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Arts & Entertainment

Case Study: Structuring the Plot - Glengarry Glen Ross

David Mamet

Lesson time 21:45 min

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

David Mamet
Teaches Dramatic Writing
The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.
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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...

Write great drama

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.


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

David's class has invigorated and kindled my fervor for the storytelling craft.

Excellent surprise class by an instructor I was not familar with, but love a number of their movies, especially Wag the Dog. Thanks David.

This was the most inspiring experience I've had in years. Thank you.

There were a couple of times where David seemed a bit rigid in his thinking of how things should be done, but in later lessons he became more flexible. It could also be that he's a drama writer and I prefer comedy.


Tolga C.

Gang drama... backstage... That´s interesting, that gang dramas are more about professions and doesn´t need a main character.. When I watched Detective Stories with Kirk Douglas I thought "okaaay, it´s entertaining in a way... but it´s such an old fashioned man this cop" but the end is very strong and I dropped some tears. In this assignment I liked to think about the difference between a play and a movie. Looking forward to the next lesson. Even it was interesting 3 out of 5 stars.

Tobias M.

I went to sleep and thought I’d muse on it all and drift off and then wake and down coffees and review. I slept fitfully for about three hours and woke up with a ton of ideas and started scrawling in my notebook and now it’s 5am and my pen is dry.

Tobias M.

Note to self, because I am starting to use comments in this course as bookmarks. Here: Kill the exposition.

laura J.

who cannot give five stars to all the instructors, they are all wonderful, love this class, makes me think about how I can apply to my unfinished books. I laugh at his history, he is so open and honest, brings me home to my own career, but I didn't have his guts to move on and do what I love.

Julian D.

Throw away the first reel (10 minutes?) of a movie - certainly wouldn't work with Saving Private Ryan!

Rosemary D.

I have enjoyed all your lessons, and I have jumped ahead to listen to all the videos, however, I'm still working on the reading material. I remember that I didn't care for the feature film the first time I saw it (reminds me of so many cold call jobs) But I might try to check it out again and re-read this script. I often find what I am able to tolerate in the film world changes quite a bit, and sometimes this means I am more tolerant but also I can be less tolerant depending on what the problem is! For instance I might feel a film or script (or both) is successful based on its ideas, however did not care for the film itself or liked the film but did not like the script etc etc...or sometimes my opinions have changed through the years and what I find "entertainment" now is much different than how I rated it twenty years ago. For example, Scarface (Pacino version) was so real to me by having lived in Miami at the time ( like you mention on Chicago and mobsters etc), yet now, many years later, it seems almost naive in how the characters (not just the actors) played out in the story. I don't think that just crime, drugs, and killing make a serious film, it may take serious problems but have a simplistic, orchestrated plot or conclusion (snake oil). As you mentioned about the death of a salesmen so often...

Michael L.

Daughter sick - yeah, that's stakes and it's fine. You need a "why" and sick daughter is as good as any. Gives us enough sympathy to stay the course. Because he wants to retire with his sick wife to Genn Gerry reserve, but that turns out to be fake land (and he knows this) but he is desperate enough to delude himself into believing it's real - now that would be tragic! (he he)

Michael L.

The ACS lost NTP sync so now the RSA server isn't authenticating VPN. LOL. (And that is a real thing!)

A fellow student

"If you say, wait a minute, let's look at the guy, let's look at the woman's record, what does the politician say? 'That's cheating. Don't look at my record. Don't look at my marital infidelities. Don't look at the stuff that I have robbed. Don't look at the stuff that I have said. No, no, no. Listen to my narration because I'm telling you a story.' You can believe in their fairy tale. If you cut out the narration, it's easier to see what's going on."

Noah K.

But he didn't explain the ending, right? I mean what happened to all of them how each of them gained and lost. I mean I know Link was in jail but obviously that's not how it ended right? Like someone got the leads and some other stuff happened with Moss and Roma and stuff I guess she just did'nt bother explaining?