Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To Mr. Mamet

By now, I'm sure all of you have read David Mamet's amazing ALL CAPS letter/rant to the poor, unimaginative, exposition-bound writers of the now canceled TV series The Unit.  I was so inspired by this amazing education in the art of writing, that I decided to leave you all with a few nuggets.

TV execs shall heretofore be known as penguins -
"OUR FRIENDS. THE PENGUINS, THINK THAT WE, THEREFORE, ARE EMPLOYED TO COMMUNICATE *INFORMATION* — AND, SO, AT TIMES, IT SEEMS TO US."

Audiences won't watch information -
"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."
 
What the freak is drama?
"DRAMA, AGAIN, IS THE QUEST OF THE HERO TO OVERCOME THOSE THINGS WHICH PREVENT HIM FROM ACHIEVING A SPECIFIC, *ACUTE* GOAL."

What should any writer ask of themselves when writing a scene?
"THESE THREE QUESTIONS.
1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?"
"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."
"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."

Should I write a scene that is boring and filled with exposition? 
"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."
"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."

What should i do if I get stumped?
"QUESTIONS, CALL ME UP.
LOVE, DAVE MAMET
SANTA MONICA 19 OCTO 05"

And my personal fav - "(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.)"

Thanks Dave (if I can call you Dave)....


Read the full letter here.




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