Charlie Kaufman Criticises Studio Executives for ‘Disgusting’ Pay Packages: ‘Their Money Comes From Other People Not Getting their Money’

Charlie Kaufman, an Oscar-winning screenwriter, criticized Hollywood studio executives this week at the Sarajevo Film Festival. He criticized their remuneration packages and insisted that profit-driven executives are willing to compromise the art of filmmaking.

Kaufman told Variety, “It’s disgusting because they don’t do anything. No, they do damage is what they do. They do damage to the art form. And by doing that, they do damage to humanity. And if everything is about the bottom line for them and saving money, then there’s nothing left to the art form.” Kaufman has been seen throughout the week walking through the streets of the Bosnian city while sporting a grey T-shirt that reads, “Writers Guild on Strike.” In a Variety interview, Kaufman took up one garment to expose a second T-shirt with the WGA logo underneath.

In a one-on-one interview with Variety, Kaufman was frank. He said, “[Studio heads] are not ushering in any kind of beautiful work by their presence. They’re kind of doing the opposite of that. And I think it’s evidenced in what Hollywood produces, and how the more expensive a movie is, the less value it has to the culture.” The “Being John Malkovich” author was questioned regarding recent remarks made by Disney CEO Bob Iger, who stated last month that the demands of the striking writers and performers are not “realistic.” “I’m wondering if his salary is realistic,” Kaufman said. “I think saying something like that, from the position he’s in, is cynical. Or dishonest.”

The usage of artificial intelligence has grown to be a major area of contention in negotiations between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the writer’s and actor’s guilds. According to Kaufman, the greatest existential threat to creators like himself is AI. “I think it’s an extraordinarily dangerous slippery slope. Once it’s gone down, there’s no return,” he said. “It’s the end of creativity for human beings, is what it’s going to lead to. It’s handing it over to a non-sentient, non-feeling, non-rebellious entity.”

However, he is sure that even the most advanced artificial intelligence (AI) programs will only be able to mimic human emotion and experience, and that the ability to use art to depict the full range of that experience is a crucial component of what makes us human.

“If we stop creating ourselves, then we’re giving up something…that’s primal, that’s essential, that’s been part of human experience — and necessary to human experience — as long as there have been humans. Since there have been cave paintings. It’s an urge, a desire to express the experience of being alive,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s a lesser urge than eating or sex or anything. I think it’s primal. If we don’t understand that it’s primal, and if we’re taught that it’s not, then I’m afraid for us.”

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