunate and unnecessary career handicap.

Pitching is (of course) a completely different skill set than writing – but it’s just as learnable a craft and instinctive an art. And you’d do well to get good at it. Just as the secret to good writing is great rewriting, pitching takes practice.  But where do you even start?

At the beginning.

When an athlete is asked the first time to break down what they do instinctively into step-by-step instructions, often, the combination of moves they try to articulate seem disjointed. It’s only as the separate pieces come together into one graceful, natural movement that everything falls into place. You, too, can achieve that with your pitch: invisible (but flawless) structure, expressing authentic passion, resulting in genuine emotional engagement that inspires desired action.

Pitch Perfect

Have you ever raved about a movie or TV show that you absolutely loved (or even an exciting sports game) to someone who hadn’t yet seen it? Spoilers aside, your enthusiasm was probably contagious enough to make your listener want to see it, too (i.e., to take action).

You want to make whomever you’re pitching to, be genuinely excited to read your script (or at least think it sounds marketable enough to warrant their paying a threshold Reader to vet it for them). Sure, you want to sell or option a script or secure an agent or manager – but those are all downstream goals. What are the real goals that can actually be accomplished during a pitch?

     Primary Goal: Elicit a script request.

     Secondary Goal: Network (Build Your Relationships and Reputation)

Share Your Passion

For each and every pitch, your challenge is to translate whatever it was about your idea that got so under your skin that you were inspired – nay – compelled – to dedicate weeks to years of your life to create a whole world of characters to express the concept.

No one can give you that passion. As a writer, you should’ve come preloaded with that. That should be why you’re here: crazy enough to pursue this line of work. No matter what you’re pitching, to whom, where or how – your pitch should always start with a fantastic logline.

Loglines in a Nutshell

Loglines are without a doubt the hardest things you’ll ever have to write. And the most important. Books, blogs, videos, workshops and panels galore cover loglines ad infinitum, so let’s just cut to the chase and assume that ya’ll know that you need (give or take) something like this:

[Title] is a [Genre] about [an interesting, proactive Protagonist] who wants to/must [P’s Goal] but [Conflict = obstacles that get in the way/stakes if Protagonist fails].

or 

When [the inciting event happens][our Hero]must [pursue the goal/drive the plot].

If your Protagonist is not pro-actively pursuing a plot-driven goal, then maybe you have more a character-driven or situational story, and you need to adjust your logline accordingly. If you have written a transformational character arc, make sure you point out your Hero’s flaw in your logline as it is key to your theme. An ironic twist at the end of a logline is always good for extra credit – especially for comedies and thrillers.

As always, look for the source of conflict in the story. In an action-driven piece, it will be in the goal versus the stakes against the ticking clock. In a character-driven piece, it will be in the situation. If you have created circumstances that accentuate a clearly defined central problem, perpetuating it from every angle (but never really actually solving it), then you may have yourself a TV show.

tv-postavke

Pitching Scenarios

There are as many different kinds of pitches as there are opportunities. Let’s limit the spectrum of this blog to four environments:

  • Brief Surprise Encounters
  • Targeted Queries
  • Pitch Fests
  • Pitch Meetings

Each of these situations are wildly different. Inevitably, the approach, pace and architecture of each pitch will vary. If you have a chance meeting with someone on your Hit List in line at Starbucks, you may only have a couple of minutes to seamlessly work your brilliant logline organically into the conversation. This is the ambient white noise of LA.

If you’re targeting a handful of personalized query letters, cold calls or third party luke warm referrals, you might introduce your logline with a “What If…?” character or plot premise statement or close with the unique subject matter expertise you bring to the material.

Pitch Fests

The beauty to a pitch fest is that you can get right down to business. They know why you’re there. This professional speed-dating ritual is probably equally as painful on both sides. Of course, you want to greet them and build (quick) rapport, but with only 3 – 8 minutes all in, you’ve gotta race to get to and through your well-practiced spiel while ignoring the ballroom of competing hawkers all around you.

Most pitch tests are loud, noisy hot beds of chaotic, rushed desperation but a few organizations offer a higher quality experience by vetting both ways. RB and Joey Tuccio’s Stage 32′s Happy Writers’ Online Pitch Fests schedule professional, quality, cyber-face-to-cyber-face Skype pitches and NATPE’s PitchCon, a smaller and more intimate live event provides decision-makers specifically looking for TV projects a convenient forum to find them. Both deliver the actual decision-making executives they promise.

