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Posts Tagged ‘David Mamet’

“The internet is a miraculous things. Just share as much as you can, self-publish, blog, podcast whatever you need to do. Just make sure you are not withholding your gifts from the world. Because you have so many opportunities now….We’re in a new frontier.”
—Diablo Cody

I don’t know if the Scriptnotes podcast was the first podcast I ever listened to, but it is the first one the I ever followed on a regular basis. And since I started listening back in 2011, it’s the one I’ve listened to the most. If you’re interested in screenwriting, then it’s a great place to start. (My goal is to finally launch my screenwriting and filmmaking podcast before Scriptnotes hits its 500th episode soon.)

But I was listening to Scriptnotes episode 492 tiled ”Grey Area” where hosts John August and Craig Mazin talk about a screenwriter who took money saved for screenwriting contests and used it instead to produce her own narrative podcast.

Playwright/screenwriter David Mamet says the best way to test your material is to put it in front of an audience. When he was a struggling playwright in Chicago that’s what he did. Instant feed back. It’s a little harder for screenwriters to just produce their own stuff unless they have production skills and equipment. (Or a small team of filmmaker friends.)

But narrative podcasts are the new middle ground between mounting your work on stage or producing an indie film (or trailer of your idea). Read the post “Screenwriting competitions aren’t worth the money” to read how and why Paige Feldman decided to self-produce the podcast How to Fall in Love the Hard Way.

”I took one of my already-written pilots and adapted it for audio. Then, I hired actors and recorded it remotely over Zoom. I hired a composer to write original music, an artist to design a logo, and used YouTube to teach myself how to edit and process audio. And now I have an audio pilot up across podcasting platforms. Plus, it was such a fun experience that I wrote the remaining nine episodes of season 1 and we’re starting to record them this weekend!
—Paige Feldman

Producer/ manager Mason Novick found Diablo Cody when she was a blogger with a day job in Minneapolis (and not long after she graduated from the University of Iowa). He just stumbled on her writings one night and ask her if she’d ever written a screenplay. She hadn’t. But she did. Then a few years later she collected her Oscar for writing Juno.

That’s a once upon a time in Hollywood story that happens maybe once a decade (a generation?). But if Diablo Cody was starting out today I bet you’d find her gathering some actors in Minneapolis and producing her own narrative podcast on her way to greater success.

In the coming days and weeks I’ll share with you some of the technical aspects of recording, editing, and uploading podcasts.

P.S. If you don’t know the connection between the Mason Novick/Diablo Cody/Juno success and this blog then check out the post Juno Has Another Baby (Emmy)

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

Related posts:
Scriptnotes #300 & The Difference Between Screenwriting and Directing

The 100th Podcast of Scriptnotes

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”What Tom [Cruise] and I have learned to do over the course of three [Mission: Impossible] movies is we’re constantly striving to make a silent film. We’re pushing harder and harder with each film to make ways where the dialogue doesn’t matter . . . I’m extremely suspicious of dialogue and consider dialogue to be a last resort rather than a first wave of storytelling.”
Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Mission: Impossible—Fallout)
The Inside Pitch Facebook live interview with Christopher Lockhart

P.S. Of course, one wouldn’t expect Aaron Sorkin to agree with McQuarrie. But here are a couple screenwriters who are in the striving to make a silent film camp.

“The perfect movie doesn’t have any dialogue. So you should always be striving to make a silent movie.”
David Mamet
On Film Directing 

“Storytelling without dialogue. It’s the purest form of cinematic storytelling. It’s the most inclusive approach you can take. It confirmed something I really had a hunch on, is that the audience actually wants to work for their meal.”
—Two time Oscar-winning writer/director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E)
TED talk The Clues to a Great Story

Related posts:
Emotionally Silent Dialogue
Storytelling Without Dialogue

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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What real writers follow are their characters. And what great writers follow are their characters as they evolve around a central dramatic argument that is actually meaningful to other human beings.
—Craig Mazin

This is the time of year when New Year’s resolutions are traditionally made. And if you need a little mojo before you write your first screenplay (or your next one), here’s a talk screenwriter Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) gave that may help. It was released on the Scriptnotes podcast in 2019, but just put on YouTube a few months ago. Super stuff and and another spin on screenwriting you can pour into your funnel.

