Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Narration & Exposition

David Mamet

Lesson time 14:15 min

Writing drama is not the same as conveying information. A dramatist's job is to entertain, not bore, the audience. Learn how to recognize unnecessary narration and exposition and how to let the audience help you cut it out.

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Topics include: Recognizing Narration • Unnecessary Exposition • Cutting Out Excess Narration


Drama has nothing to do with information. Drama is storytelling that assembles the clan. Information is the compiling of facts, which may or may not be useful and also, which may or may not be true. So why would I want to give people information. It's all we do all day-- we get information. Almost all of it's a lie. And even the true stuff we don't act upon, right? Other people's job is to give people information, right? Or in the case of newspapers, misinformation. My job is to tell them a story. Period. It's not my job to be informative. My job is to be interesting. I got a special way of being interesting that pays my rent. It's called writing drama. So I'm just a class clown writing drama. That's what I do for a living. They used to say in the old days in the movie business-- you meet a writer, you say, what do you. He'd say, I write gags and titles. Because that goes back to the silent era. They made up gags and they wrote the titles in silent film. We've all seen a silent film. So the writing of gags is magnificent because if you look at Buster Keaton's films, for example, he's structuring this wonderful progression, which is like a joke, the end of which the gag is surprising and inevitable. So even early talkie days, the hip writers would say, what do you do, they'd say, write gags and titles. Pick up a phrase from the old days. The other thing about titles, which is interesting to me in black and white films is that none of them are necessary. If you take every one out of every black and white film, changes nothing. But the tradition of writing titles exists today in the unfortunate tradition of conveying information. CBS used to drive me fucking crazy. On its shows, they'd say, OK, the scene takes place in the Senate offices. I'd say, OK. They say, got to have an establishing shot of Washington. I'd say, where else would the Senate offices be? Nope, got to have an establishing shot. I'd say, OK, put in an establishing-- put in an establishing shot. I'd look at it on TV. It's an establishing shot and superimposed over the capitol building-- superimposed is what-- Washington d.c. DC. What? Who is this for the benefit of, right? A, it matters that it's in a room with a bunch of fat white guys who look like senators. We'll assume it's the Senate, right? B, where would the Senate be, even if it's not in Washington, DC? Is that going to help anybody understand the scene, right? Right? They're fat corporate types. So I did my first movie, House of Games. And we shot it in Seattle. And the guys who released it-- I think a guy called Orion, a guy called Bill Bernstein. And he says, you have to have an establishing shot. I say, why? He said, well, how will people know it's Seattle? I said, it's not important it's Seattle. It's a city. ...

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.

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David Mamet

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

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