It goes without saying that Charlie Kaufman is one of our greatest living darkly comedic filmmakers. I'd even go so far as to drop the qualifiers, but, hey, my brain loves introspective existential character pieces maybe too much.

I was lucky enough to attend a double feature of I'm Thinking of Ending Thingsand Anomalisa for the American Cinematheque's 2024 Bleak Week series (highly recommend) where Kaufman himself popped by for a Q&A. I was honored to sit and listen. It was a bit of a life accomplishment to sit and listen.

During the interview a crowd member asked a question we've probably all wondered at some point as fans of Kaufman: why does he think the brain and consciousness are so fascinating?

Read below for his answer, as well as some other interesting takeaways from the Bleak Week Q&A.

Editor's note: the following quotes from Charlie Kaufman have been edited for length and clarity. Please text me if you have any notes, Charlie Kaufman.

Escape Your Brain With This Writing Advice From Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman at Bleak Week

Courtesy Grant Vance of No Film School

"I think what occurred to me is that I'm stuck here in this, in this contraption. Everything I experience is subjective and through this brain. And so I yeah, I find that that's what I have to write about. It wasn't like a moment—it was more like I trapped and I have to find a way out. I'm trapped.
I don't think everybody's necessarily trapped. I feel like I'm maybe it's maybe it's a me problem."

Animating the Pig in 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things'

Escape Your Brain With This Writing Advice From Charlie Kaufman

I'm Thinking of Ending Things


"We were told two things. Once it was researched by our prop department—because the prop people are the people in charge of acquiring the animals, which is weird—but I learned that pigs are terrified of slippery floors, and you have to put down some carpeting or something, which didn't make any sense in a school hallway.

The other is that pigs can't turn their head. So I had this idea in my head that we were going to hire a real pig who was going to be able to come back and talk to the guy? And we couldn't.

So I thought, okay, we'll just animate it. And then I asked, and Duke [Johnson] and and Rosa [Tran]."

The Meaning Behind 'Oklahoma!' in 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things'

Escape Your Brain With This Writing Advice From Charlie Kaufman

I'm Thinking of Ending Things


"I knew the play. I was in it when I was a kid.

I liked the dream ballet, which I thought was really appropriate for that moment in this film. And I needed a musical because I decided that the janitor was going to be, you know, working in the school for such a long time. And they would be doing these musicals. And the story takes place in Oklahoma, decided so they would do Oklahoma! every few years.

My composer, Jay Wadley, who's from Oklahoma, told me it is exactly how it worked at his school. Like every every three years they do Oklahoma! And so much of it fits with this with this story. And that's just a coincidence. I don't know very many musicals. So I was lucky that this one worked in terms of the choreography and doing the dance numbers."

The Adaptation of 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things'



"There were basic things, a basic sort of story that I was working with. And then I just kind of did what I wanted to do with it. I didn't really go back to the book once I was, writing it and, you know, once I was sort of developing Jesse Buckley's character, everything changed.

I would just write the scenes, and if they if they were interesting or amusing to me, then I, I kept them.

I mean, it's a slow process for me. It's always a slow process, too. And even not just adapting but doing anything, it takes me forever. So I didn't know how to do it for a long time. And there was the ending. The book is different in its specifics. I mean, the character does die at the end, but in a very, very violent way.

I didn't want to do that. And I also felt like there was, a reveal at the end of the book that didn't seem to me that was going to be surprising, so I figured I would give it enough clues at the beginning that people could sort of start to understand. So that wouldn't be the the point of the thing this person is the same person.

Those were the two, like story-wise things that I did. And then I developed, the character of the young woman, in a way, I wanted to give her some agency, which I didn't think was in the book. And, I wanted to sort of allow her to try to get out of this, and perhaps succeed. She also, kills him in the book, which I didn't want her to do. I wanted her to have some sort of freedom."