If you’re smart, you’ve already done your due diligence on who you’re pitching to and can replicate the Cliff Note version of what you’d do in a legit, scheduled pitch meeting (below).

Official Pitch Meetings

The Holy Grail. Actual real buyers. Hopefully with development money and access to distribution. One or more Execs have actually set aside time specifically for you, wanting to hear your specific pitch (that they might actually be interested in) or perhaps they are looking – now or in the near future – to hire a writer like you.

Before you go in: practice, practice, practice. You cannot over practice a pitch. Think of an actor who is so far off book they have the freedom and confidence to improvise, to be present and aware.

Trust your material. You know it (you wrote it). Relax. If you have practiced your pitch on your family, friends, writers group and anyone who would listen, you should have earned your confidence. Sure, you’ll still be nervous – you’re a writer not an actor or comedian. But if you record your pitch on video tape – and, like an athlete – study the playback, painful as the feedback may be -it’s also priceless. Fix the pitch and polish, polish, polish.

Pitch Architecture

Just as screenplays are highly structured, so too are pitch meetings. Now you’ve got a Hollywood eternity of 15 to 45 minutes to just squeeze in all of the following (in about this order): greetings, relevant and interesting intro, break the ice, build rapport, honestly acknowledge them for some of their work that you admire, don’t rush but segue on to the genesis or emotional inspiration for your project, slip in the title and genre to make sure they’re oriented, knock that logline that you rewrote more than your script out of the park, and move gently into your well-rehearsed pitch making it seem like more of a conversation than a presentation. Phew! (That’s “all” you’ve got to do!)

Hit a key milestone five minutes in and give them some mile markers: “That’s when we break to Act Two…” Don’t steam roll over them. Engage their imagination. Check in with them periodically. Ask questions. Show respect. Is the type of project they do or might be interested in?

Don’t just list the events of your beat outline. They want you to entertain them with a story – not just outline the structure. As you weave through your key turning points, make them FEEL the twists and turns. Hopefully they’re laughing if you’re pitching a comedy or on the edge of their seats if its a thriller. Emulate what the viewing experience could be through your verbal storyselling.

You already know: Show, Don’t Tell

Don’t Tell: Sell!

(sell, Sell, SELL!)

Don’t be so myopically focused on the artistic elements that you lose sight of (let’s be honest, here) – what the money guys (or gals) are in the room for: to discern how marketable what you’re pitching is. Can they make money off of it? It is Show BUSINESS.

And speaking of which, using comps can be Risky Business.  If you’re going to reference comparable precursor films or television programs, please use restraint with the “It’s ABC meets XYZ” mashups. Know your audience. Don’t mention their flops. It’s probably not even wise to use the labor of loves of their predecessors. Models you referenced for structure, theme or even casting inspiration while you were writing will only be of interest to your fellow writers. For the suits, offer up genre, rating or tone touchstones that were box office or ratings hits that appeal to your same demographic.

question_makrs_cutie_mark_by_rildraw-d4byewlQuestions are great. The more there are, the closer you are getting to a deal – so welcome them. PREPARE FOR THEM. This is the benefit of all that practice. What confused your friends when you pitched originally? Where were the slumps that bored practice listeners? Hopefully, you’ve pruned all that out. Know what the tough questions will inevitably be in advance – and be prepared with a kick-ass answer. Maybe even hold back a surprise twist knowing that this will be an obvious question to ensure they participate – and you are armed and ready.

If appropriate, this is your one chance, inside the ivory tower, to hear from the Horse’s mouth what they’ve got up their development sleeve – and what they’re really looking for. Mixed metaphors aside, dig about (gently) to ascertain future opportunities.

And CLOSE.

how-to-play-catcher-in-baseball.WidePlayerAsk for the Order. Would they like to read the script? Can you send a pitch package?  If they say yes…? Hallelujah! – and get the hell out of the room! (Do the jig when you’re out of their line of sight!) A good salesman knows when to shut up. You cannot do any better than a “Yes” and anything that comes out of your mouth after this will only offer them fodder to second-guess their decision. Say, “Thank you,” and leave.

If they have to pitch it further up the food chain (which inevitably they will), delicately offer that you’d be willing to come back and pitch it to anyone else who needs to hear it. If they’ll allow this, it takes the onus off them for a repeat, diluted performance and ensures you nothing will be lost in translation. Not to mention: you get to meet their boss (and begin to build that relationship, too).

Pitch your heart out. You already poured it onto the page, right? This is the second course. GOOD LUCK! I hope you knock it out of the park!

