Author Topic: MAMET  (Read 12003 times)

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matt35mm

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Re: MAMET
« Reply #60 on: March 24, 2010, 07:47:27 PM »
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Say what you you will about Mamet's fascist tendencies, the man understands dramatic storytelling.  This is a memo he wrote to the writers of The Unit (which he created... you probably already knew that), basically filling them in on everything they're doing wrong.  Everyone who wants to be a screenwriter when they grow up would do well to read this.

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.)


Yeah, that's been making the rounds on a lot of screenwriting blogs I frequent.  Thanks for posting it here.

It's a good read.  There's a lot of good advice there, and I'm mulling over what I want to take from it.  (Not that there's really anything new here that I haven't heard before, so it effectively serves more as a reminder of a fundamental idea.)  Frankly, though, I think Mamet has a good understanding of a very narrow idea of dramatic storytelling.  That's fine for what he does, although it rubs me slightly the wrong way when he uses this kind of authoritative tone--he hasn't really proven to me to be a comprehensive authority on anything but the Mamet-esque.  Hell, this thing reads not so differently from Alec Baldwin's speech in Glengarry Glen Ross.

When I say that he seems to have a good understanding of a very narrow idea of drama, I'm referring to popular Western drama from the past 200 years--a generally naturalistic, plot/character-based sort of thing, which has also become the dominant style in cinema.  This style is not even like the style of Ancient Greek Theater, as much as Aristotle's notion of plot is revered in the modern 3-act (screen)play.  Even Shakespeare doesn't entirely follow these rules (he follows different rules).  So any notion of "this is how you write (screen)plays" bothers me, because it was somewhere else 200 years ago and will be somewhere else 200 years from now--plus there have been great works that break these rules that have come out of the last 200 years alongside the current popular notion of drama.

My favorite plays and films range from the mainstream to those works that attempt to challenge this relatively recent framework for drama.  Much of the latter stuff SUCCEEDS in finding great drama outside of the narrow framework, some even eschewing the notion of moving from one scene to the next scene to the next, some finding meaning and drama from shape, movement, juxtaposition of images, sounds, rhythm, etc.  And I do mean that this is the source of the drama, not simply something there to enhance the drama.

The unfortunate thing about the dominance of today's mainstream notion of drama is that it ignores all of these other possibilities, resorting to the same devices again and again when something else would do better.  It has ignored a lot of the brilliant discoveries made by the makers of other sorts of dramatic works.  I haven't succeeded yet by any means, but my wish is to be able to create some works uses many different frameworks for the SOURCE of drama, pulled together in a sophisticated way.  Maybe when I'm 60.

With all that said, I still really appreciate this memo of Mamet's, because he's not wrong that a lot of scenes suffer from people sitting around talking about whatever, and by and large that happens not because the writer was trying to challenge the framework, but just out of laziness and lack of consideration.  And to be fair, this memo is directed toward particular writers on a particular show whose job it is to aim for this particular notion of drama.  It just led me to rant a little on something else entirely.  As far as this sort of drama goes, the man is right, and speaks from a place of great knowledge, backed by mountains of writing.  I sincerely respect that.

I especially agree with him that writers need to work at developing skills and ways of seeing things that do not come naturally.  When I sit down every day to write a journal of my thoughts in whatever way comes naturally, that is not the same kind of writing as the work that I need to be doing when I'm trying to create a dramatic work of any sort.  Some writers, probably especially new writers, DO do this, perhaps feeling like it is more "honest."  I value the hunt for honesty in art, but it has to be honest about something interesting, which one has to build with skills that don't come naturally.

polkablues

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Re: MAMET
« Reply #61 on: March 24, 2010, 08:20:06 PM »
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That's a good point.  It's really more advice on how to successfully write for mainstream commercial television or film than some sort of authoritative word on how all writing should be done.  But with that caveat, it's very spot-on and to the point, and most of the general message of the specific points can be applied to strengthen any sort of narrative writing.

I also liked when he called television executives "the penguins".
« Last Edit: May 23, 2011, 11:18:17 PM by polkablues »
Now you're in the *spoiler* place.

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Re: MAMET
« Reply #62 on: March 24, 2010, 08:50:54 PM »
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Yeah, that's been making the rounds on a lot of screenwriting blogs I frequent.  Thanks for posting it here.

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matt35mm

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Re: MAMET
« Reply #63 on: March 24, 2010, 09:41:51 PM »
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I Love a Magician

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Re: MAMET
« Reply #64 on: March 24, 2010, 09:46:49 PM »
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thanks

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Re: MAMET
« Reply #65 on: June 10, 2010, 05:17:11 PM »
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I don't know where to put this.  There are no words.  This is just bizarre (not even particularly funny, but you'll be the judge of that).  So I present Ricky Jay presenting Lost Masterpieces of Pornography  Written by David Mamet, with Kristen Bell, and Ed O'Neill.

