Charlie Kaufman is calling out the rise of “garbage” content in Hollywood that easily could have been written by A.I.
The “Being John Malkovich” screenwriter told an audience at the Sarajevo Film Festival (via Deadline) that artificial intelligence will be the final nail in the coffin for quality films. Kaufman is receiving the lifetime achievement award at the festival.
“Once you give that up and allow the studios to use AI to write their screenplay, there’s no going back,” Kaufman said. “Then there’s no hope because A.I. can’t create a moment of humanity. As long as people are doing it and there’s that struggle, then there’s always a chance that something will come out of it that will be worth something to human beings.”
He continued, “At this point, the only thing that makes money is garbage. It’s just fascinating. It makes a fortune, and that’s the bottom line. It’s very seductive to the studios but also to the people who engage and become the makers of that garbage, especially if they’re lauded for the garbage because they don’t have to look inward or think long about what they’re doing.”
Kaufman added, “The diet is so corrupted and has been for so long. It’s like if you eat shit all your life, you want shit. If you eat processed food, you crave it. And you wouldn’t if you hadn’t been fed it all your life. That’s what the movie machine does and I find it really offensive. It makes me angry.”
Per the filmmaker, even “writers have been trained to eat and make the garbage too” to be employed in Hollywood since studios “don’t seem to see past the cynical sales pitch.”
“Even though the sales pitch is presented in a way that suggests they are being fed something of value, they’re not,” Kaufman said. “As long as they are in that arena making that shit, then you might as well have A.I. do it.”
Kaufman shot his recent short film “Jackals and Fireflies” on a cellphone, adapted from a poem by Eva H.D.; an animated Netflix feature film titled “Orion and The Dark” is also in the works. The writer-director teased to IndieWire’s Kate Erbland that he might be collaborating with Ryan Gosling on an upcoming project.
Kaufman, who was honored with the top film award at the 2023 Writers Guild of America Awards earlier this year, warned fellow screenwriters about being “trapped in their world of box office numbers” from studios.
“You don’t work for the world of box office numbers. You work for the world. Just make your story honest and tell it,” he said prior to the WGA strike. “Our work is to reflect the world, say what is true in the face of so much lying….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.”