Keri Marken is an MLIS candidate at UCLA, and a Writers Guild Foundation archival intern. With three scripts on the WGA’s list of 101 Greatest Screenplays, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman appears to have this writing thing down pat. Kaufman has garnered critical acclaim for crafting some of the most original and imaginative storylines, centered on some of the most interesting and awkwardly funny characters. However, Kaufman’s screenplay, ADAPTATION, based on the book “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean, is unique in that the central character happens to be Charlie Kaufman himself.
Positioned at number 77 on WGA’s list, ADAPTATION brings two storylines together—one is Kaufman’s struggle to adapt Susan Orlean’s book for the screen, while the other focuses on the actual plot and characters of the book itself. Kaufman’s writer’s block is a main element in the story, which provides the audience with a glimpse into the writer’s world…one that is fraught with impending deadlines, a lack of motivation, and general feelings of inferiority.
In order to illustrate his struggle, Kaufman employs a fictitious twin brother, Donald, who becomes a constant source of annoyance for Charlie due to his seemingly effortless attempt to launch a screenwriting career. Donald’s inexperience, cliché story ideas, and general naivety contribute to Charlie’s growing neurosis. Kaufman’s impatience is evident in the pages below, when Donald suggests the benefits of attending a screenwriting seminar. Yet, even though Donald represents the frustration that often accompanies the writing process, he is still an integral part of the finished product and as such, earns his own writing credit in this collaborative effort.
Here are four pages from our April 2, 2001 draft:
Here’s the deal: Throughout 2014, we’re posting pages from every script on the WGA’s list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays, as chosen by Guild membership, because we have every one in our library. Sure, we have other scripts that didn’t make it onto the list, either because they didn’t make the cut or because they were produced after the list was generated (presumably SHARKNADO, which we totally have a copy of, is only in the latter category).