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Re: MAMET
« Reply #66 on: June 10, 2010, 05:55:18 PM »
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yeah, I saw that last week... was really surprised and then really bored.

polkablues

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Re: MAMET
« Reply #67 on: June 10, 2010, 06:40:10 PM »
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It should have been 1/3 the length they made it. Oh, and it should have been funny.
Now you're in the *spoiler* place.

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Re: MAMET
« Reply #68 on: May 23, 2011, 03:54:51 PM »
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Bette Midler & Jeffrey Tambor Join Al Pacino Starring, David Mamet Directed HBO Phil Spector Project
Source: The Playlist

First revealed last year, this is one of those projects that seemed too good to be true and when word around it died as quickly as it arrived, we figured that it wasn’t coming along. Guess we were (thankfully) wrong. Variety reports that Bette Midler and Jeffrey Tambor have both come aboard what will surely be a highly charged HBO film about legendary music producer and convicted murderer Phil Spector. Penned by David Mamet who will also direct, with Al Pacino taking on the lead role (amazing), the film will chronicle the relationship between Spector and his defence attorney Linda Kenney Baden (Midler). Tambor will play Bruce Cutler, another member of the defence team. Spector was put on trial in 2007 for the murder of actress/model Lana Clarkson. The first trail ended in a mistrial, but the second he was found guilty and sentenced to 19 years to life in prison. The Spector case (and his hair) was certainly one of the most high profile celebrity cases in recent memory and one both bizarre and tragic. The though of Pacino taking on the role gives us goosebumps and it will be interesting to see if Mamet employs his trademarked pacing of dialogue to the film. Pacino is an old hand at working with Mamet’s words, with his memorable turn in “Glengarry Glen Ross” but Midler and Tambor may be in for a crash course. The project is still said to be “in development” but with a cast like this coming together, that status is likely to change very soon.
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Re: MAMET
« Reply #69 on: May 23, 2011, 09:28:45 PM »
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intrigued and happy about this project
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Re: MAMET
« Reply #70 on: August 21, 2012, 06:49:24 PM »
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David Mamet To Reboot ‘Have Gun – Will Travel’ For CBS
BY NELLIE ANDREEVA | Deadline

CBS has put in development Have Gun – Will Travel, a reboot of the 1957 CBS Western drama, to be penned by writer/director/playwright David Mamet. Mamet is set to direct the potential pilot, which will be produced by CBS TV Studios. He is executive producing with agent-turned-producer Elliott Webb.

Have Gun – Will Travel, whose title plays on a line commonly used in personal ads, aired on CBS from 1957 through 1963 and also spawned a successful radio version. Its producers included Frank Pierson, and one of its main writers was Gene Roddenberry who would go on to create Star Trek. Created by Sam Rolfe and Herb Meadow, Have Gun starred Richard Boone as Paladin, a top-notch gunfighter who preferred to settle problems without violence but stood his ground when provoked.

Have Gun – Will Travel brings Oscar-nominated writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Mamet back to CBS where he created his only TV series to date, military drama The Unit, which ran for four seasons. ICM Partners-repped Mamet most recently wrote the upcoming HBO Phil Spector movie starring Al Pacino and Helen Mirren. This is the second classic series CBS is looking to reboot along with The Brady Bunch, whose revamp is produced by Vince Vaughn.
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MacGuffin

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Re: MAMET
« Reply #71 on: February 04, 2013, 10:48:53 PM »
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Phil Spector trailer


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Re: MAMET
« Reply #72 on: September 07, 2013, 03:44:51 PM »
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Toronto: The Solution Nabs Overseas Rights To David Mamet’s ‘Blackbird’
via Deadline

The Pulitzer winner’s next directorial project starring Cate Blanchett will be presented to international buyers in Toronto by The Solution Entertainment Group, the company founders said today. “Blackbird promises to be a nail-biting thriller in the hands of the talented David Mamet and the exceptional Cate Blanchett in the lead role. We’re delighted to be on board the project in Toronto,” said The Solution’s Lisa Wilson and Myles Nestel. SBS Productions and ICM will handle domestic rights; The film is being financed and produced by Saïd Ben Saïd’s Paris-based SBS. Blackbird follows Janet (Blanchett) as she travels to her Hollywood VFX artist grandfather’s funeral. She soon learns that her relative also did sidework for Special Forces and the Intelligence community — secrets that now put her life in danger. Blackbird is scheduled to start filming in Sydney in January. Mamet is repped by ICM Partners. Blanchett is repped by CAA.


 

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