Arts & Entertainment, Writing


David Mamet

Lesson time 8:57 min

Every scene must contain three things. Learn what those are and how to recognize and remove scenes that are unnecessary to your script.

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Topics include: What Every Scene Must Have • Unncessary Scenes


The scene has to contain an attempt of the hero to achieve a goal. That's it. That goal has to be part of a rock hard structure of a journey from a to b, right? For example, we talked about getting to the airport, right? The scene could be, I need the elevator to get downstairs. But the elevator's broken. Oh my god, what am I going to do? I can't get to the elevator without getting downstairs. Right? So this is an essential scene. The beginning of the scene is the elevator don't work, right? I got to get downstairs. How am I going to do it? That's every scene. Well, I better take the stairs. Oh my god, there's a fire on the stairs. Maybe I've got to go to the roof and jump all over. Maybe I've got to get a helicopter. But I got to get out of the building. There's three questions. Who wants what from who? What happens if they don't get it? Why now? You've got to be able to answer those three simple questions about any scene, about any play. Who wants what from whom? What happens if they don't get it? And why now? For example, when going across country, if you don't get to Los Angeles you're going-- they're going to shoot your dog, you're going to exercise a certain amount of energy in getting to Los Angeles. If you don't get to Los Angeles they're going to shoot your wife, you're going to excite a different kind of energy. So what happens if they don't get it informs the urgency of-- is the urgency of the scene. Is the scene essential? Not, is it lovely? But it an essential. Because if it's not essential, throw it out. And if you look at movies, there's usually a part, and it's usually the woman's part. It's usually the woman's part, which at point, about 2/3 of the way through. She's speaking very impassionately about what x means to her, whatever x is. And you're looking at it, and it's always overacted. And you're thinking, that's the audition scene. Of course. That's the audition scene. They gave her the part because she did the audition scene in such a way that was so predictable, that we understood that it was the obligatory scene. It was the essence of the-- but you don't want one scene to be the essence of the movie. You want the movie to be the essence of the movie. The question is, if you took-- see, here's the thing. The question is, if you took it out, not would you miss, it but if you took it out, would the audience miss it? That's the only question. Because of course, you're going to miss it, because you wrote it. The question is the audience going to-- wait a second, wait a second, wait a second. I understand the train's on fire, right? Now I understand that we're being bombed by Soviet Russia. I mean, I understand that the child's dying of leukemia. And we have to get to the next station before bippity boppity boop. But is the scene where she talks about her kitten? I miss...

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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