Hairston_Walk-off_HR

 

Share

Producers POV: Charlie Kaufman’s Women

Posted by Heather in Producing, Screenwriting // January 22nd, 2014

A great deal has been written over the past forty years about (Alfred) “Hitchcock’s Women.” Immaculate blondes, sensual ice queens that could be both treacherous yet vulnerable. These strong independent women often drove the action of his famous suspense films – and they suffered for it. They have become icons of his era.

One of our era’s most distinctive cinematic voices is Charlie Kaufman. In studying his scripts and movies (preparing for an OnDemand Webinar), I began to appreciate the spectrum of his female characters across his six films thus far: Being John Malkovich, Human Nature, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche, New York.

FilmsCK

The antithesis of his needy male Protagonists, Charlie Kaufman’s female characters are aware of what they want in life – and are willing to take risks to go get it. They are often sarcastic and emasculating, almost always autonomous, confident, extroverted and manipulative.

MaxinClearerCatherine Keener’s performance in Being John Malkovich was a breakout role for her. Although she originally didn’t think she was right for the part of Maxine, she seems the perfect Kaufman femme fatale – particularly suited to play his deadpan comedy. Brazen, cocky and audacious, he cast her similarly in his most recent directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York.

 

 

LotteUnlike Hitchcock’s always meticulously groomed bleach blondes, Kaufman seems to have a knack for making exquisite women unattractive. Take Being John Malkovich’s Lotte, so frumpy and frizzy, few even recognized her as the beautiful Cameron Diaz who played a woman so unhappy with her life that her first lesbian experience (albeit a surreal Russian doll daisy chain of an initiation) ignites her desire for gender reassignment surgery.

 

ArquetteAnd in Human Nature, the otherwise lovely Patricia Arquette, suffers from Idiopathic Hypertrochosis – an incredibly rare hormonal imbalance that covers her body in hair like an ape. She spends part of the movie naked and feral – but always, true to herself.

 

 

 

MerylStreep

Meryl Streep is fantastic in everything but it sure looks like she had a ton of fun playing the libelously Hollywood-ized “true” life story of Adaptation’s Susan Orlean.

 

 

 

 

ESotSM-KW

One of my all-time favorite movies and Kaufman’s most commercially successful films to date, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a heartbreaking yet hopeful remarriage tragicomedy, is driven by Kate Winslet as Clementine, who catalyzed the whole story by choosing to undergo a surgical procedure to erase all her memories of her boyfriend of two years, Joel (played by Jim Carey). No idealized, fairy tale RomComs for Kaufman fans, no Ma’am: he dishes out poignant, realistic, messy portraits of modern love.

ESotSM-KDKaufman updates the “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” model when Mary in the same film, portrayed by Kirsten Dunst, realizes not only the source of her puppy-dog-like adulation for Howard (played by Tom Wilkinson) was (ineffectively) washed away by this same procedure. Not only is she one of his most recent “patients” (unethical on so many levels), but her humiliation is heightened by discovering this secret in the middle of the night – in the middle of the street – with Howard’s oft-betrayed wife looking on, empathetic from her superior position. Mary takes it upon herself to re-educate all of Howard’s former customers, setting in motion who knows what kind of unraveling and disruption on so many fronts.

SNYAnd finally, there are so many doppelgängers in Synecdoche, New York it’s hard to tell them apart (much like replacement spouses). Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Caden Cotard had a revolving door of one woman after another in a series trying to fill the void left by his first wife, Adele (played by Catherine Keener) and the daughter she took with her. After trying to recast this role in his “real” life with Claire, played by Michelle Williams, he casts Tammy (Emily Watson) to play Hazel (played by Samantha Morton) – both of whom he sleeps with – so similar in appearance, audiences had a difficult time telling them apart (kind of the numbing point). The entire cast ages decades in a matter of moments as time – and life’s opportunities – slip through the fingers of this asleep-at-the-wheel Protagonist.

In so many of his films, Kaufman poignantly tracks the erosion of love – and the atrophy of affection – through a cinematic dance of self-awareness, identity – and lies. But he can always be counted on to write complicated, complex, proactive female roles for all ages.

Watch this column for future articles on the Eternal Brilliance of Charlie Kaufman’s Non-Linear Mind.

WhiteWordCloud

– See more at: http://www.scriptmag.com/reviews/producers-pov-charlie-kaufmans-women#sthash.3prp722e.dpuf

Share
Admin Log in