Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays will mess with your head. They’re filled with neurotic characters spouting existentially-charged dialogue, all wrapped in surreal plots. Even though Kaufman’s work seems entirely original, it is important to remember that it is steeped in traditional screenwriting techniques and Jungian philosophy. For every “inciting incident” (a plot device that pushes the narrative forward), there’s an underlying theme, another internal “incident” that further develops the main and supporting characters. His stories aren’t just about one person’s wants, needs, and conflict resolution, either; they expound on how individual conflicts connect to the world as a whole, how the personal unconscious weaves in and out of the collective. Suffice to say, if Kaufman ever has you scratching your head, there’s a method to his madness. Whether we’re talking Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., or any of his other one-of-a-kind tales, Kaufman has a knack for deconstructing traditional screenwriting concepts and reorganizing them into something new. In the first installment of our series, Between the Lines, take a look at how Kaufman flips the script in order to take audiences to places they’ve never been.

Charlie Kaufman is surely one of the most original screenwriters working today. Get a feel for how he and other creative minds craft their unique stories with our videos on meta movies, flashbacks, and the use of voiceover and abrupt endings. You can also watch our in-depth breakdown of the Blade Runner screenplay, and, while you wait for the next episode of Between the Lines, take a look back at our series on the suspension of disbelief, I’ll Believe It When I See It.