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Arts & Entertainment

Dramatic Rules (Cont'd)

David Mamet

Lesson time 8:22 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.

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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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...

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.

I loved this class. I especially liked how he brought in a spiritual perspective to it. Very motivating.

I don't agree with everything he said, but damn, i respect it

This was only my first viewing of the class but it has already given me an immense amount of direction for my writing. As well as helpful lessons and skills that I've already been able to integrate into my writing process. My writing has truly improved already. Thank you so much David :)

Cut, cut, cut. Doubt is part of the process. Do one thing for art and one thing for business every day.


Jacinta L.

I'm starting to get used to Mamet's teaching style, which I found quite unusual in the beginning. Looking forward to the next lesson.

Kyle B.

Mamet is one of the best teachers. This is not just a class for rank amateurs new to dramatic writing; there are a lot of higher-level concepts that point you in the right direction to become a master writer. Practical tips can be found in cheap dime-store guides on writing for dummies. If you have talent, desire and patience already, you don't need this kind of direction. Theory of aesthetics is the most important thing for writers to learn -- it is what unlocks the new ways of re-imagining worlds for readers and viewers to explore. Mamet provides more than enough hints for writers to develop themselves.

Nick F.

I've got to comment because David keeps saying things that most people wouldn't hear because they're looking for big shovelfuls of gold rather than picking up all these little nuggets of gold that he's dropping one by one. He's saying in effect, pick up these nuggets, put them in your pocket, and before you know it you'll have so many that people will swear that you found a pot of gold somewhere. This is my second time going through David's class. Before it's over I'll probably do it once more.

Tolga C.

I recognize, that the comments under his videos are kind of controverse. This lack of patience and the lack of willing-to-learn is typical for our time I guess; and at the same time it´s a niche for the people, who manage to work hard on themself, to reach their aims - I hope. :-D I studied filmmaking for three years and make corporate videos for 10 years now (on a quite small scale). If you listen closely and if you try to think about it more deeply, it makes sence - some things make sence perhaps later. There are people who don´t give you everything you want from the start on, but with a good intention. Pupil <-> teacher; teacher <-> pupil. Looking forward to the next lessons.

Dale U.

I'm amazed at how much David's teachings parallel to the novel I am writing. Knowing what to write and more importantly what to throw away. Brilliant.

Maritza C.

Here's the rules he lists: Tell a story. Start from the beginning and go until the end. Don’t stop. Be interesting. Do what you said you’d do. Also, anything that is not the plot must be thrown away. These are ok tips but David does not explain this thoughts thoroughly and in an organized way. Also, he says “right?” too often.

A fellow student

Anyone know where I could find those Lindsay and Crouse writing tips, or what the 'pamphlet' that contains them is called?

Warren D.

Mamet description of the process, the story, and the drama is expressed with such enthusiasm and clarity that it is easy to follow, profound, and admirable a magnificent adventure into the thoughts and ideas of an interesting and wonderful dramatist.


"Stop giving your best lines to the secondary characters". Thank you so much for that tip! I give the best lines to my heroes, but then I take them away and give them to my second characters. Afraid my hero would take all the credit, or something like that.

Katharina T.

Just a tiny note: "Arsenic and Old Lace" was written by Joseph Kesselring, not Lindsay & Crouse.