Two things to pay particular attention to are his use of theme and a major dramatic argument. (Reviewing the movies Finding Nemo and Shrek will help you understand his illustrations.) Mazin also gets a little deep talking about the Hegelian dialectic but it’s an important concept to grasp.

Back 1998 screenwriter/playwright David Mamet touched on the dialectic when he wrote in his book Three Uses of the Knife that dramatic structure “is an exercise of a naturally occurring need or disposition to structure the world as thesis/antithesis/synthesis.” (So Mazin is in good company there.)

In my book, I point out what this looks like and add a helpful example:

A (thesis) + B (antithesis) = C (synthesis)

Mike Birbiglia says he used the thesis/antithesis/synthesis concept on his Netflix special The New One:

Act 1: “All of the reasons no one should ever want to have a child.”
Act 2: “How I had a child and how I was right.”
Act 3: “And then in the emotional twist how I was wrong.”

He started with a point of view (thesis), he tested the opposite view (antithesis), and came up with a third view (synthesis).

So don’t get scared away when Mazin dips into philosophy. And, lastly, there’s Mazin’s charge for you to “torture your heroes” in your screenplays.

You can download the entire transcript of Mazin’s talk at Scriptnotes.

P.S. My manic meme making continues today with Annie Wikes (Kathy Bates) from Misery (with a cameo featuring James Cann’s ankles) from the famous hobbling scene.

Related posts:
The Major or Central Dramatic Question
Screenwriter Craig Mazin on Thematic Structure—Plus 12 Conflicting Views on Theme
Oscar Winning Screenwriter Michael Arndt on ‘Beginnings: Setting a Story in Motion’ (click on view on Vimeo)
Oscar Winning Screenwriter Michael Arndt on ‘Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great’ (also click on view on Vimeo)

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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“My mentality was to go out and win—at any cost.”
—Basketball great Michael Jordan
The Last Dance

“The same thing that made Michael Jordan a star will make your character stand out from the run of the mill, and attract the actors you want and need. Make sure your main character wants something very much, and has a goal. He or she should face problems, obstacles, and conflict to achieve that. And after achieving it, or failing, the character is changed, or the direction of his or her life is changed, or both. For nearly all endings are new beginnings—the first day of the rest of your life. Even Donald Duck and Woody Woodpecker run off to a new future at the end. And, I repeat, make all of that clear to your audience, but without bludgeoning them. Clarity with subtlety, with artistry, is the ideal combination.”
—Producer Lawrence Turman (The Graduate)
So You Want to Be a Producer
Page 87

P.S. In my book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles I point out how screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and David Mamet don’t agree on everything, but when they do pay close attention. Here’s where they both agree with Turman’s “Make sure your main character wants something very much, and has a goal.”

I have to stick—really closely, like it’s a life raft— to intention and obstacles. Just the basics of somebody wants something, something is standing in their way of getting it.” 
—Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)

“Drama has rules. We’re given a premise. The hero wants something. To find the cause of the plague on Thebes, or to free the Jews, or to establish civil rights, or to fly the Atlantic. We get it. We are going to follow his or her journey until the end. And the end is going to be surprising—and inevitable. Just like in a great football game.”
—Screenwriter/ Playwright David Mamet  (The Verdict)
MasterClass/Purpose of Drama

This post touched on basketball and football, and tomorrow’s post I’ll give a nod to baseball great Joe Morgan who died on Sunday. One of my biggest inspirations as a kid.

