Part 6: The Assignment Letter

We found out on August 5 that Kaufman would participate. After any story is confirmed, the editor sends the writer an assignment letter, an official announcement of when the story is due, and in which issue it is expected to run. The letter goes to the writer (to give some editorial direction), the magazine's top editors (to alert them that the story has been assigned), the photography editors (to start pulling photo reference), and to me and the design staff, so we can start coming up with ideas, calling in portfolios, and spitballing. Nancy Miller wrote the assignment letter for this story, below:

Slug: Charlie Kaufman
Author: Jason Tanz
Issue: 16.11
Due Date: 8/27/08

Hi Jason,

I am really excited about this Charlie Kaufman profile. You and I have discussed several approaches in capturing this brilliant screenwriter as he makes his debut as an auteur with Synechdoche, New York.

I think once you meet Kaufman, you'll have a better sense of the story you want to write. But just so we have a sketch on paper: You're going to request meeting with Charlie on three separate occasions in his hometown of Los Angeles. First, a standard in-person interview of a couple hours or so. Second, you'll be a fly on the wall as Charlie conducts some business related to the film's release. If there's any postproduction left, that would be ideal--would love to see him in the editing room, for instance. Maybe even riding along with Kaufman as he heads to the grocery store. Then you do a follow-up interview--by phone if necessary. I'm  confident once you meet him and form a rapport, you will come back with plenty of material and we'll strategize from there.

Secondary interviews will likely be Philip Seymour Hoffman and other cast members of Synechdoche. Also, collaborators Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze would be excellent sources to round out your story. If you need contact info for any of these guys, let me know. I'm happy to wrangle Gondry and Jonze if you need.

Your deadline is August 27th which is a quick turnaround, but I'm confident this story will come together once you've had time with Kaufman. This story is going to be great.

  • Anthony Calvert

    Hi Scott,

    I've been following this project with interest. I think it's a great insight into the creative process at Wired.

    I'd love an update from the art department. How is the photo treatment coming along?



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