Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Dramatic Rules (Cont'd)

David Mamet

Lesson time 08:21 min

Start at the beginning of your story and don't stop until you reach the end. Throw away anything that isn't plot. David teaches you what to cut from your script and how to master the rules of writing.

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

Topics include: Telling the Story • Cutting Content • Mastering the Rules


The rules to me are very, very simple. I was very involved in martial arts for a while and I wrote a martial arts movie that I also directed called Redbelt. And this woman comes and she's been physically abused and she comes to this great teacher of martial arts. And he says, come onto the mat. So he comes on to the mat. And he says, OK, so I'm going to stand sideways to you. I'm not going to touch you. I'm going to touch you. You stand about three inches apart. He says, if I stood sideways to you and you grabbed me, could I strike you? She says, no I don't think so. He says, OK I want you to stand 20 feet away from me. So she stands 20 feet away. So he says, at 20 feet away, could I strike you? She says no. He says, OK, but walk forward. Get to the point where you think I could strike you. So she comes forward until she's about four feet away. He said, could I strike you there? She says, yeah. He says, don't stand there. If you want to come back for a second lesson, give me a call. So that's what I feel. The rules are pretty darn simple. There aren't that many of them. They're pretty darn simple. Tell the story, start at the beginning, go until you get to the end, don't stop, be interesting. Make sure that everything is on the line. If you want to go from New York City to Baltimore, it doesn't matter if there's something interesting. In Boston, that's not what you told me wanted to go. So, there's something that happens when you're making a movie that I call location sickness. So, location sickness is I'm shooting a scene at a girls school. The girls come out, blah, blah, blah, whatever. The bus comes but the bus is late. So, the girls-- they're going to practice cheerleading on the sidewalk because they're going to the competition. OK, that's our setup. So, we go there in the location. People say, OK here's our girls. Go see, it's great. Oh my god, look over there. There's a shoe store that was built in 1940 in the shape of a sneaker. That's magnificent. We got to figure out some way to put that sneaker in the story because it would be a shame. It's free, right. So, it's the free stuff that kills you, that's called location sickness. It doesn't matter that it just looks like a sneaker. That's not the story that you were telling me. You got to throw it away. The rule is, like Hemingway said, write the best story you can and throw out all the good lines. So, that's how you make a movie. Anything that's not the plot, throw it away. So one of the rules is-- and this is especially true of screenwriting, and it's harder to learn in screenwriting that isn't playwriting, because in playwriting, you write the play you put on with the audience. You get it, right. When the lights go down, you've got their attention. It's yours to lose. When yo...

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.

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