Scott W. Smith

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“There is a tendency to think that art is finally the place where there are no rules, where you have complete freedom. I’m going to sit down at the keyboard and it’s just going to flow out of me onto the paper, and it’s going to be pure art. No. What you’re describing is finger painting. Rules are what makes art beautiful.”
—Playwright and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin
MasterClass, “Rules of Story”

You can find plenty of working screenwriters online who say there are no rules in screenwriting. Neither Aaron Sorkin or David Mamet are in that camp. In my book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles I curate many conflicting views on what are the essential elements of dramatic writing.

I talk about going to a writing workshop with a writer who’d won an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony award who said if there were any rules that he didn’t know what they were. I do think it’s possible that some writers have an ingrained understanding of the rules/principles/concepts without knowing how to articulate it to others.

I asked that highly accomplished writer who said there weren’t any rules , “What about conflict?” He said, “Yeah, you need conflict.” So we’ll take a look at that next.

Scott W. Smith

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“You can’t learn bull riding, except by getting on the bull.”
—David Mamet

Several years ago I wrote a post titled Can Screenwriting Be Taught? and I used parts of that for the introduction to my book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles.

Some say writing is a natural gift like a bird taking flight, and others say it’s a craft that—like plumbing or playing the violin—takes time to become proficient. The title of this post comes from screenwriter/playwright David Mamet giving a thumbnail-sized version of Aristotle’s Poetics; Start at the beginning and when you get to the end—stop.

That’s on par with advice that William Faulkner gave when people came to hear him give a talk about writing. He reportedly asked that if they wanted to be writers what they were doing there instead of home writing.

When Emmy-winning writer Hugh Wilson was asked about the writing process he said, “I think there’s a whole lot of spooky-dust involved in this.” Yes, there is a mysterious process to writing and you need talent. But is there something more tangible? Helpful? Well, you definitely don’t need a formal education as many have proven, but at some point you do need to learn dramatic principles.

In the introduction to my book I chose to highlight Moss Hart specifically because he grew up in poverty, never went to college, and launched his career during The Great Depression. Nor was he the kind of writer who just flapped his wings and flew to instant success.

“It is one thing to have a flair for play-writing or even a ready wit with dialogue. It is quite another to apply these gifts in the strict and demanding terms of a fully articulated play so that they emerge with explicitness, precision and form. All of this and a great deal more I learned from George Kaufman.”
—Moss Hart
Act One:  An Autobiography

But before Hart learned from Kaufman, he spent time summers in the Catskills Mountains (then known as the Borsch Belt) where he directed several plays each week over the summer at popular resorts. (At one point he was the entertainment director in charge of 70 people.) And he only got that job because he had a passion for theater in New York City where he sometimes directed plays after work.

He worked in a fur warehouse for over two years until he got an office job with a theater manager. One of the perks of the job was he was able to get free tickets to see Broadway plays nightly. This was in an era before television when there where over 70 theaters on during peak season in New York City. Moss said he learned from bad plays as well as the good ones.

“I simply read the plays themselves, I read the published version of plays that I had seen and then plays that I had never seen, sitting there day after day like a bacteriologist trying to isolate a strange germ under the beam of a new more powerful microscope.”
—Moss Hart
Act One

All of those experiences led to Hart’s first Broadway hit (Once in a Lifetime) at age 26. A decade later Kaufman and Hart won the Pulitzer Prize for their depression era play You Can’t Take it with You. As a screenwriter, Hart earned two Oscar nominations and wrote the 1934 version of A Star is Born starring Judy Garland.

Scott W. Smith

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”EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.”
—Playwright and screenwriter David Mamet (The Verdict)

“THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. *NOT* TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TO THEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.”
—David Mamet

Note: I forget where and when I first read the memo from David Mamet to the writers of The Unit, but I know I wrote a post about it back in 2010 titled DAVID MAMET’S BOLD MEMO (?) 

The question mark was there because I could not confirm any sources where Mamet acknowledged that he actually wrote the leaked memo dated October 15, 2005. I did get an email after my post from a writer from The Unit confirming that it was indeed written and sent by Mamet. (But I can’t confirm that that writer was on The Unit.)

