Writing, Arts & Entertainment

Case Study: Structuring the Plot - Glengarry Glen Ross

David Mamet

Lesson time 21:44 min

David shares the inspiration behind <span style="font-style:italic">Glengarry Glen Ross</span> and discusses the differences between drama and tragedy.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Plotting <span style="font-style:italic">Glengarry Glen Ross</span>


I was working in a real estate office in Chicago in what was called the boiler room. For those of you that have never had the experience, a boiler room, you're subject to it. But most of you haven't done it. If somebody calls up and says, hi, Mr. Sanchez, this is Oscar Levine. I'm with Rex Carpeting. We're having a special offer on carpeting today, and I got your name from duh-duh-duh. And you give this pitch in order to set up what's called a sit. You're trying to get-- I think that they're now automated, most of them. But in the old days, they were real live people. I was one of them. I tried to sell land over the telephone. I sold carpets over the telephone. What they call cold calling, which is they give you a phone book, and they say here. These are not leads. Nobody has qualified them. They're just people. See what you can do. And it's real hard work. And I found it very grueling, because, A, I'm lazy, and B, I have a conscience. So I'm working in this office, and I'm listening to these guys, and I'm out at a-- we all went to the Chinese restaurant every night. And I'm listening to guys in the next booth talking about something or other. And all these guys-- I mean, it was fraudulent land sales. I mean, it was 6 to 5 and pick 'em, whether it was actually a crime or not. But these guys were all genius salesmen, stroke crooks, stroke confidence men. And I'm listening into the next booth. And I'm thinking, wow, that's really cool that I can just over here a little bit of this conversation next booth. I don't quite know what they're talking about. But they're so intent. I'm going to listen harder. I think we've all have this experience, right? So this should teach you, if nothing else does, don't write exposition, don't write narration, because you want to start a story, as the Romans said, in the middle. So well, what the hell's going on now? Just as you do when you come to the bar, and there's a thing on the television, and you say, give me a glass of water, or a-- what do you call it-- a whistle pig of straight white whiskey, for choice. And you're watching, and you see two people talking in the show. And you understand what's going on. You don't need someone to-- you don't need the first reel. So the ancient theatrical wisdom, which is how do you make any movie better, burn the first reel. Take the first 10 minutes of any movie, throw it away. And you'll see this. Check it out. Try it. Watch a movie, and see 10 minutes in, 12 minutes in, say, well, hell, why don't you start here. I didn't need all this, well, back when we were young and the reason I'm telling you this, and Jim you know you are the head of this hospital. You don't need it. Start in the middle. How do we know you can start in the middle? Well, you know it because when you come to the bar. And you know it because when you sit at the Chine...

About the Instructor

David Mamet sat in on a poker game full of thieves and left with the inspiration for American Buffalo. Now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of Glengarry Glen Ross takes you through his process for turning life’s strangest moments into dramatic art. In his writing class, he’ll teach you the rules of drama, the nuances of dialogue, and the skills to develop your own voice and create your masterpiece.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

David Mamet

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

Explore the Class
Sign Up