In which your Aussie webmaster, Mick, waffles on about how this site came to be.
Being Charlie Kaufman was conceived in late 2001, the product of four separate, yet equally riveting factors:
- I'd taught myself how to build simple websites, but had no actual reason to build one.
- I had just read the first draft of Charlie's Being John Malkovich script, and thought it was hilarious, clever, and more readable on its own than most other screenplays. This was long before I saw the film. I've always been a reader more than a film buff; I'm a writer myself, of short stories, novels, and — very, very occasionally — short film scripts. (I've attained a fair degree of success without yet getting a novel published. If anyone wants to give me some work, you obviously know where to find me. Will work for peanuts.) Anyway, as a writer, I really enjoyed the interviews Kaufman gave to promote Malkovich. Some of our beliefs about story-telling are very, very similar. I actually read the script specifically to get inspiration for a new novel.
- Nobody else had a website about Charlie, and he seemed like the kind of guy who'd develop a good-sized fan base. I figured I could save fans a lot of time by compiling all the Kaufman data I could find, into one site. Back in those days, Kaufman-related information was hard to come by, and took a bit of Googling.
I had little interest in running a site about any celebrity who already has two hundred sites devoted to them. And hell, I'd probably get bored with this in less than three months. But I still wanted to see if I could maintain a successful, regularly-updated site. It was an experiment, more than anything. People were always saying to me, "Please. Get a hobby." So I did.
BCK was designed in November '01, online in December, and in search engines by February 2002. Charlie had 3 movies out that year, so there was a fair amount of traffic, an insane amount of news to report and a lot of email coming in. Any other year, I would've gotten bored and closed BCK pronto. But a lot of neat stuff happened — John Laroche contacted me, I was asked to write script reviews for The-Trades.com, a variety of cool and interesting people sent emails — and I was hooked. Cos I'm eager for attention. And I like the idea of helming the definitive info resource about a cult celebrity. The site has opened doors to other fun opportunities; it is, I gotta say, among the best projects I've ever undertaken.
When Adaptation's release date neared, BCK was crashing almost 24hrs a day — the woes of setting up camp on a free Tripod account with very limited bandwidth. Miraculously, Sony Pictures contacted me and offered to pay for more bandwidth until the movie's theatrical run wound down. Never in a million years would I have predicted that turn of events and it just goes to show, Hollywood isn't evil 100% of the time. So we lived to fight another day, and a few months later moved to a new host with more storage space and more available bandwidth.
All was smooth sailing — the site's popularity grew (we're not talking Beatles popularity, but for a site about a screenwriter, we're doing really well), we got mentioned in a few prominent publications, and around 2004 everything went crappy. My PC died, and the people tasked with reviving it accidentally erased about 4 years' worth of files. Plus they didn't revive it. The same week, I found out that my web hosts had bought some fancy new servers and I was supposed to manually transer my files to the new machine. (100+MB with my dialup modem, mind you.) Problem was, nobody had told me any of this until it was almost too late, and my hosts were on the verge of shutting down their old equipment... which means BCK goes bye-bye. Almost three years' work, down the tubes. Cue a rescue mission headed by Robix — one of our veteran visitors/newshounds/all-purpose-BCK-staffer — who backed up our site in record time. But the drama wasn't over. After the transfer, I suddenly started getting hit with astronomical fees for exceeding my web host's bandwidth restrictions. (I later discovered that I'd been exceeding them for ages, but the host's billing system somehow never noticed until they upgraded their Goddamn hardware. So for a while I was unknowingly sticking it to the man. And they still have no idea. GO ME.) Clearly it was time to change hosts again — and this time help came in the form of Jason, a BCK visitor who runs Silver Bullet Hosting, which is where we relocated and where we remain to this day. You know how long it took for the events in this paragraph to unfold? A single month. Those four weeks, brothers and sisters, were entirely, entirely horrible.
When Eternal Sunshine attained a major cult following — a bigger following than any other Kaufman film so far — it became screamingly obvious that BCK's static HTML pages were not going to cut it much longer. (Yes, the whole site ran on static HTML and a few stylesheets! How 1996!) The website was becoming disorganised, too unwieldy to maintain, and a complete pain in the ass for your humble webmaster. Plus it was looking pretty dated. We needed a makeover, and we needed it bad. After much procrastination, a pastime in which I have a black belt, I made an experimental though ultimately abortive attempt to transfer the site to Wordpress, a blogging tool. It's possibly the best blogging tool out there, but lacked one or two features necessary to make BCK tick. (I discovered this when the redesign was 98% complete…) Later I found a content management system I liked (Joomla), and in 2006 began manually transferring every piece of BCK over to that CMS. It took for-bloody-ever and was like trying to service a moving vehicle. 2007 was essentially a write-off due to family dramas. But the finished product is as good as anything I wanted, and ten times easier for me to run. Which means — again — BCK lives to fight another day.
The big idea has always been to run Being Charlie Kaufman as an information resource, more than a fan site, and to have a good time doing it. I'm a fan of Charlie's, absolutely, but I'm not here to constantly gush about him, and I'm all too aware that editing a fan site is neither brain surgery nor Serious Journalism. Hopefully I'm doing a decent job.
BCK is fueled by the help of a lot of people. The news, screenplays, random trivia, all that stuff is 98% thanks to your contributions, and I'm constantly amazed by how helpful BCK's visitors can be. Some have come and gone, some have been here the whole time, and a handful… well, a handful are just plain worthy of name-dropping. Sue me. You can skip the next bit if you want.
Robix, WiLL, Tram, Chris Faile, Raul Burriel of The Trades, Sony Pictures, Valdis Oskarsdottir, John Laroche, Susan Orlean and Jason Kottke, Paul Proch, Drew from Script-O-Rama, Renee from Admire My Cage, Ruth from Discover Kate, Marla from Admiring Kate, Tommy Noel Pihl from Jim Carrey Online, Myla from Meryl Streep Online, Malkovich Online, Katie from By George!, Kevin from Director File, Adrienne Canzolino, Laura, Tim Bishop, Armin Volckers, clemato; MagneticMonkey (Andy); Stonesis; Ryan Poenisch from the WGA; wannabe; Laura Carroll. And thanks to the BCKsters who wish to remain anonymous.
In 2001, three sites in particular were an inspiration to me as far as content and/or layout are concerned. They don't really fit on the Links page but I wanna give them a plug, so here's as good a place as any. In their own ways, they offer (or offered) examples of what a truly great fan site should be: the late, great DarinLand (devoted to the genius TV writer Darin Morgan, and operated by Julie Ng, who's now working on film sets with Davids Fincher and Cronenberg); Natalie Portman.com; and the late, great James-Marsters.com (not the official site, but a bogglingly thorough—and now sadly-departed—fan site created and maintained by Lisa Kincaid).