The mystery continues. But now that the now lengendary Mamet memo is 15 years old, I realized that there are many people who’ve probably not only never read the memo—but that don’t even know it exists. But here it is in its unvarnished and unedited glory. Yes, the original one I saw was ALL IN CAPS. (There were even some letters in bold, but I no longer have that version.)

TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT

GREETINGS.

AS WE LEARN HOW TO WRITE THIS SHOW, A RECURRING PROBLEM BECOMES CLEAR.

THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN *DRAMA* AND NON-DRAMA. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW.

EVERYONE IN CREATION IS SCREAMING AT US TO MAKE THE SHOW CLEAR. WE ARE TASKED WITH, IT SEEMS, CRAMMING A SHITLOAD OF *INFORMATION* INTO A LITTLE BIT OF TIME.

OUR FRIENDS. THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO COMMUNICATE *INFORMATION* — AND, SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US.

BUT NOTE:THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION. YOU WOULDN’T, I WOULDN’T. NO ONE WOULD OR WILL. THE AUDIENCE WILL ONLY TUNE IN AND STAY TUNED TO WATCH DRAMA.

QUESTION:WHAT IS DRAMA? DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, *ACUTE* GOAL.

SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES *OF EVERY SCENE* THESE THREE QUESTIONS.

1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?

THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWER WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT.

IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.

THERE IS NO MAGIC FAIRY DUST WHICH WILL MAKE A BORING, USELESS, REDUNDANT, OR MERELY INFORMATIVE SCENE AFTER IT LEAVES YOUR TYPEWRITER. *YOU* THE WRITERS, ARE IN CHARGE OF MAKING SURE *EVERY* SCENE IS DRAMATIC.

THIS MEANS ALL THE “LITTLE” EXPOSITIONAL SCENES OF TWO PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD. THIS BUSHWAH (AND WE ALL TEND TO WRITE IT ON THE FIRST DRAFT) IS LESS THAN USELESS, SHOULD IT FINALLY, GOD FORBID, GET FILMED.

IF THE SCENE BORES YOU WHEN YOU READ IT, REST ASSURED IT *WILL* BORE THE ACTORS, AND WILL, THEN, BORE THE AUDIENCE, AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE BACK IN THE BREADLINE.

SOMEONE HAS TO MAKE THE SCENE DRAMATIC. IT IS NOT THE ACTORS JOB (THE ACTORS JOB IS TO BE TRUTHFUL). IT IS NOT THE DIRECTORS JOB. HIS OR HER JOB IS TO FILM IT STRAIGHTFORWARDLY AND REMIND THE ACTORS TO TALK FAST. IT IS *YOUR* JOB.

EVERY SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. THAT MEANS: THE MAIN CHARACTER MUST HAVE A SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, PRESSING NEED WHICH IMPELS HIM OR HER TO SHOW UP IN THE SCENE.

THIS NEED IS WHY THEY *CAME*. IT IS WHAT THE SCENE IS ABOUT. THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET THIS NEED MET *WILL* LEAD, AT THE END OF THE SCENE,TO *FAILURE* – THIS IS HOW THE SCENE IS *OVER*. IT, THIS FAILURE, WILL, THEN, OF NECESSITY, PROPEL US INTO THE *NEXT* SCENE.

ALL THESE ATTEMPTS, TAKEN TOGETHER, WILL, OVER THE COURSE OF THE EPISODE, CONSTITUTE THE *PLOT*.

ANY SCENE, THUS, WHICH DOES NOT BOTH ADVANCE THE PLOT, AND STANDALONE (THAT IS, DRAMATICALLY, BY ITSELF, ON ITS OWN MERITS) IS EITHER SUPERFLUOUS, OR INCORRECTLY WRITTEN.

YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IN ALL THAT “INFORMATION?”

AND I RESPOND “*FIGURE IT OUT*” ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUESUIT CAN BE (AND IS) TAUGHT TO SAY “MAKE IT CLEARER”, AND “I WANT TO KNOW MORE *ABOUT* HIM”.

