Write Drama That Packs a Punch in Award-winning Playwright and Screenwriter David Mamet’s MasterClassJul 10, 2020 | 0 Votes by Mel - rate Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and director David Mamet teaches you how to write enthralling, gripping drama in this MasterClass. Here, he’ll show you how to look for themes in everyday life, create authentic dialogue and characters, and develop your own unique voice to create your masterpiece.
An American icon of stage and screen, David Mamet has won Pulitzer Prizes and been nominated for Tony and Academy Awards for writing classics such as Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow, American Buffalo, The Untouchables, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Wag the Dog, and Oleanna. In addition to writing, Mamet also created the TV series The Unit and has directed 11 films, including Homicide and State and Main.
He is particularly known for creating memorably complex characters often navigating the ruthless, cutthroat politics of crime, corporations, masculinity, and sexuality. And most of all,
He is renowned for his legendarily witty, vicious, and wicked dialogue – often imitated and spoofed, his characters’ riffs are the ultimate manifestations of verbal pwnage.
In this David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing MasterClass, the revered playwright takes the online platform for the first time to share his process for turning life’s strangest, most compelling moments into dramatic art on the page, stage, or screen.
Whether you’re a beginner or intermediate writer, you’ll definitely learn valuable tips and tricks to keeping your audience enthralled through 26 video lessons, ranging from 7 to 21 minutes each for a total runtime of 4 hours and 52 minutes—one of the longest classes in the MasterClass syllabus.
After a short Introduction where he outlines what he’ll cover in the course, David Mamet spends the next 5 episodes discussing the basics of drama, including The Purpose of Drama where he explains that drama is a form of myth that highlights the complexities of humanity and that the main intent of drama is to expose those complexities—as well as entertain—but not to pontificate on how to make humanity better; the Dramatic Rules beginning with Aristotle's rules and unities, moving through the hero's journey, how to edit, and which rules to master; and Story Ideas where Mamet uses case studies drawing from his scripts for American Buffalo, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, and Oleanna to demonstrate how to harness your fantasies and life experiences to look for themes of drama.
The screenwriter-director then goes into the foundations of the dramatic writing process by covering Character and Plot in which Mamet explains what character is, the Aristotelian view of character (we are what we repeatedly do), character objectives, backstory, and how to effect change in character. Here, he takes the unconventional view that creating elaborate character bibles and backstories is simply a distraction from the main job of actually writing the story and shouldn’t be a priority.
On the other hand, Mamet goes at length exploring what plot is, how to find the plot, how to precipitate events, how to deal with second act problems (the mid-life crisis), arriving at the “real problem,” and how to learn plots by writing plots by using a huge cork board and sheet of butcher paper to illustrate the progression of the story as a journey – which is way more useful that looking at individual scenes, which can easily lose their way.
In this module, Mamet admits that sometimes you’ll have no idea what the story is, so keep writing scenes no matter how impossible until the plot rears its head, even to the point where you may not know the resolution. "If you can't think your way out of it, the audience can't either," he says.
Next, Mamet deconstructs a script or screenplay down to its moving parts, made up of Dialogue and Scenes. A noted master of writing dialogue and coming up with legendary comebacks, Mamet shows you how to write dialogue rhythmically, how to reconcile dialogue and characterization, tells you what comprises bad dialogue, explains the dialogue writing process, and gives examples of great dialogue. Furthermore, he shows his distaste for narration and exposition. preferring instead for characters to talk to each other to get something from each other, he says. “They don’t speak to get or to give information. They speak to get a result.”
As for creating scenes, Mamet’s advice for making any movie better is to “burn the first reel”. That means taking the first 10 minutes and throwing it away. He also enumerates the three things that a scene must have, particularly: an attempt by the hero to achieve a goal (“Who wants what from whom?”); that goal has to be part of a firm structure of his or her journey from point A to point B (“What happens if he or she doesn't get it?); and “Why now?”.
He also rails against the inclusion of what he calls "obligatory scenes," which are scenes that seem to be there only because we've been taught they belong. (i.e. the inevitable moment where characters stand around a room and explain what they have to do to save the world).
For Lessons 17 to 19, David Mamet moves from putting words on paper to dealing with the Process of Writing and relating with his Audience. In these modules, he discusses how he begins writing, the environment in which he likes to write, how he deals with writer's block, and how he looks to Hemingway for inspiration on how to begin.
The playwright then shares how his audience plays a big part in the way he writes, stressing that you only learn when you expose yourself to an audience and study their reactions. That means putting on a production in front of an audience and watching whether they laugh or gasp. If you can’t make them laugh when you wanted them to, or cry when you wanted them to, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board and find out where you went wrong.
As a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer awarded for his ability to accurately portray the flaws and foibles of humans as they interact with each other, Mamet understands like no other how to portray Lies & Truth. Using two of his most controversial plays—Oleanna and Race as case studies, he discusses how the audience comes to the theatre to hear the truth and how drama helps us search for the truth.
Finally, the writer gets a bit more personal as he discusses working with Actors and navigating the Life of a Dramatist before ending his course with parting words and an emotional story from one of his favorite science fiction novels.
Accompanying the 26 cinematic-quality produced videos which you can access anytime, anywhere from your desktop, mobile, or TV (Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Android, Roku), student subscribers will also be able to download a detailed PDF Class Workbook consisting not only of assignments, lesson recaps, and exercises such as those where you to write practice scenes based on the course lessons, upload them, and then review the work of three other students based on how interesting the student writer’s scene is, how clear the character’s goal is, and whether the goal in the scene felt urgent.
Assignments also consist of reviewing and examining some of Mamet’s work and excerpts from his favorite writers, such as reading poetry from Coleridge, Kipling, Keats, and Shelley; investigate gang dramas other than Glengarry Glen Ross; watch a film without sound in order to examine how it works, and more.
Other than these assignment and feedback opportunities, each video page offers a comments section and a general MasterClass forum called “The Hub” where students can interact, post topics and questions, and get responses.
And like most of the MasterClass instructors, Mamet also offers an Office Hours segment where you can leave a video question for the playwright with the hope that he will find the time to answer back personally.
David Mamet is just one of the many acclaimed writers and entertainment creators who have joined the MasterClass online education portal to share their entertainment experience and stories, including Aaron Sorkin (Teaches Screenwriting); Shonda Rhimes (Teaches Writing for Television); David Baldacci (Teaches Mystery and Thriller Writing); Dan Brown (Teaches Writing Thrillers); Jodie Foster (Teaches Filmmaking); and Billy Collins (Teaches Writing and Reading Poetry) whose courses you can also access in their entirety with your Masterclass All-Access Pass for just $180, which also grants you access to 80+ other MasterClass courses available from the most famous and respected experts in their fields, whether in film & TV, culinary arts, business, sports, literature, music & entertainment, science, and more.
MasterClass also has a Gift option where you can surprise your loved ones with either an All-Access subscription for $180 or a single course for $90.
Considered one of the world’s best modern storytellers who influenced the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Aaron Sorkin, David Mamet is the best possible instructor out there if you’re looking for tips and advice on how to write drama. Full of great humor and lots of interesting anecdotes, David Mamet’s MasterClass will teach you how to create spellbinding drama out of any occurrence in everyday life.