Early this morning, Charlie Kaufman's newest film, Synecdoche, NY, screened for press, and man, is that film two hours of mental-mindf*ck. I'm not the only critic here wishing the fest had screened this film last week; everyone is way too fried at this point to really sink their teeth into a film requiring this level of intellectual attention, and most of the folks I talked to after the screening felt they really need to see it at least once more to really wrap their minds around it.

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I'm not going to write up the entire press conference, because I have a roundtable thing on the film tomorrow that I'm attending, where we'll have more opportunity to talk about the film at length. I did want to share this one bit with you, though, because it felt like the single most illuminating thing said by Kaufman about his writing process:

The way I write is very much without a goal. I have something I'm interested in, and I want to explore it; I don't know where the characters are going to go, what the movie is going to do, and for me, that's very important, it keeps it live, to sort of discover things in the process of writing it. That makes it interesting to me and worthwhile to me.

I tried to approach the directing in the same way: We have the script, we have the actors, and we're trying to figure out what this is. And we don't know what it is. And like Phil says, you have to be open to what it's going to become, rather than having this goal you're trying to reach, which is sort of boring. With directing, all these ... you have all these creative people who want to work and to think. And to not take advantage of that would be foolish, and uninteresting.

If you look at all of Kaufman's scripts, that actually reveals a lot about how he writes them, and why they tend to be very convoluted -- it sounds like he likes to explore ideas in a very free-flowing way, which is how his films feel to me.