WHEN YOU’VE MADE IT SO CLEAR THAT EVEN THIS BLUESUITED PENGUIN IS HAPPY, BOTH YOU AND HE OR SHE *WILL* BE OUT OF A JOB.

THE JOB OF THE DRAMATIST IS TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. *NOT* TO EXPLAIN TO THEM WHAT JUST HAPPENED, OR TO*SUGGEST* TO THEM WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

ANY DICKHEAD, AS ABOVE, CAN WRITE, “BUT, JIM, IF WE DON’T ASSASSINATE THE PRIME MINISTER IN THE NEXT SCENE, ALL EUROPE WILL BE ENGULFED IN FLAME”

WE ARE NOT GETTING PAID TO *REALIZE* THAT THE AUDIENCE NEEDS THIS INFORMATION TO UNDERSTAND THE NEXT SCENE, BUT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WRITE THE SCENE BEFORE US SUCH THAT THE AUDIENCE WILL BE INTERESTED IN WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

YES BUT, YES BUT YES *BUT* YOU REITERATE.

AND I RESPOND *FIGURE IT OUT*.

*HOW* DOES ONE STRIKE THE BALANCE BETWEEN WITHHOLDING AND VOUCHSAFING INFORMATION? *THAT* IS THE ESSENTIAL TASK OF THE DRAMATIST. AND THE ABILITY TO *DO* THAT IS WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE LESSER SPECIES IN THEIR BLUE SUITS.

FIGURE IT OUT.

START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE *SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC*. it must start because the hero HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.

LOOK AT YOUR LOG LINES. ANY LOGLINE READING “BOB AND SUE DISCUSS…” IS NOT DESCRIBING A DRAMATIC SCENE.

PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR OUTLINES ARE, GENERALLY, SPECTACULAR. THE DRAMA FLOWS OUT BETWEEN THE OUTLINE AND THE FIRST DRAFT.

THINK LIKE A FILMMAKER RATHER THAN A FUNCTIONARY, BECAUSE, IN TRUTH, *YOU* ARE MAKING THE FILM. WHAT YOU WRITE, THEY WILL SHOOT.

HERE ARE THE DANGER SIGNALS. ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

DO *NOT* WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR *AND* HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.

REMEMBER YOU ARE WRITING FOR A VISUAL MEDIUM. *MOST* TELEVISION WRITING, OURS INCLUDED, SOUNDS LIKE *RADIO*. THE *CAMERA* CAN DO THE EXPLAINING FOR YOU. *LET* IT. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERS *DOING* -*LITERALLY*. WHAT ARE THEY HANDLING, WHAT ARE THEY READING. WHAT ARE THEY WATCHING ON TELEVISION, WHAT ARE THEY *SEEING*.

IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.

IF YOU DEPRIVE YOURSELF OF THE CRUTCH OF NARRATION, EXPOSITION,INDEED, OF *SPEECH*. YOU WILL BE FORGED TO WORK IN A NEW MEDIUM – TELLING THE STORY IN PICTURES (ALSO KNOWN AS SCREENWRITING)

THIS IS A NEW SKILL. NO ONE DOES IT NATURALLY. YOU CAN TRAIN YOURSELVES TO DO IT, BUT YOU NEED TO *START*.

I CLOSE WITH THE ONE THOUGHT: LOOK AT THE *SCENE* AND ASK YOURSELF “IS IT DRAMATIC? IS IT *ESSENTIAL*? DOES IT ADVANCE THE PLOT?

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY.

IF THE ANSWER IS “NO” WRITE IT AGAIN OR THROW IT OUT. IF YOU’VE GOT ANY QUESTIONS, CALL ME UP.

LOVE, DAVE MAMET
SANTA MONICA 19 OCTO 05

(IT IS *NOT* YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW THE ANSWERS, BUT IT IS YOUR, AND MY, RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW AND TO *ASK THE RIGHT Questions* OVER AND OVER. UNTIL IT BECOMES SECOND NATURE. I BELIEVE THEY ARE LISTED ABOVE.)

