Charlie Kaufman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, delivered a spot-on acceptance speech for his Laurel Award honor Sunday at the WGA Awards, one ripe for the times as the guild prepares to square off with the AMPTP in another round of contract talks.
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“We are trained to believe that what we do is secondary to what they do,” said Kaufman, taking a dig at studio executives. The WGA issued its Pattern of Demands on February 27.
“We are trained to do the bidding of people who are motivated not by curiosity but who are protecting their jobs,” he added, to what was the first round of major applause tonight during the awards show in the Fairmont Century Plaza ballroom tonight.
“Our work is to not contribute to their fortunes or our own, it is not to please them or critics or audiences,” he said, “Our work is to reflect the world, saying what is true in the face of so much lying.”
“The rest is window dressing at best,” he continued.
“Adrienne Rich wrote ‘I do know that art means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage,’ ” Kaufman said to another round of cheers.
“The world is a mess, 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 Being John Malkovich scribe added. “We have become their minions. I have dropped the ball, wasted years seeking the approval of people with money.”
“Don’t get trapped in their world of box office numbers! We don’t work for them!” Kaufman exclaimed to a third round of applause.
“We don’t work for the world of box office numbers, we work for the world.”
He encouraged the scribes in the room to write honest stories.
“They tricked us into thinking we can’t do it without them,” he said. “But the truth is they cannot do anything of value without us.”
And the ballroom went wild.
Actress Jessie Buckley, star of Kaufman’s Netflix movie I’m Thinking of Ending Things, presented the filmmaker with his Laurel Award.
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