—–
Now if Dennis Haysbert would just record that memo, it would cement Mamet’s legend for the next 100 years. Haysbert played Jonas Blane on The Unit. Some people  know Haysbert as the first black president on TV from the TV series 24. Others know him (and his deep voice) from All State insurance commercials.

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“Drama has rules. We’re given a premise. The hero wants something. To find the cause of the plague on Thebes, or to free the Jews, or to establish civil rights, or to fly the Atlantic. We get it. We are going to follow his or her journey until the end. And the end is going to be surprising—and inevitable. Just like in a great football game.”
Screenwriter/ Playwright David Mamet 
Masterclass/Purpose of Drama

Mamet (like Aaron Sorkin) points to Aristotle’s Poetics for direction and says, “The rules are pretty simple. Start at the beginning. Go on until you get to the end. Don’t stop. Be interesting. Make sure everything is on the line.”

And by “on the line,” Mamet means that if the story is about a character who needs to go from NY to LA that you must stay on that through line or plot line.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“The whole thing is a mystery to me. It’s like I go to work and I sit around taking a nap and read a couple of books and curse myself for being a lazy swine. And at some point a work of some description shows up and I say how did that get there?…What I’m trying to do—I’ve written a lot of books [on acting and writing]—is understand a mysterious process. Try to get closer to a mysterious process.”
David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, The Verdict)
WTP with Marc Maron podcast interview 

Trying to understand the mysterious process of writing pretty much describes what I’ve been trying to do on this blog for the past decade. It’s why I’ve quoted over 700 sources of writers, filmmakers, artists, and others talking about the creative process. And if you’ve been reading this blog for long you’ll have read that many quiet successful people have had contrary views on the topic.

And if I was limited to listing just a couple of things that set people apart I’d go with talent and hard work (get stuff written/produced). But there’s a lot of mystery involved in the process. And while I agree that it’s a little tricky to dissect the creative process, I do think there’s a lot of wisdom the following advice:

“Story is about principles, not rules. A rule says, ‘you must do it this way.’ A principle says, ‘This works…and has through all remembered time.’ The difference is crucial. Your work needn’t be modeled after the ‘well-made’ play; rather, it must be well made within the principles that shape our art.”
Robert McKee
Story

Every once in a while you hear a writer say they’ve never read a book on writing, or taken a class on writing. But what they have done is read a lot of books/screenplays, watched a lot of movies, and/or gone to a lot of plays and in the process learned basic principles (conflict, character, plot devices, etc.) that are common in Greek plays, Shakespeare, Dickens, Flannery O’Connor, Arthur Miller, Lorraine Hansberry, Billy Wilder, Nora Ephron, Ang Lee, Sam Shepard, Aaron Sorkin, Jordan Peele, etc., etc.. etc.

P.S. David Mamet’s newest book, Chicago, is set in the 1920s.

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

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Screenwriter/playwright David Mamet began working in show business at seven or eight years old portraying Jewish children on a 6:30am radio/television programs, then as a kid in community theater in Chicago. At 16, he began working as a busboy in the early days of Second City watching actors like Peter Boyle, Fred Willard, Judy Graubart, and David Steinberg work their improv magic.

“So I was exposed to the whole idea of a seven-minute scene with a payoff. Which was extraordinarily influential in me because that’s what every scene’s got to be. If you look at what passes as improv comedy now some of it’s pretty funny but it doesn’t have a punchline. Like sketch comedy like Saturday Night Live they just dial it out. But what Second City said was they had to have an out. You gotta get off stage. So that really taught me a lot about drama because if the scene doesn’t have an ending there’s no reason to go on to the next scene. The reason to go on to the next scene in the play is because the first scene didn’t work. Somebody found out something that made them go on to the next scene.”
David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, The Verdict)
WTP with Marc Maron podcast interview 

Related posts:
Every Scene Must Be Dramatic—David Mamet
Mission: Rip Off David Mamet
What Happens Next?—Mamet

Scott W. Smith

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